In a scandal unlike the Department of Justice has ever seen in our lifetimes, all four of the prosecutors working on the case they successfully conducted against Trump political advisor Roger Stone — convicting the dandyish dirty trickster of obstruction, making false statements, and witness tampering during his time working on the president’s 2016 election campaign — have resigned today in protest over the political interference in the sentencing recommendations they submitted to the court just yesterday.
After having submitted a proposal for a seven-to-nine-year prison term for the convicted Trump associate, the prosecutors awoke this morning to find that the president’s overnight Twitter rampage attacking their recommendations as a “miscarriage of justice” had induced enough fear-related trouser-soiling in the senior ranks of the Justice Department to have the experienced prosecutors judgment overturned in a clearly politically motivated perversion of the rule of equal justice for all.
With Trump apparently seeking to guarantee that Stone receives the type of justice equal to his own lack of accountability — without having to suffer the negative publicity that a pre-emptive pardon would create — the injection of politics into the supposedly impartial government agency designed to be insulated from such partisan whims created a furor that had pundits bemoaning the death of the DOJ as an independent body under the unholy leadership of the servile and compliant Attorney General William Barr.
Having seen that the president has no compunctions whatsoever in illegally retaliating against those who choose to swear loyalty to the truth and to the institutions they serve rather than to Trump personally, the four principled prosecutors were hailed as brave and defiant in the face of the undermining of their months of effort to bring a criminal to justice based on the facts of the case rather than his relationship with the president.
Perhaps the most heartfelt praise for the acts of conscience that the four veteran Justice Department attorneys undertook today came from someone who could empathize with their difficult positions from experience, former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates.
To the career men and women of DOJ, you are both the backbone and the heart of the Department. Your noble dedication to the rule of law is the foundation of our republic. https://t.co/GDW3IFBr1x
— Sally Yates (@SallyQYates) February 11, 2020
Yates’ salute to the career federal workers — the dedicated and experienced people that Trump often likes to refer to as the “Deep State” — is certainly heartfelt.
In her brief tenure as acting AG at the very beginning of the Trump administration, before Trump’s initial nominee for the role — former Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions — was confirmed by his former colleagues, Yates was in a similarly uncomfortable spot to the prosecutors who sacrificed their own careers today by putting their moral principals over selfish political expediency.
Duty-bound to report to the White House that Trump’s then-National Security Advisor Michael Flynn had been lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian diplomats, Yates was forced to watch as the Trump administration failed to act on her advice to fire Flynn for weeks until word leaked to The Washington Post, whereupon Flynn hurriedly resigned.
She also had the unpleasant task of informing Trump that the Department of Justice would not defend his executive order banning residents of seven predominantly Muslim countries from traveling to the U.S. because she felt that the order was not constitutional, an opinion borne out in subsequent court decisions.
In a statement that Yates sent to the Department of Justice staff at the time of her decision to defy Trump’s wishes — a decision that led to her immediate dismissal — she demonstrated just how far the Department has fallen since she left.
“At present, I am not convinced that the defense of the executive order is consistent with these responsibilities of the Department of Justice, nor am I convinced that the executive order is lawful…I am responsible for ensuring that the positions we take in court remain consistent with this institution’s solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right. For as long as I am the acting Attorney General, the Department of Justice will not present arguments in defense of th[is] executive order, unless and until I become convinced that it is appropriate to do so,” Yates wrote.
In the newly transactional Justice Department under Trump’s latest Attorney General William Barr, standing for what is right has devolved to following the orders of an authoritarian president who knows little about the law and cares even less about it.
The four prosecutors who established their own hero statuses today should be proud to be lauded buy such an inspirational figure as Sally Yates. If only the rest of the Justice Department would rise up in protest in an act as unprecedented as the president’s intervention to interfere in an ongoing sentencing process, the rule of law in America may still have a chance of surviving.