Four career prosecutors have resigned from the case following a direct intervention by the attorney general Bill Barr overruling their judgment in the case of Donald Trump’s friend, the shady Roger Stone. It is clear that Barr was obeying the dictates of Trump.
Four lawyers who prosecuted political operative Roger Stone have resigned in protest after their sentencing recommendation was overruled and slashed by Donald Trump’s justice department.
Aaron Zelinsky, Jonathan Kravis, Adam Jed and Michael Marando quit the case while Democrats demanded an independent investigation into what they described as a dangerously politicised and corrupt justice department.
The growing crisis raised fresh questions over the role of William Barr, the attorney general who has been criticised as a partisan Trump loyalist.
In a court filing on Monday, prosecutors had requested that Stone serve seven to nine years behind bars, arguing that his actions showed “contempt for this Court and the rule of law”.
But just before 2am on Tuesday, Trump registered his disapproval in a tweet, claiming without evidence: “The real crimes were on the other side, as nothing happens to them. Cannot allow this miscarriage of justice!”
In an extraordinary move on Tuesday afternoon, a new court filing cut the proposed sentence recommendation and sought to rebut the prosecutors’ arguments, suggesting that seven to nine years would be too harsh.
US district judge Amy Berman Jackson who presided over the case will have the final say on Stone’s fate.
Democracy is not just the ability to vote. It involves having many other functioning institutions in place, one of which is that career officials are not made to obey the whims of politicians towards individuals but that they can pursue what they think is right.
We have already seen in the case of the state department, a hollowing out of professionals because they did not slavishly follow the demands of Trump and his lackey secretary of state Mike Pompeo. But what is happening at the department of justice is even worse because while the attorney general is appointed by the president like other cabinet members, unlike other cabinet departments that office has great powers over individuals and thus requires a greater distancing between the career people and their political bosses. This wall has never been very solid and previous attorneys general have tilted the scales in favor of actions that favored the politically powerful. But there was usually an attempt to not be too brazen about it.
What Trump and his attorney general are doing is openly saying that they are going to favor their friends and punish their enemies. The department of justice has become Trump’s own private investigative and prosecutorial agency. This is going well into banana republic territory and the blame for this can be placed squarely at the feet of Republicans in congress who have indicated that they will support Trump whatever he does, not raising even the mildest criticism, however much it stinks.