Ace of Clubs: Former U.S. Attorney General William Barr: Trump’s Biggest Enabler No Longer

 

 

 

Irreconcilable: an otherwise unrepentant Trump administration enabler has a reputation to consider . . . if not a Republic

 

 

 

 

Trump lashes out at Fox News, Bill Barr

https://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/trump-lashes-out-at-fox-news-bill-barr-chris-christie-in-tucker-carlson-interview-highlights/

Former President Trump lashed out at a number of his favorite targets Wednesday night during an interview with ex-Fox News host Tucker Carlson meant to compete with the first GOP presidential debate that the 2024 GOP front-runner skipped.

Trump criticized Fox News, the network televising the debate, rival candidate Chris Christie and his former Attorney General Bill Barr during the 46-minute interview that was pre-taped at Trump’s Bedminster, N.J., property. Here are some of the highlights.

Trump . . . quickly pivoted to attacking his former attorney general over his refusal to indulge Trump’s claims of election fraud in 2020.

“Bill Barr didn’t do an investigation on the election fraud either. He said he did and he pretended he did,” Trump said, claiming Barr was “petrified” of being impeached by the House, which at the time was controlled by Democrats.

 

Bill Barr: Trump committed a ‘grave wrongdoing’ in Jan. 6 case

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/bill-barr-trump-committed-a-grave-wrongdoing-in-jan-6-case

 

 

Trump’s election lies and the Republicans who corrected him

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2023/08/02/trump-lies-2020-election-fraud-indictment/

[Excerpts:]

As Donald Trump sought to overturn the results of the 2020 election, a chorus of top Republicans told him repeatedly that his claims of widespread voter fraud were false.

That pushback now sits at the heart of the federal indictment brought against Trump this week in the Justice Department investigation of his attempts to cling to power.

Special counsel Jack Smith is setting out to show that Trump knew he was lying when he unleashed his torrent of election falsehoods that culminated with the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol — an important part for convicting Trump on the four charges he’s facing.

To that end, the indictment lays out a drumbeat of episodes — many of them already public — when Trump was told that bogus statements about fraudulent ballots being counted or votes being flipped to Joe Biden were false. They came from a range of people in his orbit, including White House lawyers, administration appointees, state GOP officials and his campaign staffers. Trump has denied wrongdoing.

The indictment references at least nine administration officials, among others, who told Trump that the election was not stolen or that his schemes to remain in the White House were untenable. The officials are not named in the indictment, but some of their identities can be discerned by matching descriptions of their activities in the indictment with public reporting. Here are the key people who corrected Trump on his election lies and what they said:



Avatar of Attorney General William Barr

When Trump claimed there had been a “suspicious vote dump” in Detroit, Barr told him the allegation was false, according to the indictment. He also sought to dispel Trump’s claims that voting machines in contested states had switched votes from Trump to Biden.

 

Bill Barr: The Truth About the Trump Indictment

This time the president is not a victim of a witch hunt. The situation is entirely of his own making.

By William P. Barr

June 19, 2023

[Excerpt:]

For the sake of the country, our party, and a basic respect for the truth, it is time that Republicans come to grips with the hard truths about President Trump’s conduct and its implications. Chief among them: Trump’s indictment is not the result of unfair government persecution. This is a situation entirely of his own making. The effort to present Trump as a victim in the Mar-a-Lago document affair is cynical political propaganda.

Here are the plain facts. 

Bill Barr’s Warning on Trump
May 7, 2023 
The former Attorney General says his one-time boss lacks the ability to deliver on his policy priorities.

https://www.wsj.com › Opinion › Review & Outlook

 

Must-Read NYT: “Barr Pressed Durham to Find Flaws in the Russia Investigation. It Didn’t Go Well.”

Must-read NYT:

It became a regular litany of grievances from President Donald J. Trump and his supporters: The investigation into his 2016 campaign’s ties to Russia was a witch hunt, they maintained, that had been opened without any solid basis, went on too long and found no proof of collusion.

Egged on by Mr. Trump, Attorney General William P. Barr set out in 2019 to dig into their shared theory that the Russia investigation likely stemmed from a conspiracy by intelligence or law enforcement agencies. To lead the inquiry, Mr. Barr turned to a hard-nosed prosecutor named John H. Durham, and later granted him special counsel status to carry on after Mr. Trump left office.

But after almost four years — far longer than the Russia investigation itself — Mr. Durham’s work is coming to an end without uncovering anything like the deep state plot alleged by Mr. Trump and suspected by Mr. Barr.

Moreover, a monthslong review by The New York Times found that the main thrust of the Durham inquiry was marked by some of the very same flaws — including a strained justification for opening it and its role in fueling partisan conspiracy theories that would never be charged in court — that Trump allies claim characterized the Russia investigation.

Interviews by The Times with more than a dozen current and former officials have revealed an array of previously unreported episodes that show how the Durham inquiry became roiled by internal dissent and ethical disputes as it went unsuccessfully down one path after another even as Mr. Trump and Mr. Barr promoted a misleading narrative of its progress.

  • Mr. Barr and Mr. Durham never disclosed that their inquiry expanded in the fall of 2019, based on a tip from Italian officials, to include a criminal investigation into suspicious financial dealings related to Mr. Trump. The specifics of the tip and how they handled the investigation remain unclear, but Mr. Durham brought no charges over it.
  • Mr. Durham used Russian intelligence memos — suspected by other U.S. officials of containing disinformation — to gain access to emails of an aide to George Soros, the financier and philanthropist who is a favorite target of the American right and Russian state media. Mr. Durham used grand jury powers to keep pursuing the emails even after a judge twice rejected his request for access to them. The emails yielded no evidence that Mr. Durham has cited in any case he pursued.
  • There were deeper internal fractures on the Durham team than previously known. The publicly unexplained resignation in 2020 of his No. 2 and longtime aide, Nora R. Dannehy, was the culmination of a series of disputes between them over prosecutorial ethics. A year later, two more prosecutors strongly objected to plans to indict a lawyer with ties to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign based on evidence they warned was too flimsy, and one left the team in protest of Mr. Durham’s decision to proceed anyway. (A jury swiftly acquitted the lawyer.)

Now, as Mr. Durham works on a final report, the interviews by The Times provide new details of how he and Mr. Barr sought to recast the scrutiny of the 2016 Trump campaign’s myriad if murky links to Russia as unjustified and itself a crime.

 

Letters from an American, Heather Cox Richardson

October 27, 2021

This morning, the Democratic majority of the Senate Judiciary Committee released a draft report of its investigation into Trump’s attempt to use the Department of Justice to overturn the results of the 2020 election. The report found that Trump repeatedly tried to get the DOJ to endorse his false claims that the election was stolen and to overturn its results, singling out nine specific attempts to change the outcome. Trump, the report says, “grossly abused the power of the presidency.”

The report points to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows as a key player in the attempt to subvert the DOJ, and it singles out a number of other officials as participants in the pressure campaign. Those people include Jeffrey Bossert Clark from within the DOJ, whom Trump tried to install as acting attorney general to push his demands; Representative Scott Perry (R-PA); Doug Mastriano, a Republican state senator from Pennsylvania; and Cleta Mitchell, a legal adviser to the Trump campaign. The draft report also notes that under Attorney General William Barr, the DOJ “deviated from longstanding practice” when it began to investigate allegations of fraud before the votes were certified. [Boldface added]

The report concludes that the efforts to subvert the DOJ were part of Trump’s attempt “to retain the presidency by any means necessary,” a process that “without a doubt” “created the disinformation ecosystem necessary for Trump to incite almost 1000 Americans to breach the Capitol in a violent attempt to subvert democracy by stopping the certification of a free and fair election.” 

Today was also the deadline for four of Trump’s closest allies to turn over documents to the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol and to schedule testimony. Former chief of staff Mark Meadows, social media manager Dan Scavino, adviser Steve Bannon, and former Defense Department official Kash Patel have until midnight tonight to contact the committee.

Trump’s lawyers wrote a letter telling the four men not to cooperate with the congressional subpoena. The letter claims that Trump is planning to contest the subpoenas on the basis of executive privilege. 

 

Letters from an American, Heather Cox Richardson

June 28, 2021

What is interesting about this is not the idea that Barr stood against Trump’s claims of a win. In fact, shortly after the election, Barr fed the Big Lie. A week after the 2020 election, he overturned Justice Department policy to investigate “substantial allegations” of vote irregularities that “could potentially impact the outcome” of the election. Now he is saying that he took this unusual action because he knew Trump would ask him about allegations of fraud and wanted to be able to say he had looked into them. But his stance fed the idea that Trump had been cheated of victory.

That Barr is trying to spin the past now is a good indicator of current politics. While we are still in a dangerous moment, the former president is losing ground.

[Boldface added]

 

September 17, 2020: By repeating false and misleading statements about the potential for voter fraud and post-election violence, Attorney General William Barr has stepped out of his role as the nation’s chief law enforcement officer and marred the 2020 elections. https://www.cnn.com/2020/09/17/opinions/us-election-2020-william-barr-undermining-hasen/index.html

December 1, 2020: Disputing President Donald Trump’s baseless claims, Attorney General William Barr declared Tuesday the U.S. Justice Department has uncovered no evidence of widespread voter fraud that could change the outcome of the 2020 election. 

  • Barr’s comments contradict the concerted effort by Trump, his boss, to subvert the results of last month’s voting and block President-elect Joe Biden from taking his place in the White House.
  • Barr to AP: U.S. attorneys and FBI agents have been working to follow up specific complaints and information they’ve received, but “to date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election.” 
  • The comments drew immediate criticism from Trump attorneys, having come from  one of the president’s most ardent allies. apnews.com, Dec. 1, 2020

December 15, 2020: President Trump announced Attorney General Barr’s resignation on Twitter, reportedly due to Barr’s failures to influence the election in Trump’s favor and fully embrace Trump’s bizarre voter fraud conspiracy theories.  cnn.com and washingtonpost.com, Dec. 15, 202

  • In Resignation Letter, Barr Praises a President Who Pushed Him to Break Norms at DOJ.”  law.com, Dec. 14, 2020 

William Barr Is Going, but His Trumpian Legacy Remains, By David Rohde, December 16, 2020

https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/william-barr-is-going-but-his-trumpian-legacy-remains

  • ‘Bill Barr will go down in history as Trump’s worst Enabler’: “He transformed the Justice Department into a partisan cudgel for President Trump, undercutting probes that might damage the White House and doling out special treatment for presidential allies who broke the law. He treated hypocrisy like a virtue and self-awareness as a vice.” newrepublic.com, Dec. 15, 2020
  • Former Justice Departments officials and legal experts were unequivocal in their assessment of Barr’s legacy. They credited him for breaking with Trump in the prelude to and aftermath of the election. But they predicted that he would go down in history as one of the country’s most destructive Attorneys General.
  • “The few times Barr put the nation ahead of the President will not atone for the many times he chose the opposite. He leaves a wounded department,” Stephen Gillers, an expert in legal ethics at New York University School of Law, told me.
  • “His tenure as Attorney General will be akin to the plague years at the Justice Department,” David Laufman, a former Justice Department official, said.
  • “I think his tenure has been an indefensible and disgraceful betrayal of long-established norms,” Donald Ayer, a former Deputy Attorney General, noted. “Throughout much of 2020, there was the Attorney General, using the department’s resources and his own bully pulpit to echo and reinforce the President’s campaign narrative,” Ayer said. “He did so many things this year that an Attorney General should never do.”
  • Former Justice Departments officials and legal experts were unequivocal in their assessment of Barr’s legacy. They credited him for breaking with Trump in the prelude to and aftermath of the election. But they predicted that he would go down in history as one of the country’s most destructive Attorneys General. “The few times Barr put the nation ahead of the President will not atone for the many times he chose the opposite.
  • He leaves a wounded department,” Stephen Gillers, an expert in legal ethics at New York University School of Law, told me.
  • “His tenure as Attorney General will be akin to the plague years at the Justice Department,” David Laufman, a former Justice Department official, said.
  • “I think his tenure has been an indefensible and disgraceful betrayal of long-established norms,” Donald Ayer, a former Deputy Attorney General, noted. “Throughout much of 2020, there was the Attorney General, using the department’s resources and his own bully pulpit to echo and reinforce the President’s campaign narrative,” Ayer said. “He did so many things this year that an Attorney General should never do.”
  • Barr deserves credit for refusing to go along with Trump’s post-election de-facto coup attempt. But he also exacerbated the explosion of “alternative facts” in the Trump era. At a time when division and confusion regarding basic facts were already rampant among Americans, Barr used his position as a fact-finder to increase discord, not ease it.
  • From Barr’s efforts to neuter the Mueller investigation and to burying the Ukraine whistleblower’s complaint to public validations of Trump’s claims about voter fraud in the 2020 election, Barr appeared to equate serving the White House’s political interests with the DOJ’s mission and constitutional duty to the country

 

 Did Bill Barr ‘corrupt’ the Justice Department

By Christina Pazzanese Harvard Staff Writer, The Harvard Gazette

June 15, 2021

https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2021/06/cnn-analyst-discusses-bill-barrs-impact/

Hatchet Man: How Bill Barr Broke the Prosecutor’s Code and Corrupted the Justice Department,”  Elie Honig, CNN legal analyst, who served as a federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) from 2004 to 2012 and as assistant attorney general in the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice from 2012 to 2018.

  • From Barr’s efforts to neuter the Mueller investigation and to burying the Ukraine whistleblower’s complaint to public validations of Trump’s claims about voter fraud in the 2020 election, Barr appeared to equate serving the White House’s political interests with the DOJ’s mission and constitutional duty to the country, Honig argues.
  • Honig:”There were so many scandals, so many abuses of power, that when you lay them end to end like this and thoroughly document and assess them, I think it’s stunning, and I think it’s alarming. Even since the book went to print a few weeks ago, we’ve learned of several new scandals that illustrate just how badly Barr abused his power as AG — including, most troubling, secretly investigating reporters and members of Congress, apparently without justification.”

 

Ex-Trump AG Barr, others launch Republican-backed election law group

(Reuters) – Prominent Republicans including former U.S. Attorney General William Barr on Thursday launched a new legal group they say is aimed at defending state legislatures’ right to set election laws.

The nonprofit group, Restoring Integrity and Trust in Elections, is also co-founded by longtime Republican strategist Karl Rove, hotel magnate and GOP donor Steve Wynn and attorney Bobby Burchfield, who last year resigned from the law firm King & Spalding.

Burchfield told Reuters Thursday that the group was created in response to expanding court fights over election laws. It has already filed two briefs in election law cases backing state legislatures’ ability to change voting rules.

“We do not think the courts should be setting the rules for elections. We believe that’s the province of state legislatures,” Burchfield said.

He said the nonprofit is not a “foil” to Democratic lawyers like Marc Elias, who left law firm Perkins Coie last year to start his own practice regularly litigating over election laws.

The group is not affiliated with former President Donald Trump and does not support particular candidates, Burchfield said. He said the groups’ members reject claims made by some other conservatives that the 2020 election is illegitimate due to mass voter fraud.

Elias on Thursday told Reuters he believes the new organization is “fundamentally about making voting harder and opposing voting rights.” He said that the state laws the group defends are falsely premised on the idea that fraud is rampant in U.S. elections.

One of the group’s briefs, filed in June before the Montana Supreme Court, supports reinstating several new voting laws blocked by a judge in March, including ones eliminating same-day voter registration and heightening voter identification requirements in the state. The court in May suspended that ruling but has not issued a final decision.

Represented by lawyers from Jones Day, the group also filed a brief Tuesday at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit supporting a Republican-backed Florida law that restricts the use of drop boxes and third-party organizations’ ability to collect voter registration forms. The court in May temporarily reinstated those measures after a lower court judge said they were racially discriminatory.

Wynn is the group’s finance chair. It will also help others with a similar agenda through financial aid or “intellectual capital,” by connecting them to lawyers, Burchfield said.

Burchfield last year represented the Republican National Committee and Trump’s reelection campaign in a pre-election legal challenge to North Carolina extending the deadline for receiving mail-in ballots in the 2020 race. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected the case.

He was previously an outside ethics adviser to the Trump Organization but said Thursday he no longer holds that role.

[Boldface added]

 

 

Letters from an American, Heather Cox Richardson

The House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol is also in the news. On Sunday, committee member Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) told CNN’s Jim Acosta that Trump’s attorney general William Barr had appeared voluntarily before staff attorneys for the January 6 committee.

Trump announced Barr’s resignation on Twitter on December 15, 2020, minutes after Congress counted in the Electoral College ballots certifying Biden as president. On December 14, false electors had met in seven states to declare for Trump; the plan to use those false votes to throw out the real ones may have been connected to Barr’s sudden removal. 

 

Barr calls prospect of Trump running for president again ‘dismaying,’ says GOP should ‘look forward’ to others

By Matt Zapotosky and Josh Dawsey

February 27, 2022

[Excerpts:]

Former attorney general William P. Barr says in a new book that the prospect of Donald Trump running for president again is “dismaying” and urges the Republican Party to “look forward” to other candidates, concluding after a searing, behind-the-scenes account of his time in the president’s Cabinet that Trump is not the right man to lead the country.

In the book, “One Damn Thing After Another,” Barr takes shot after shot at Trump, especially over his leadership during the coronavirus pandemic and his false claims that the election was stolen from him. Barr, who had a famous falling-out with Trump late in his presidency, writes that Trump’s “constant bellicosity diminishes him and the office,” and that in the final months of the administration, he came to realize that “Trump cared only about one thing: himself. Country and principle took second place.”

  “Donald Trump has shown he has neither the temperament nor persuasive powers to provide the kind of positive leadership that is needed.”

Most notably, he unloads on Trump, casting him as an “incorrigible” narcissist who, “through his self-indulgence and lack of self-control,” blew the 2020 election and then did “a disservice to the nation” in falsely claiming his defeat was due to fraud.

“The election was not ‘stolen,’” Barr writes. “Trump lost it.”

Read More

As attorney general, Barr faced withering criticism that he politicized the Justice Department to serve Trump’s interests, such as by intervening in criminal cases to benefit the president’s allies and launching investigations that targeted the president’s foes. Though he casts himself in his book as resisting pressure to take inappropriate steps, critics are likely to accuse him of offering a self-serving retelling of events to sell books and rehabilitate his own public image.

Then-president Donald Trump tweeted on Dec. 14, 2020, that William P. Barr would resign as attorney general. Tom Hamburger explained their relationship. (Zach Purser Brown/The Washington Post)

The breaking point for Barr and Trump’s relationship, though, seems to have come after the election, when Barr refused to back Trump’s claims of widespread fraud.

In more detail than he has previously shared, Barr describes how he marshaled the Justice Department and the FBI to explore various fraud claims. And in each instance, he writes, they could find no evidence to support those claims — though that did not deter the president.

“I got calls from senators and members of the House asking me what I thought about all the claims of fraud,” Barr writes. “On this trajectory, the peaceful transition of power was not an obviously attainable goal.”

Barr takes particular aim at those who had the president’s ear — including former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who Barr says will be remembered as “the man who helped President Trump get impeached not once but twice.” (Giuliani was involved in the pressure campaign in Ukraine, which was at the heart of Trump’s first impeachment, and the effort to overturn the election, which fueled the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol and was at the heart of the second.)

Barr writes that Trump “surrounded himself with sycophants, including many whack jobs from outside the government, who fed him a steady diet of comforting but unsupported conspiracy theories.” He seems to blame Trump for the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, in which supporters of the president stormed the building as lawmakers were finalizing the vote count.

Barr writes that he repeatedly informed Trump, through his staff, that the Justice Department was not finding evidence to support his claims of fraud. The issue came to a head in December 2020, when Barr said as much publicly to the Associated Press.

Barr did not resign then, though he would do so later that month.

\

From: Heather Cox Richardson from Letters from an American <heathercoxrichardson@substack.com>
Date: March 9, 2022

 

And yet, for all the mounting evidence that there was a conspiracy surrounding Trump to overturn the will of the voters—the centerpiece of our governmental system—in the 2020 election, key Republicans are doubling down on him.

Trump’s attorney general William Barr has just published a book detailing how Trump lied about the election and threatened democracy. And yet, on a tour to sell the book, Barr on Monday told NBC’s Savannah Guthrie that he would nonetheless vote for Trump if he were the Republican nominee in 2024. “Because I believe that the greatest threat to the country is the progressive agenda being pushed by the Democratic Party, it’s inconceivable to me that I wouldn’t vote for the Republican nominee,” he said.

 

The Trumpist Ukraine Blame Game

After the invasion, there may or may not be room for Putin apologists in the Republican Party, but there is certainly room for Trump apologists.

By Amy Davidson Sorkin

March 13, 2022

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2022/03/21/the-trumpist-ukraine-blame-game?

[Excerpt:]

In other words, there may or may not be room for Putin apologists in the Republican Party—Tucker Carlson, of Fox News, still has a G.O.P. following—but there is certainly room for Trump apologists. Last week, William Barr, the former Attorney General, published a memoir of his time in the White House, and it contained some headline-making observations about Trump’s instability. But it also included numerous rationalizations of Trump’s actions, and an ugly jab at his successor: “I am afraid that, with a wavering, intermittently alert Joe Biden in the Oval Office, Vladimir Putin will pursue Russian strategic goals more assertively.” Barr says that he’d vote for Trump again, out of fear of the “progressive agenda.”

 

Letters from an American, Heather Cox Richardson

https://heathercoxrichardson.substack.com

July 30, 2022

This morning, Jon Swaine and Dalton Bennett of the Washington Post reported that on October 11, 2019, at Trump’s National Doral golf resort in South Florida, Danish filmmakers caught an unguarded conversation between Trump allies talking about their legal exposure because of their work for the president. 

Recording a documentary about Trump’s friend and operative, Roger Stone, the filmmakers caught Stone and Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL) on Stone’s lapel microphone talking about Stone’s upcoming trial for lying to Congress and witness tampering during the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. 

Federal prosecutors said that before the 2016 election, Stone repeatedly reached out to WikiLeaks “to obtain information…that would help the Trump campaign and harm the campaign of Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton.” Campaign officials “believed that Stone was providing them with nonpublic information about WikiLeaks’ plans. Indeed, [Trump advisor and campaign chief executive Steve] Bannon viewed Stone as the Trump campaign’s access point to WikiLeaks.” Stone lied to Congress five times, interfering with their Russia investigation, and threatened another witness to try to keep him from exposing Stone’s lies.

At the time the new tape was recorded, Stone was complaining that prosecutors were pressuring him to turn on Trump, and on the tape, said he might “have to appeal to the big man.” Gaetz can be heard agreeing that Stone was “f*ck*d,” but Gaetz didn’t think he would “do a day” in prison. Claiming he had heard it directly from Trump, Gaetz said: “The boss still has a very favorable view of you,” and continued, “I don’t think the big guy can let you go down for this.” “I don’t think you’re going to go down at all at the end of the day,” Gaetz told Stone.

Gaetz sits on the House Judiciary Committee and thus had seen portions of the redacted sections of Special Counsel Muller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. Although the committee members were prohibited from talking about it except among themselves, Gaetz talked with Stone about it, telling him that he was “not going to have a defense.” 

Stone told Gaetz he had seen the entire report himself thanks to a ruling from Judge Amy Berman Jackson, although when he had asked for such access, she had given him access only to some of it, so it is unclear what he meant. He, too, was not supposed to discuss that material. 

The two men briefly discussed a photograph of the two of them with Seminole County tax collector Joel Greenberg that Stone said had “come back to bite us in the a**”; months later Greenberg was arrested and pleaded guilty to six charges including sex trafficking a minor. Greenberg is cooperating with authorities. Stone and Gaetz also discussed the outcry over the FBI raid of Stone’s house: media were at the raid, and Stone accused the FBI of tipping them off. Gaetz guessed the tip came from Stone himself. “Innocent until proven guilty,” Stone replied.

As the two men expected, on November 15 a jury found Stone guilty of seven counts of lying to Congress and witness tampering.

And then, when it came time for his sentencing, events played out as Gaetz suggested they would. 

On February 10, prosecutors wrote to Judge Jackson to recommend jail time of 7 to 9 years for Stone, noting that his crime was about the integrity of our government. “Investigations into election interference concern our national security, the integrity of our democratic processes, and the enforcement of our nation’s criminal laws,” they wrote. “These are issues of paramount concern to every citizen of the United States. Obstructing such critical investigations thus strikes at the very heart of our American democracy.” Their recommendation fell within standard department guidelines.

Immediately after the sentencing recommendation, though, Trump tweeted that it was “horrible and unfair” and a “miscarriage of justice.” The Justice Department, operating under Attorney General William Barr, then reversed itself, saying its own prosecutors had failed to be “reasonable.”

In response, all four of the federal prosecutors responsible for Roger Stone’s case withdrew. The administration also abruptly pulled the nomination of the former U.S. attorney who oversaw the Stone prosecution for a top position in the Treasury Department. 

It appeared that the prosecutors were right and the case was actually about the integrity of our democratic processes. It also appeared that Barr had hamstrung the Department of Justice to make sure that no one could touch the president.

Trump tweeted: “Congratulations to Attorney General Bill Barr for taking charge of a case that was totally out of control and perhaps should not have even been brought. Evidence now clearly shows that the Mueller Scam was improperly brought & tainted.”

Days before Stone was due to report to prison in July to serve 40 months, Trump commuted his sentence, thus removing his jail time, supervised release, and a $20,000 fine. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called Trump’s move “an act of staggering corruption,” and Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) called it “a real body blow to the rule of law in this country.” 

Then, on December 23, 2020, Trump pardoned Stone, as Gaetz had predicted, rewarding his personal loyalty.

Two weeks later, on January 6, 2021, Stone was back in Washington, D.C. 

Once again, the Danish film crew was filming and, after the events of that day, recorded Stone asking again for a presidential pardon. This time, Gaetz apparently wanted one, too.

When White House counsel Pat Cipollone prevented Trump from issuing those pardons, Stone told a friend that Trump was “a disgrace…. He betrayed everybody.”

[Boldface added]

Court orders release of DOJ memo on Trump obstruction in Mueller probe

 

[Excerpts:]

“The court’s … review of the memorandum revealed that the Department in fact never considered bringing a charge,” the panel wrote. “Instead, the memorandum concerned a separate decision that had gone entirely unmentioned by the government in its submissions to the court—what, if anything, to say to Congress and the public about the Mueller Report.”

“Any notion that the memorandum concerned whether to say something to the public went entirely unargued — and even unmentioned” until the appeal, the court said. “We cannot sustain the withholding of the memorandum on a rationale that the Department never presented to the district court.”

Jackson castigated the government for that omission, saying that CREW’s assessment of the memo “was considerably more accurate than the one supplied by the Department” even though the nonprofit “had never laid eyes on the document.”

Barr ultimately told lawmakers that since Mueller had declined to reach a conclusion on obstruction of justice, he and his deputy made their own determination that the evidence was lacking. When Mueller’s full report was released weeks later, his office said there was “substantial evidence” of obstruction. He also wrote a letter to Barr saying the attorney general had mischaracterized his team’s work.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the nonprofit that sued for the document’s release, celebrated the ruling on Twitter and a spokesman for the ethics watchdog called it a “major victory for transparency.”

“Attorney General Barr cited this memo as a reason not to charge President Trump with obstruction of justice,” CREW spokesman Jordan Libowitz said in a statement. “The American people deserve to know what it says. Now they will.”

 

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/08/30/opinion/trump-barr-justice-department

Mr. Katyal is a professor at Georgetown University Law Center, was an acting solicitor general in the Obama administration and is a co-author of “Impeach: The Case Against Donald Trump.”

The Trump-era memo released last week by the Justice Department closing the book on the report of the special counsel Robert Mueller and his inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 election is a frightening document. Critics have rightly focused on its substance, slipshod legal analysis and omission of damning facts.

But the process by which that memo, sent in March 2019, came to be is just as worrisome. Delivered to the attorney general at the time, Bill Barr, the memo was written by two political appointees in the Justice Department.

Mr. Barr used the memo to go around the special counsel regulations and to clear President Donald Trump of obstruction of justice. If left to fester, this decision will have pernicious consequences for investigations of future high-level wrongdoing.

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It raises particular concerns because, as a young Justice Department staff member, I drafted the special counsel regulations in 1999 to prevent the exact problem of having partisan political appointees undermine an investigation. The regulations were put in place to ensure that the counsel would make any determination to charge or not and to force the attorney general to overrule those determinations specifically and before Congress.

The 2019 memo tendentiously argued that Mr. Trump committed no crimes — leaving the final decision on the matter to Republican-aligned appointees instead of to the independent special counsel.

The challenge in devising the regulations was to develop a framework for the prosecution of high-level executive branch officials — which is harder than it sounds, because the Constitution requires the executive branch to control prosecutions. So we are left with one of the oldest philosophical problems: Who will guard the guardians?

The solution we landed on was to have a special counsel take over the investigative and prosecutorial functions. That counsel was vested with day-to-day independence in an investigation, but the attorney general would still be able to overrule the special counsel — but, crucially, if the attorney general overruled, to report to Congress, to ensure accountability.

The regulations were written with an untrustworthy president in mind, more so than the problem that Mr. Barr presented, which is an untrustworthy attorney general. Unlike presidents, attorneys general were confirmed by the Senate, with a 60-vote threshold (though it is now a simple majority) — so we assumed they would be reasonably nonpartisan. And we also knew there was no way around the attorney general being the ultimate decider, because the Constitution requires the executive branch to control prosecutions.

We created the role of special counsel to fill a void — to concentrate in one person responsibility and ultimate blame so that investigations would not be covered up from the get-go and to give that person independence from political pressure.

>It is outrageous that Mr. Barr acted so brazenly in the face of this framework. The point of requiring a special counsel was to provide for an independent determination of any potential criminal wrongdoing by Mr. Trump. But the political appointees in his Justice Department took what was the most important part of that inquiry — the decision of whether he committed crimes — and grabbed it for themselves. This was a fundamental betrayal of the special counsel guidelines not for some principle but because it protected their boss, Mr. Trump. It is the precise problem that the regulations were designed to avoid and why the regulations give the counsel “the full power and independent authority to exercise all investigative and prosecutorial functions of any United States attorney.”

Mr. Mueller demurred in making that determination because of a longstanding policy against indicting sitting presidents, reasoning that if he could not formally indict, he then could not say whether Mr. Trump committed crimes. Reasonable minds can disagree with Mr. Mueller’s determination, but the key here is that Mr. Barr thought such a determination could be made.

But instead of doing what the regulations contemplated — namely, tell Mr. Mueller he disagreed and ask him to make that bottom-line determination — Mr. Barr left that intricate determination to two political appointees. He did this in the teeth of a set of regulations that required him to report to Congress if he disagreed with the counsel. Mr. Barr never made such a report and instead, until last week, the memo remained unavailable to the public; a Federal District Court judge recently called the Justice Department’s explanations to keep it secret “disingenuous,” as well as “misleading and incomplete.”

This is a key concern, because America desperately needs an effective system to investigate high-level executive branch wrongdoing. Whether it is a second Trump administration incident or a Biden administration scandal, somewhere, sometime, the executive branch is going to need to investigate itself.

Some people have suggested that we might revisit something like the Independent Counsel Act of 1978, which was structured to mix functions between an outsider and an inside attorney general. But in its actual execution — like the Starr investigation during the Bill Clinton years — it was even worse than the special counsel regulations. By fragmenting decision making, that act allowed the attorney general to blame Congress, for Congress to blame the attorney general, and for the independent counsel to blame both of them, for any controversial prosecutorial steps.

Some people have pointed out that, as Mr. Mueller clearly believed, current policy does not permit the indictment of a sitting president. But that is a flaw not of the special counsel regulations but rather of Department of Justice rules that go back to (not surprisingly) the Nixon administration. I think that those rules go too far and that indicting sitting presidents is permissible, even if they may not be tried until they leave office. Still, in a world where sitting presidents cannot be indicted (or tried) until they leave office, there is a need for a functioning apparatus to allow for the investigation and bottom-line criminality determinations to be made, both to tee up a possible criminal trial and for possible impeachment proceedings.

Just as one has to fear a rogue attorney general, we must fear a rogue special counsel. That is why the regulations required the special counsel to notify the attorney general of “significant events” and to permit the attorney general to overrule the special counsel. There is no purgatory option, in which the special counsel punts on a determination and lets the attorney general make the call; the point is to provide for an independent recommendation to the attorney general and for the call to be made against that backdrop.

What Mr. Barr did must be strongly and swiftly repudiated by Republicans and Democrats alike, because otherwise it will enable attorneys general to sidestep prosecution of not just the president who appointed them but also all those who serve that president.

The regulations can be improved: They should call for earlier congressional notification of significant developments. Instead of requiring attorneys general to report an overrule at the end of an investigation to Congress, a report to Congress (or perhaps a Gang of Eight) could be required very shortly after any important decision. That change would encourage attorneys general to avoid pernicious activity.

It’s no surprise that the Justice Department tried to keep this memo from the light of day. Years later, it packs none of the punch it would have had if it had been released at the time. Yet perhaps that distance provides us with an opportunity to think through the rules and procedures to get it right the next time.

Neal K. Katyal is a professor at Georgetown University Law Center and was an acting solicitor general in the Obama administration and wrote, with Sam Koppelman, “Impeach: The Case Against Donald Trump.”

 

Why Barr is breaking from Trump — and the GOP — over Mar-a-Lago search

https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/3636565-why-barr-is-breaking-from-trump-and-the-gop-over-mar-a-lago-search/

“I don’t believe that on our 250th anniversary, this nation will turn to Donald Trump. Folks, imagine, imagine that moment and ask: ‘What do we want to be?’ If we do our job in 2024, we will have done something few generations have been able to say they’ve done. We will able to say literally, we saved democracy.”

— President Biden