The devolvement under Attorney General William Barr of the government organization he leads into the Department of Injustice has become increasingly clear in his decisions to shield Donald Trump’s political cronies from the worst consequences of the crimes for which they have been convicted, or, in the case of the dropping of all charges against former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, to which they have pleaded guilty.
After a bipartisan group of almost 2,000 former Justice Department officials condemned Barr this morning for ceasing the prosecution against Flynn — calling the move an assault on “the rule of law,” the career prosecutor who stuck to his principles and resigned rather than participate in the sudden decision to seek a lesser sentence in the case of Trump ally Roger Stone has joined the fray with a scathing op-ed in The Washington Post.
Jonathan Kravis was a federal prosecutor for 10 years before he left the DOJ, but explained why he left the prestigious position in the opening of his article.
“I was wrong,” he sadly admits.
Kravis then goes on to decry Barr and the current DOJ as putting “political patronage ahead of its commitment to the rule of law” with the decision to support Donald Trump’s accusations of a “Deep State” conspiracy against him and his administration and to file a motion to dismiss the prosecution against General Flynn despite the “sworn guilty plea” and the presiding court’s ruling that Flynn’s original plea was “sound” and made without coercion.
The former prosecutor explained why he was breaking the silence he had scrupulously kept since resigning his position in protest.
“…I believe that the department’s handling of these matters is profoundly misguided, because my colleagues who still serve the department are duty-bound to remain silent and because I am convinced that the department’s conduct in the Stone and Flynn cases will do lasting damage to the institution,” Kravis states.
After detailing the circumstances that compelled his conscience-based voluntary exit from the Justice Department after its politically-motivated handling of the Roger Stone case — a case in which all four career prosecutors working on it withdrew from the case rather than have their names associated with it — Kravis lays out the reasons why Barr’s actions in the Michael Flynn proceedings are so egregious.
“Flynn pleaded guilty to the crime of making false statements in connection with lies he told in an FBI interview about his contacts with the Russian ambassador. Flynn twice admitted under oath that he had committed this crime, and the trial judge issued a lengthy opinion upholding the plea,” Kravis explains.
“Nevertheless, after public criticism of the prosecution by the president, the department moved to dismiss Flynn’s case, claiming that new evidence showed that the plea had no basis. None of the career prosecutors who handled Flynn’s case signed that motion,” he pointedly notes.
The former prosecutor goes straight to the heart of the basic principles of justice in his next paragraphs.
“In both cases, the department undercut the work of career employees to protect an ally of the president, an abdication of the commitment to equal justice under the law. Prosecutors must make decisions based on facts and law, not on the defendant’s political connections. When the department takes steps that it would never take in any other case to protect an ally of the president, it betrays this principle,” Kravis sternly accuses.
“Indeed, the department chose to assign these matters to a special counsel precisely to avoid the appearance of political influence. For the attorney general now to directly intervene to benefit the president’s associates makes this betrayal of the rule of law even more egregious,”
Kravis goes on to slam Attorney General Barr for worsening the situation with his public comments on the cases that criticized the DOJ employees who worked on them.
How much longer, one wonders, before storm troopers — or hoards of the unregulated militias formed by Trump’s ragtag supporters — are sent in to enforce the president’s desires?
Kravis reinforces the legitimacy of his accusations by challenging Barr and the DOJ to provide evidence of any other cases not involving friends of the president where they’ve made similar moves.
“If the department truly acted because of good-faith commitments to legal positions, then where is the evidence of those commitments in other cases that do not involve friends of the president? Where are the narcotics cases in which the department has filed a sentencing memorandum overruling career prosecutors? Where are the other false-statements cases dismissed after a guilty plea?”, he questions.
“There are none. Is that because the only cases in the United States that warranted intervention by department leadership happened to involve friends of the president? Of course not,” Kravis writes, answering his own questions.
The former prosecutor of the Roger Stone case concludes his op-ed by revealing his motivations for writing it, and they are not for Barr or Trump’s benefit but based on a future when both men will likely be on the other side of the power of the rule of law.
“The task of repairing this damage will fall to the department’s career agents and prosecutors, and it is for them that I write this. Your work of investigating and prosecuting criminal cases is hard, and it becomes even harder when witnesses and jurors start to believe that the Justice Department’s handling of these cases is infected by politics. Your service during these times is a credit to the department. And you will be at your posts, serving justice, long after this attorney general is gone,” Kravic concludes.
Once a society loses faith in its institutions, particularly when the institution is involved in enforcing that society’s legislated rules, it is close to the verge of collapse.
This is what Donald Trump and his minions have wrought. If we don’t defeat them now, wave goodbye to America. You’ll soon be living in the dystopian Trumplandia of our worst nightmares. We’re already halfway there, at least.
Original reporting by Jonathan Kravis at The Washington Post.
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