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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‘Pardon Will Follow in Short Order’: Experts Trounce Trump for Announcing Stone Has ‘Very Good Chance of Exoneration’
President Donald Trump continues to ignore Attorney General Bill Barr’s threat of resigning if he continues to tweet about Justice Dept. cases. Barely hours after a judge sentenced the president’s longtime confidant Roger Stone to a mere 40 months in jail Trump announced he believes Stone has a “very good chance of exoneration,” presumably on appeal – unless he is planning a pardon, which is not exoneration, although Trump apparently does not know that.
Judge Amy Berman Jackson made clear he does not, and all but bullet proofed her sentencing decision.
Now experts and others are predicting Trump will pardon Stone, possibly soon.
The president has already had Jared Stone and Pam Bondi remove the pardon process from the DOJ, enveloping it into their own portfolios.
The Washington Post’s Philip Rucker warned on MSNBC Thursday afternoon that Trump “is looking for ways to lash out” because he is so angry that his enemies, including Jim Comey and Andrew McCabe, were never charged with crimes (they never committed crimes) and he wants to “protect his own friends.”
“We’re obviously awaiting to hear about the president pardoning Roger Stone, which certainly appears likely,” Rucker stated.
NBC News and MSNBC Legal Analyst Glenn Kirschner, a former federal prosecutor, said, “Trump issuing a pardon for somebody like Roger Stone looks like one thing and one thing only: obstruction of justice.”
Here’s what some other legal experts are saying:
Former FBI Special Agent and lawyer:
What’s the over-under on how long Trump will wait time pardon Stone after sentencing? I give it by the end if the day tomorrow.
— Asha Rangappa (@AshaRangappa_) February 20, 2020
POLITICO senior reporter:
— Darren Samuelsohn (@dsamuelsohn) February 20, 2020
Former senior advisor to President Barack Obama:
— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) February 20, 2020
Former U.S. Attorney:
Blah, blah, blah Stone gets a pardon https://t.co/5sThrvbLPJ
— Joyce Alene (@JoyceWhiteVance) February 20, 2020
Former federal prosecutor:
If Trump pardons Stone, DOJ attys who appeared in court may resign; they made reps to court that Trump would contradict. That rolls right to Barr’s doorstep. Stone doesn’t want to go to jail and Barr doesn’t want to resign but you may not be able to have one w/out the other…
— Jack Weiss (@JacksDogma) February 20, 2020
‘Highly Unusual’: Barr Intervening in Federal Prosecutors’ Case Against Trump Ally Mike Flynn
Attorney General Bill Barr is intervening in the federal government’s case against former Trump National Security Advisor and ally Mike Flynn.
Calling it “highly unusual,” The New York Times reports Barr has “assigned an outside prosecutor to scrutinize the criminal case” against Flynn, who has already pleaded guilty and was awaiting sentencing.
“The review is highly unusual and could trigger more accusations of political interference by top Justice Department officials into the work of career prosecutors,” the Times notes.
CNN confirms the Times’ reporting, stressing that Barr “privately ordered” the re-examination of the case against Flynn.
But Flynn’s case is not the only one being scrutinized.
“Mr. Barr has also installed a handful of outside prosecutors to broadly review the handling of other politically sensitive national-security cases in the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, the people said.”
The term “outside prosecutors’ is somewhat misleading – these are all federal prosecutors working for the Justice Dept., and thus subject to Barr’s direction and supervision.
More than a year ago at a sentencing hearing a judge went as far as to berate federal prosecutors for apparent leniency in their charging and sentencing recommendation of Flynn, asking if they had considered charging him with treason.
“Could he have been charged with treason?” Judge Emmet Sullivan asked prosecutors. He also asked if Flynn’s conduct “rises to the level of treasonous activity?”
“You were an unregistered agent of a foreign country … serving as the National Security Adviser to the president of the United States!” Judge Sullivan said to Flynn in December of 2018. “Arguably this undermines everything this flag over here stands for!”
“Arguably, you sold your country out,” Judge Sullivan added.
The judge later walked back his remarks, but it indicates the gravity of Flynn’s crime.
House Democrats Working to Get Testimony From Four Stone Prosecutors Who Quit After Barr Reduced Prison Recommendation
“Time is of the essence,” says a senior aide, worried that Barr could “set the narrative” – which he has a long record of doing.
House Democrats are working to have the four federal prosecutors who quit the Roger Stone case, apparently in protest of Attorney General Bill Barr‘s intervention, testify before Congress. The DOJ under Barr’s direction reduced the amount of prison time prosecutors had requested after an angry tweet from President Donald Trump, sparking nationwide outrage that the president is using the Justice Dept. to protect his friends.
“Numerous House Democrats are now advocating for the House to solicit testimony from the four prosecutors involved in the initial recommendation for Stone, aides tell me,” The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent says. “Two senior Democratic aides told me many House members want to see these hearings well in advance of Barr’s planned testimony to the Judiciary Committee on March 31.”
“Time is of the essence, since this scandal gets worse by the hour,” one senior aide to a member of Judiciary told me, adding that hearing from the four prosecutors could help create “a record of what happened before Barr gets to set the narrative.”
Another senior House aide told me there’s a “pretty widespread sentiment” among members that the four prosecutors must be heard from, “to get the full story of what’s happening under Barr’s tenure.”
Sargent adds that House Democrats might start to make public their desire to have the four prosecutors testify about what happened in the Stone case. It’s unclear where Speaker Nancy Pelosi stands on this, but she has been clear that the “prosecutors should be commended” and the “DOJ should be investigated.”
By tweet @realDonaldTrump engaged in political interference in the sentencing of Roger Stone. It is outrageous that DOJ has deeply damaged the rule of law by withdrawing its recommendation. Stepping down of prosecutors should be commended & actions of DOJ should be investigated.
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) February 12, 2020
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