February 21, 2020

Barr and Stone

“Roger Stone, a longtime confidant of President Donald Trump, was sentenced to more than three years in prison Thursday.” AP News

Last Sunday, over 1,000 former U.S. Justice Department officials called for Attorney General William Barr to resign over his handling of the trial. Reuters

See our prior coverage of Roger Stone here. The Flip Side

See past issues

From the Left

The left is critical of Barr and the politicization of the justice department.

“The previous prosecution team had argued that Stone’s conduct merited various hefty enhancements in what’s known as the ‘offense level’ (basically, how serious the offense is and how stiff a sentence it should get). The initial prosecutors argued that Stone’s conduct deserved these enhancements because it involved threats of causing someone physical injury, substantial interference with the administration of justice, and attempted obstruction of the prosecution (via Stone’s social media postings, including of a picture of crosshairs over Judge Jackson’s image), and was extensive in scope…

“[Barr] confirmed that the decision to water down the [initial prosecutors’] requested sentence for Stone came from the highest levels of the Justice Department — and while he argued his decision was justified on the merits, the move raises questions about whether friends of the president have different standards applied to them by Justice Department leaders.”
Andrew Prokop, Vox

“Even the Justice Department’s extraordinary decision to reverse course the next day noted that the guidelines ‘enhancements’ — the factors that led to the original sentencing recommendation — were ‘perhaps technically applicable,’ and prosecutors on Thursday did not dispute the applicability of those enhancements. In other words, Mr. Barr and those carrying out his wishes did not really dispute the facts and the law as carefully laid out by the career prosecutors. Instead, they presented a litany of the arguments that Mr. Stone’s own lawyers had made for ignoring the guidelines and giving him lenient treatment…

“Here’s a question the Justice Department has not answered: Can it point to a single case in which the defendant was not an ally of President Trump, or someone who could testify against the president, where the department overruled career prosecutors to ask for a sentence ‘far less’ than that called for by the sentencing guidelines in a case that went to trial? Maybe for a drug offender? [Or] someone who broke immigration laws?”
Noah Bookbinder, New York Times

Mr. Trump has claimed that the Constitution gives him ‘the right to do whatever I want.’ His lawyers have argued in a federal case involving his tax returns that a sitting president cannot even be investigated. They have also, in a head-spinning assertion of executive authority, dismissed any efforts by Congress to hold the president and the executive branch accountable…

“Characteristically, while interfering in the justice system, Mr. Trump is both insisting he’s doing nothing of the sort and asserting his right to do so. ‘Just so you understand, I chose not to be involved,’ he said Tuesday in response to a question about his meddling in Mr. Stone’s case. ‘I’m allowed to be totally involved.’… If there is anything useful to draw from Mr. Trump’s degradation of the rule of law and the powers of his office, it’s that he is exposing a critical vulnerability in the Constitution’s design, which anticipated presidents behaving badly, but not this badly.”
Editorial Board, New York Times

“It’s now time to ask: In a free society, dedicated to the rule of law, does it really make sense to say that the attorney general of the United States serves at the president’s whim?… In many of the states, the attorney general is independent of the governor and the system seems to work well, or well enough… Congress should transform the Justice Department into an independent agency, legally immunized from the president’s day-to-day control… the argument for an independent Justice Department seems at least as compelling as the argument for an independent Federal Reserve Board or Federal Communications Commission.”
Cass R. Sunstein, New York Times

From the Right

The right supports Barr and argues that his decision was justified.

The right supports Barr and argues that his decision was justified.

A former deputy attorney general writes, “I recall no one decrying interference when I overruled the recommendation of line prosecutors and the department’s criminal division that a then-sitting U.S. senator should be indicted. He was a Democrat. I also approved the prosecution of another sitting senator. He was a Republican. Those matters came up through the bureaucracy because they were highly visible and politically controversial…

“The decisions of the dedicated professionals who are the heart and soul of the department merit respect and a substantial degree of deference. But those decisions must also be subject to review. The higher the profile of a case, the more deserving it is of high-level attention, because the public will measure the department by its actions in such matters… Barr wasn’t intervening inappropriately. He was doing his job… A more risk-averse attorney general might have let the recommendation stand and avoided a political hot potato. The American people might want to think twice before concluding that is the kind of attorney general the Justice Department should have.”
George J. Terwilliger III, Washington Post

“Roger Stone has been sentenced to 40 months by U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson. I previously stated that the likely sentence would be half of what the prosecutors originally sought and that is precisely what the court did. The sentence not only completed the conviction of Roger Stone but completely vindicated Attorney Bill Barr on the appropriate length of the sentence…

“While Judge Jackson stood up for the original prosecutors and called the sentencing change ‘unprecedented,’ she notably followed the [Barr’s] call for sentencing below half of what the [original] prosecutors requested… I have been in cases… where prosecutors have sought excessive sentences but that does not make it acceptable or right. Given the overwhelming view that the original recommendation was wrong, I find it hard to understand why Main Justice should have stayed silent and not informed the court that justice would not be served with such a sentence.”
Jonathan Turley, Jonathan Turley Blog

“DOJ recommended 7 to 9 years. Trump tweeted. Barr defended DOJ’s case but said that was too high. DOJ suggested 3 to 4 years. Barr told Trump to stop tweeting. Huge campaign to get Barr to resign. Obama-appointed judge sentenced Stone to just over 3 years.”
Jerry Dunleavy, Twitter

“If Barr were truly Trump’s henchman, he would have squashed the Stone case rather than merely recommending a little less jail time at the end… Barr allowed the Mueller probe to reach its conclusion unmolested. The extent of his alleged interference was, prior to the ­release of the report, summarizing its findings in a way that wasn’t harsh or detailed enough for Trump’s critics. Finally, he declined to prosecute former Department of Justice official and frequent Trump target ­Andrew McCabe for lying to investigators. If Barr were really Trump’s Roy Cohn, his personal enforcer masquerading as a top law-enforcement official, nailing McCabe would have been his Job One.”
Rich Lowry, New York Post

“There is substantial new evidence that the foreperson of the jury that convicted Stone has a ‘history of Democratic activism and a string of anti-Trump, left-wing social media posts.’ Before she was ever picked as a juror, Tomeka Hart posted comments about the Stone case and mocked those who argued that his arrest was an example of excessive force. She praised the Mueller investigation and suggested that Trump and his supporters were racists. Trump was right when he called the Stone prosecution ‘a miscarriage of justice.’ That is a tweet to which Barr should pay attention.”
Gregg Jarrett, Fox News

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