William Barr’s transgression in the Roger Stone sentencing matter constitutes a watershed moment in Department of Justice history. Prior to this time, the department enjoyed singular respect for it’s nonpartisan and apolitical efforts. Over the weekend, an open letter to former DOJ officials circulated, addressing the fact of how Barr doing Donald Trump’s bidding, and placing that above the integrity of the department constituted a breach of duty requiring Barr’s resignation.
As of Sunday night 1,100 signatures had been collected and that doubled to over 2,000 by Monday night. Of equal importance, individual attorneys are coming forward and articulating in no uncertain terms what a blow was dealt to the department by Barr’s unconscionable action. Just Security:
Whether or not the stunning Departmental reversal in the Roger Stone sentencing which has now resulted in the withdrawal of all four career prosecutors from the case, (and the Departmental resignation of one) was the result of specific political interference, if you understand the Justice Department, the damage has already been done. The reputation and credibility of the Justice Department has been dealt a significant blow. The job of prosecutors and DOJ attorneys is both to do fair and impartial justice and to appear to have done so. A prosecutor withdraws from a case if and only if she believes she cannot in good conscience proceed. This standard is not met by disagreement, or preference that a decision go a different way. This high threshold is met only when as an officer of the court you cannot stand up and say the words that every Assistant US Attorney beams with pride at saying, I am here on behalf of the United States Justice Department; I represent the United States in this matter. If you cannot stand up and in good conscience advance the position of the Department you have no choice but to withdraw and sometimes to resign altogether. That’s how serious this is. It is a fundamental question of who and whose interests you serve.
The fact that four prosecutors have now withdrawn from a case after, at the very least, the appearance of political influence in the matter, has done incalculable harm to the credibility of the Justice Department. The line attorneys who resigned this week earned their name as public servants — because they stood on the front lines and honored their oath. But they shouldn’t stand alone as the conscience of the department. As someone who has served as a career federal prosecutor and in politically appointed posts — I believe political appointees should have the backs of the career professionals and they have their very jobs because they are the ones who are politically accountable. So, while it is a sad day when the career assistant U.S. attorneys stand alone on the line, it is also a sign of the Department’s strength — under significant strain though it may be.
Janet Reno hung a portrait of Edward Levi in the Attorney General’s conference room. It was her way of honoring the fact that she was a temporary custodian of a great institution, just as Levi was after Watergate when President Gerald Ford asked him to lead the Justice Department following Nixon’s resignation. Before appointing him, Ford reportedly asked Levi, what he thought the Department needed most in that troubled era. Levi replied: “A soul.” The Department’s soul is alive and well in the integrity of its career professionals — they could use some support.
This incident is infinitely more destructive than Watergate. Donald Trump is as mindlessly destructive and amoral as a cancerous tumor. Those purportedly intelligent people who go along with him and do his dirty work, such as Barr, are nothing less than complicit in the destruction of our way of life and our identity as a people. They are actually worse than Trump, because Trump is too primitive and petty to know the full extent and ramifications of his actions. He’s just going on impulse for immediate gain. Arguably Barr understands what’s at stake and is choosing to do the wrong thing — for reasons known only to himself. Barr showed his true colors when he took it upon himself to reinterpret the findings of the Mueller report and issue his bogus self-serving letter, for blatantly partisan purposes. There is no excuse for Barr’s behavior in both that instance and the Stone sentencing and his resignation cannot come soon enough. The men and women of the Justice Department deserve far better leadership and the American people deserve an attorney general they can respect and trust. That is not William Barr.