Over 1,100 former federal prosecutors and Justice Department employees signed an open letter today calling for Attorney General William P. Barr to resign over his intervention in the sentencing of Trump political advisor Roger Stone last week.
The move comes days after senior Democratic leaders in Congress made the same demand and after the New York City Bar Association filed a formal complaint to the Justice Department’s inspector general about the attorney general’s actions to reduce the DOJ’s sentencing recommendations in the case involving a friend of the president.
The group of concerned former officials who were outraged over the apparent political interference in the application of the unbiased rule of law also urged all current employees of the Department of Justice to act as whistleblowers and report any indications of unethical practices or behavior to the department’s inspector general.
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“Each of us strongly condemns President Trump’s and Attorney General Barr’s interference in the fair administration of justice,” the bipartisan group of former Justice Department prosecutors wrote in an open letter published on Medium.com earlier today.
“We welcome Attorney General Barr’s belated acknowledgment that the DOJ’s law enforcement decisions must be independent of politics; that it is wrong for the President to interfere in specific enforcement matters, either to punish his opponents or to help his friends; and that the President’s public comments on DOJ matters have gravely damaged the Department’s credibility. But Mr. Barr’s actions in doing the President’s personal bidding unfortunately speak louder than his words. Those actions, and the damage they have done to the Department of Justice’s reputation for integrity and the rule of law, require Mr. Barr to resign. But because we have little expectation he will do so, it falls to the Department’s career officials to take appropriate action to uphold their oaths of office and defend nonpartisan, apolitical justice.” the letter continues.
The sheer number of dedicated civil servants signing the harshly critical letter indicates how large a rupture the departure from the normal ethical conduct of the administration of justice Attorney General Barr’s actions have created within the department he oversees.
It also signals the failure of the attorney general’s attempts to tamp down the controversy over his meddling in the Stone sentencing by complaining about the president’s Twitter campaign to influence public opinion about the fairness of the judicial system.
“I cannot do my job here at the department with a constant background commentary that undercuts me,” Barr told ABC News on Thursday in an interview.
Barr’s whining about Trump’s social media harping did little to stop the president from continuing to comment on the Roger Stone case and from declaring that his presidential powers gave him “the legal right” to step into any legal proceeding, although Trump claims that he never asked the attorney general to “do anything in a criminal case.”
“The President has never asked me to do anything in a criminal case.” A.G. Barr This doesn’t mean that I do not have, as President, the legal right to do so, I do, but I have so far chosen not to!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 14, 2020
As the noted “never Trump” Republican lawyer George Conway explained in his op-ed in The Washington Post yesterday, William Barr doesn’t need a specific order from Donald Trump to know exactly what he needs to do to keep his boss happy, given the president’s constant public declarations of his opinions.
For that reason, the letter signed by the former Justice Department officials and coordinated by the advocacy group Protect Democracy lauds the decision by the four prosecutors to resign from the case rather than follow the attorney general’s directives to reduce their sentencing recommendations from that which the applicable laws specify. The signatories commend the prosecutors and issued a clarion call to all the other Justice Department employees to follow their example in the conclusion of their letter.
“For these reasons, we support and commend the four career prosecutors who upheld their oaths and stood up for the Department’s independence by withdrawing from the Stone case and/or resigning from the Department. Our simple message to them is that we — and millions of other Americans — stand with them. And we call on every DOJ employee to follow their heroic example and be prepared to report future abuses to the Inspector General, the Office of Professional Responsibility, and Congress; to refuse to carry out directives that are inconsistent with their oaths of office; to withdraw from cases that involve such directives or other misconduct; and, if necessary, to resign and report publicly — in a manner consistent with professional ethics — to the American people the reasons for their resignation. We likewise call on the other branches of government to protect from retaliation those employees who uphold their oaths in the face of unlawful directives. The rule of law and the survival of our Republic demand nothing less.”
When over 1100 former prosecutors warn us about the survival of our democracy and the rule of law, it’s time to pay attention. Every citizen in America should be demanding the resignation of William Barr right now, and, if he refuses to do so, then his immediate impeachment.