1100 (and Counting) Former Federal Prosecutors Have a Few Thoughts on the Survival of the Republic

prosecutor

DOJ Alumni Statement on the Events Surrounding the Sentencing of Roger Stone

We, the undersigned, are alumni of the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) who have collectively served both Republican and Democratic administrations. Each of us strongly condemns President Trump’s and Attorney General Barr’s interference in the fair administration of justice.

As former DOJ officials, we each proudly took an oath to support and defend our Constitution and faithfully execute the duties of our offices. The very first of these duties is to apply the law equally to all Americans. This obligation flows directly from the Constitution, and it is embedded in countless rules and laws governing the conduct of DOJ lawyers. The Justice Manual — the DOJ’s rulebook for its lawyers — states that “the rule of law depends on the evenhanded administration of justice”; that the Department’s legal decisions “must be impartial and insulated from political influence”; and that the Department’s prosecutorial powers, in particular, must be “exercised free from partisan consideration.”

All DOJ lawyers are well-versed in these rules, regulations, and constitutional commands. They stand for the proposition that political interference in the conduct of a criminal prosecution is anathema to the Department’s core mission and to its sacred obligation to ensure equal justice under the law.

And yet, President Trump and Attorney General Barr have openly and repeatedly flouted this fundamental principle, most recently in connection with the sentencing of President Trump’s close associate, Roger Stone, who was convicted of serious crimes. The Department has a long-standing practice in which political appointees set broad policies that line prosecutors apply to individual cases. That practice exists to animate the constitutional principles regarding the even-handed application of the law. Although there are times when political leadership appropriately weighs in on individual prosecutions, it is unheard of for the Department’s top leaders to overrule line prosecutors, who are following established policies, in order to give preferential treatment to a close associate of the President, as Attorney General Barr did in the Stone case. It is even more outrageous for the Attorney General to intervene as he did here — after the President publicly condemned the sentencing recommendation that line prosecutors had already filed in court.

Such behavior is a grave threat to the fair administration of justice. In this nation, we are all equal before the law. A person should not be given special treatment in a criminal prosecution because they are a close political ally of the President. Governments that use the enormous power of law enforcement to punish their enemies and reward their allies are not constitutional republics; they are autocracies.

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.

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.

If you are a former DOJ employee and would like to add your name below, click hereProtect Democracy will update this list daily with new signatories.

Signatories have been vetted to the best of our ability.

Pollyanna Will Not Like this Story

glad game

Washington Post, Trump-Barr divide worsens as the president bucks a request to stop tweeting, and the Justice Dept. declines to charge ex-FBI official McCabe. Buried deep within the story, we read,

The public rebuke of the president by a sitting member of his Cabinet arose from a crisis of confidence at the Justice Department, which had been accused this week of buckling to an angry tweet the president issued after he learned of prosecutors’ initial prison recommendation for his longtime friend Roger Stone.

Jonathan Chait, Obama Auto Standards May Survive Because Trump Staff Can’t Do Math

The Tradeoff

Senior civil servants make a tradeoff. Pretty much invariably, they could make much more money outside the government. They stay inside in exchange for job security, responsibility, and the opportunity to do good.

Hanging by a Thread

At this point, it’s likely that many, many of our public servants are just hanging on until November of this year. (The New York Times story implies that a whole bunch of career lawyers are just before walking out the door, right here and now.)

If Trump is reelected, the civil servant tradeoff will change fundamentally. Job security, responsibility, and the opportunity to do good will be gone. The choice will be: take service as Trump’s lackey, or make a whole lot more money in a private professional job.

Which option will look more attractive—or the least unattractive?

What the hell do you think they are going to do?

A Hollowed Out Bureaucracy, Personnel by Incompetent, Otherwise Unemployable Lickspittles

The competent and the well-intentioned will leave in droves. There will be a move to install even more Trumpian lickspittles. But the government will be largely hollowed out. Its mechanisms will begin to grind to a halt.

Jonathan Chait gives us a foretaste—simultaneously playing the Glad Game along with Pollyanna:

One of the Obama administration’s most effective climate initiatives was tightened regulations of auto emissions, which will reduce carbon emissions by billions of tons. Trump, of course, is trying to roll it back. The good news is that he is almost certainly too incompetent to pull it off in his first term.

When regulatory agencies write new rules, they have to follow some fairly complicated legal procedures, which often have to hold up under judicial scrutiny. Historically, agencies win about 80 percent of the time against legal challenges. But Trump’s regulations lose about 90 percent of the time, because his administration is staffed with incompetent hacks.

The courts will soon be fighting over Trump’s plan to weaken auto-emission standards. Trump is highly likely to lose, because, as two new reports show, the incompetence of his regulators reached almost mind-boggling proportions.

The Atlantic’s Robinson Meyer has a deep dive into how Trump’s political appointees circumvented all the nonpolitical experts and tried to come up with cost-benefit studies justifying their decision. Meyer’s account of the bureaucratic car wreck should be read in whole, but here are a few highlights. They mixed up supply and demand, assuming higher prices would cause more cars to be driven …

Their own roster of economists dismissed their numbers …

They even failed arithmetic. (“At one point, the NHTSA team forgot to divide by four.”)

Lying Liar DOJ Head Firmly Places Blame on DOJ for Unfathomable, Incomprehensible Series of Mistakes Leading to Epstein’s Suicide

roadkill

DOJ DEMANDS FULL INVESTIGATION OF DOJ

Motive

To me, this is like one of those classic English murder mysteries, where 37 people have really good motives to want Victor Victim dead.

Generally, the first chapter or so points to a lot of good reasons why it was probably the butler.

You have to read all the way to the end.

It’s never the butler.

And Opportunity

The man was suicidal. If you wanted him dead, all you would have to do is pay off the folks at the prison to stand aside and let him kill himself.

Bonaparte’s Retreat

Trump retreats on adding citizenship question to 2020 Census

No, Attorney General Houdini couldn’t escape from his predicament.

We’ll hear more in coming days, but for now, I assume the attorneys in the Department of Justice just revolted, and refused to go forward with yet another pretextual reason to insert the citizenship question.

There were a few occasions during my career when I had to tell a client, “Sir (or madam, as the case might be), I am a competent lawyer. But, unfortunately, you, sir (or madam) do not need a good lawyer. What you need is Merlin the Fucking Magician.”

I assume Barr told Trump something along those lines today.

 

Multiple Felony Indictments, Part 2

I don’t know where all of this will lead—we are all on one hell of a rollercoaster ride—but my instinct tells me the former prosecutors signing the statement, now numbering more than 700, might be beginning to make a difference. I particularly appreciated the comments in the video from one of Kenneth Starr’s henchpersons.

Meanwhile, Dr. Aardvark and I dined at Happy Acres this evening with four of our progressive friends. (Crabmeat stuffed flounder. Very good.) Some of my friends took me to task for “continuing to defend Barr.” I deny that’s what I’m doing, but I adhere to the view that Barr’s performance is so bad that it isn’t a defense of Trump, it’s a parody of a defense of Trump. In short, on the available evidence, I believe Barr’s throwing the game. Certainly, he doesn’t seem to be trying very hard to fool anyone except Trump.

For a related perspective, see Barr has set himself up — and Trump — for embarrassment.

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Today’s readers come from Canada, Germany, Pakistan, South Africa, the United States, and some unidentified location in the European Union. Greetings to all. Recent readers from Bosnia and Denmark appear to have had enough. I feel their pain.

The Devil’s Advocate

Trump in hell

Alexandra Petri writes,

… Barr then is in another hearing room. It is about the same as in Congress, only the light all feels artificial, as though it is deep underwater, seen through feet of smeared glass. Perhaps deeper than that. The walls of the room seem to heave and breathe and perspire.

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) is still running the hearing, but he looks a little more concerned, and hotter. Barr is in the midst of talking. There is a Bible in front of him, but for some reason he does not wish to touch it. …

“I have not read the full evidence,” Barr says, “but I am confident this so-called Good Book largely exonerates my client. The serpent did no wrong.” …

“There isn’t any law against offering people free apples. Though it could be argued that those apples were planted there by his opponent and, thus, any attempt to use them to indict him is fruit of a poisoned tree. In fact, the real question is why a nude woman was trying to take ownership of a garden. The real question is what she was trying to cover up afterward.”

“All these allegations that they saw him transform into a serpent are just mind-bendingly bizarre, and I don’t know why they were spying on him. He should be allowed to transform into a serpent in privacy, although, of course he did not. ‘Spying’ is not a pejorative term.” …

“Tormenting a righteous man and covering him with boils and demolishing his cattle — some would call that Job creation. That’s what I call it.”

A deep sulfurous rumble, almost like laughter, like the belch after you had eaten a soul that did not agree with you.

“The real question is why this framework for judgment and investigation was constructed in the first place. My client has a right to retaliate when he feels he is being treated unjustly. If anyone comes along and seeks to cast you out of a place, you are entitled to retaliate. You are where you are because you deserve to be there.” …

“Did he try to lead people into temptation? I am struggling with the word temptation. I will spend up to 40 days struggling with it. Tempt? Did he tempt people? I’m sorry, I do not know what the word means. I am confused. Did he suggest that people do bad things? What are words? What is bad? I am sorry, I have forgotten the meaning of all words. I have forgotten even myself. I am just a little baby who has gotten here for the first time today. No word carries any value or meaning. I say them and they flutter away and I forget them, like instructions from a president.” …

“Yes, I am familiar with the people who have called him directly and personally responsible for every bad thing that happens, and who have castigated me for my willingness to serve as his personal defender. But afterward, I called them on the phone and they said they did not mean it. They said really they were upset because of the way it was talked about. They regretted denouncing me. I wish that instead of the evidence of all the derogatory things they said publicly in writing, you had evidence of all the good things that they said afterward, definitely, in secret, where only I could hear them. And my client, who hears all things. No matter where we are.” The light is gone. His voice echoes. “Where are we?”

If this were a nightmare, the sound would wake him, but it has not awakened him yet. He meant well enough. He knows where he is.