There are two key ways a president can abuse the Justice Department and federal prosecutorial powers: he can protect his friends, and he can go after his enemies.
In recent days and months, especially with developments around the Michael Flynn and Roger Stone cases, observers have been deeply concerned that President Donald Trump is engaging in the first kind of abuse. But according to a new report from the Washington Post, what Trump really cares about — and what he is really furious hasn’t happened yet — is the prosecution of his enemies.
The report explained:
Behind that public fight, according to people familiar with the discussions, is a deeper tension between Trump and Barr’s Justice Department over the lack of criminal charges against former FBI director James B. Comey and those close to him.
The flare-up over the Stone case comes against a backdrop of growing behind-the-scenes anger from the president toward the Justice Department — more about whom the department has not charged with crimes than about whom it has charged, according to people familiar with the discussions
Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz referred Comey’s handling of the memos to prosecutors for possible criminal prosecution, but lawyers quickly determined it was not a close call and did not seek to build a case.
That sent Trump into a rage, according to people briefed on his comments. He complained so loudly and swore so frequently in the Oval Office that some of his aides discussed it for days, these people said. Trump repeatedly said that Comey deserved to be charged, according to their account.
“Can you [expletive] believe they didn’t charge him?” Trump said on the night of the decision, these people said.
It’s not just Comey. The report noted that Trump has also been eager to see charges against Comey’s former deputy, Andrew McCabe. And Trump also reportedly became enraged when the Washington Post reported in January that U.S. Attorney John Huber’s investigation into vague allegations about Hillary Clinton came up dry. (Trump had asked former Attorney General Jeff Sessions to look into Clinton, according to former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report.)
The Post continued:
Separately, Barr has tapped U.S. Attorney John Durham in Connecticut to investigate whether any crimes were committed by FBI and CIA officials in the pursuit of allegations in 2016 that Russia interfered in the election to benefit Trump’s campaign.
After learning that the Huber investigation is not likely to produce charges, Trump has become more insistent that Durham finish his work soon, according to people familiar with the discussions. Trump, these people said, wants to be able to use whatever Durham finds as a cudgel in his reelection campaign.
All of that frustration has fed into the public fight over the Stone case.
What’s not clear from the report is how much Trump has directly expressed this anger and desire for prosecutions to Barr himself. On Thursday, Barr claimed in an interview with ABC News that Trump hasn’t asked him to do anything in a criminal case. It’s not clear if that’s true — but even if Trump hasn’t made his demands explicit to Barr, there’s no doubt the attorney general knows what’s expected of him.
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‘Real Debasement’: White House Press Secretary Slammed for Message Supporting Mike Flynn
It took President Donald Trump less than five minutes to applaud the 2-1 decision of the DC Court of Appeals, ordering a federal judge to grant the Dept. of Justice its motion to dismiss all charges against admitted liar Mike Flynn.
Less than an hour later, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany tweeted a message supporting Flynn.
That message is causing a great deal of upset and anger, especially as McEnany chose to include a U.S. flag icon next to the disgraced retired general’s name.
Today’s decision by an appeals court to dismiss the case against Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn is a VICTORY for justice and truth.
All Americans are entitled to equal justice under the law and due process. No American should ever be unjustly targeted by their government.
— Kayleigh McEnany (@PressSec) June 24, 2020
Former White House press secretary Joe Lockhart, now a CNN political analyst, took particular exception to the move, calling it a “real debasement” of the American flag.
Putting the America flag next to the criminal Michael Flynn is the real debasement of our flag. https://t.co/ob10OgliSK
— Joe Lockhart (@joelockhart) June 24, 2020
Lockhart wasn’t finished:
This is the latest example of how far we’ve fallen as a nation. Someone who plead guilty and acknowledged and admitting committing felonies is a “victory for justice and truth.” I,for one, is damned tired of this shit happening. https://t.co/ob10OgliSK
— Joe Lockhart (@joelockhart) June 24, 2020
Many others responded to McEnany:
He admitted to lying to the FBI, Kayleigh.
— The Lincoln Project (@ProjectLincoln) June 24, 2020
Flynn pleaded guilty twice. This decision will probably be heard en banc. We’ll see what happens then.
— Andrew C Laufer, Esq (@lauferlaw) June 24, 2020
Why did Donald Trump fire him?
He lied to the FBI, and either he lied to the rest of the Trump Administration, or the rest of the Trump Administration is lying about that.
Corruption has never been so corrupt.
— JRehling (@JRehling) June 24, 2020
If you plead guilty to a crime twice under oath before a judge, why does that make you innocent? Is that what they taught you at @Harvard_Law ? Flynn betrayed America and you’re cheering. What is wrong with you? #FlynnIsATraitor #GOPComplicitTraitors #GOPCorruptionOverCountry
— James (@JamesSNYC) June 24, 2020
FLYNN PLEAD GUILTY…… FUCKING TWICE
You lie to the American people on an hourly basis
— Holden Mirror (@HoldenMirror) June 24, 2020
Nonsense. It’s a sham written by a Trump appointee, and a debasement of the notion of an independent judiciary, and you, as a Harvard Law grad, should understand this, but you know, hypocrisy.
— Rogue Ivanka (Parody Account) (@MarALagoPoolBoy) June 24, 2020
Trump world is pushing an exceptionally bizarre and dishonest misreading of the DC Cir. opinion. The issue is about a federal court’s ability to get answers regarding politicization and irregularity in DOJ decision making. It is in no way a substantive vindication of Flynn. https://t.co/fBxuAmsxsK
— Susan Hennessey (@Susan_Hennessey) June 24, 2020
Ethics Expert Warns ‘America Is on the Brink of Total Destruction’ Over DOJ-Roger Stone ‘Corruption’ Bombshell
Walter Shaub, the former head of the Office of Government Ethics, issued a dire warning Tuesday on the allegation that officials at the “highest levels” of the Dept. of Justice pressured prosecutors to ask for an extremely light sentence for Roger Stone, a good friend and former associate of President Donald Trump.
“America is on the brink of total destruction,” Shaub warned on Twitter.
And he put his warning in context.
“Short of assassinating opponents or using the military to quell public protests, I can’t think of a form of corruption worse than a nation’s leader influencing the administration of justice to protect friends and prosecute enemies.”
Short of assassinating opponents or using the military to quell public protests, I can’t think of a form of corruption worse than a nation’s leader influencing the administration of justice to protect friends and prosecute enemies. America is on the brink of total destruction. https://t.co/w0GiZ4WS9A
— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) June 23, 2020
Shaub was responding to a tweet from attorney, commentator, and writer for Yahoo News and Just Security, Luppe Luppen, who posted a copy of Assistant United States Attorney Aaron Zelinsky’s opening statement. Zelinsky was a prosecutor for former Special Counsel Robert Mueller. He is set to testify before Congress Wednesday as a whistleblower, presumably against the DOJ and Attorney General Bill Barr.
Zelinsky was one of four prosecutors on the Roger Stone case who abruptly withdrew just before the sentencing recommendation was to be made.
“What I heard – repeatedly – was that Roger Stone was being treated differently from any other defendant because of his relationship to the President,” Zelinsky’s statement reads.
Shaub is far from the only expert to sound the alarm bell.
Former US Attorney Barb McQuade, now an MSNBC and NBC News legal analyst and University of Michigan Law professor calls for Barr to go.
More on the Stone prosecution. This is a disgrace. Barr must go. He is not acting as the Attorney General of the United States. He is Trump’s Roy Cohn. https://t.co/G2Mz7Fis1h
— Barb McQuade (@BarbMcQuade) June 23, 2020
Matthew Miller, a former DOJ chief spokesperson now an MSNBC justice and security analyst:
Reading Zelinsky’s testimony in full just leaves me extraordinarily sad. Sad that this could even happen, sad that no R will care, sad that Barr can stay in office even a single additional day in the face of it. It is an outrage what they’ve done to DOJ. https://t.co/LBAWb1UDYH
— Matthew Miller (@matthewamiller) June 23, 2020
Mimi Rocah, a former SDNY prosecutor, Pace Law School professor, legal commentator:
Thank goodness for professionals at DOJ who are standing up and calling out these flagrant abuses by Bill Barr & others. https://t.co/aDCs9ahjKI
— Mimi Rocah (@Mimirocah1) June 23, 2020
Joyce Vance, a former US Attorney, now a University of Alabama Law Professor and MSNBC contributor:
Barr must resign immediately. trump should, but won’t, be impeached. And any Republican who doesn’t call this out & demand both resignations has no further standing to complain about anything a future AG does because they’ve abdicated all responsibility. https://t.co/Yp0YgsIWpM
— Joyce Alene (@JoyceWhiteVance) June 23, 2020
Rachel Barkow, an NYU Law Professor and Faculty Director of the Center on the Administration of Criminal Law:
Next time you see Trump or Barr speak of law and order or respect for the rule of law, remember this. This is naked political favoritism that is an affront to equal treatment under the law and what our country is supposed to stand for. Truly disgusting. https://t.co/cyz4tSZh1D
— Rachel Barkow (@RachelBarkow) June 23, 2020
‘Bombshell’: Mueller Deputy Tells Congress Fear of Trump to Blame for Infamous Roger Stone Sentencing Memo
Aaron Zelinsky, a lawyer prosecuting President Trump’s longtime associate Roger Stone who later resigned from the case in protest after being forced to seek a lesser prison sentence, submitted a statement to Congress this Tuesday and dropped a “bombshell” revelation about the “wrongful political pressure” that he endured.
“What I saw was the Department of Justice exerting significant pressure on the line prosecutors in the case to obscure the correct Sentencing Guidelines calculation to which Roger Stone was subject – and to water down and in some cases outright distort the events that transpired in his trial and the criminal conduct that gave rise to his conviction,” a portion of his statement read. “Such pressure resulted in the virtually unprecedented decision to override the original sentencing recommendation in his case and to file a new sentencing memorandum that included statements and assertions at odds with the record and contrary to Department of Justice policy.”
A bombshell statement to Congress from Aaron Zelinsky, the prosecutor in the Roger Stone case who says he withdrew because of “wrongful political pressure”: https://t.co/qflT5oEYYn
— Natasha Bertrand (@NatashaBertrand) June 23, 2020
“What I heard – repeatedly – was that Roger Stone was being treated differently from any other defendant because of his relationship to the President,” his statement continued. “I was told that the Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, Timothy Shea, was receiving heavy pressure from the highest levels of the Department of Justice to cut Stone a break, and that the U.S. Attorney’s sentencing instructions to us were based on political considerations. I was also told that the acting U.S. Attorney was giving Stone such unprecedentedly favorable treatment because he was ‘afraid of the president.’”
Zelinsky is set to testify before Congress this Wednesday. According to Business Insider, he’ll tell lawmakers that a supervisor on Stone’s case told him that there were “political reasons” to seek a lighter sentence for Stone, even though the supervisor acknowledged that a lighter sentence would be “unethical and wrong.”
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