Wednesday, January 19

The Dishonest Department: How Trump’s Justice Department Smashed Legal and Political Rules | Donald trump

Donald Trump never did much to hide his dangerous belief that the United States Department of Justice and the attorneys general who ran it should act as their own personal attorneys and follow his political orders, regardless of the rules and the law.

Former senior Justice Department officials say the former president aggressively urged his attorneys general to go after his enemies, protect his friends and his interests, and these measures were successful with alarming results until Trump’s final months in office.

But now, with Joe Biden sitting in the Oval Office, Merrick Garland as attorney general, and Democrats controlling Congress, more and more revelations are emerging about the extent to which Trump’s justice department fell apart. New investigations have been established to investigate the magnitude of the irregularities.

Trump’s disdain for legal principles and the constitution was repeatedly revealed, especially during Bill Barr’s tenure as attorney general, for most of 2019 and 2020. During Barr’s tenure in office, Trump ignored the tradition of the justice as a separate branch of government and scoffed at the law. Principle of the rule of law, say former senior justice lawyers and Congressional Democrats.

In Barr, Trump seemed to find someone almost completely aligned with the idea of ​​doing his orders. Barr sought to undermine the findings of Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, independent oversight of Congress, and Trump’s critics inside and outside of government, while making decisions that benefited Trump’s close allies.

But more political abuses have emerged, with revelations that, beginning with Attorney General Jeff Sessions in 2018, subpoenas were issued in a classified leak investigation to obtain communications records from top Democrats on the House intelligence committee. The targets were Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell, who were investigating the meddling in the Kremlin elections, as well as various committee staff and journalists.

Democrats in Congress, as well as Garland, have strongly denounced these Trumpian tactics. Garland has asked the department’s inspector general to launch his own investigation and examine the subpoenas involving members of Congress and the media. Congressional committees are looking at their own investigations into the department’s extraordinary behavior.

“There was one thing after another where the Justice Department acted inappropriately and violated the fundamental principle that law enforcement must be impartial. The DoJ must always make it clear that no person is above the law, ”said Donald Ayer, deputy attorney general in the George HW Bush administration.

Yesterday thinks there could be more revelations to come. “The latest release of subpoenas issued almost three years ago shows that we still do not know the full extent of the misconduct that was incurred.”

Similarly, former Justice Department Inspector General Michael Bromwich said: “I think it’s pretty clear that Trump had little respect for some of the true fundamental principles that define this country: judicial independence and the separation of powers, between others. Nor did he show any understanding or appreciation for the norms that historically have not been questioned: the importance of free and fair elections and the peaceful transfer of power.

In a dizzying Washington Post op-ed, Schiff summed up the latest revelations about the Justice Department subpoenas and the broader politicization in the Justice Department under Trump.

“The rules established after Watergate to ensure the independence of the Justice Department served our nation well for half a century, until another president broke them,” wrote Schiff, now head of the House intelligence committee. “Donald Trump had his own list of enemies, which included members of the media, elected officials and congressional staff.”

But Trump’s repeated assaults on his attorneys general weren’t a total success, not even with Barr.

Trump’s desperate drive to overturn Joe Biden’s victory reached an unsuccessful climax when Barr publicly disagreed with Trump’s unsubstantiated claims that he lost the election due to massive fraud. Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, who succeeded Barr last December, also resisted Trump’s strong arm tactics to open conspiracy-fueled investigations into election results in the states that Biden won.

But the belated resistance Trump encountered in the department was largely an exception, although Trump’s first attorney general Sessions drew ire from Trump for withdrawing from the Russia investigations due to a conflict of interest.

Trump’s pressure tactics were palpable when Sessions resigned in late 2018. Barr succeeded him in early 2019.

Barr twisted and distorted some of the key findings of Mueller’s two-year investigation into Russian meddling prior to its official release, to sway public opinion and undermine the report’s conclusion that Russia interfered “broadly and systematically” with a view to helping Trump. win in 2016.

Barr publicly called on Connecticut federal prosecutor John Durham to investigate the origins of the 2016 FBI investigation into Russian meddling, a move that several former Justice Department officials criticized as redundant and politically driven, as the inspector himself The Justice Department general was already conducting a similar investigation, but that led Trump to exclaim, “I think that’s cool.”

Last year, Barr was criticized for sentencing decisions that were widely viewed as favorable to two Trump associates: Trump’s longtime confidant and self-described “dirty cheater” Roger Stone, and former national security adviser Michael Flynn, both. convicted in the Russian investigations.

In the case of Flynn, who admitted to lying twice to the FBI, Barr chose to drop all charges on the grounds that the lies were not material, and Barr drastically reduced a sentence that Stone was supposed to serve. Trump commuted Stone’s sentence before he served at any time and later pardoned both men.

“Barr may not have realized how far Trump was willing to go to turn the Justice Department into a toy for the White House, to protect the president’s friends and hunt down his enemies,” eBromwich said. “But Barr proved to be a willing accomplice on issues ranging from distorting the Mueller report to taking unbearable positions in cases where Trump took a personal interest.”

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, one of the top Democrats on the House judicial committee, said in a statement: “Barr played the role of Trump’s personal fixer and demoted the Justice Department, long a citadel of law, to role of Trump’s personal law firm. . He blocked Congress at all times. “

He added: “He destroyed the rules and regulations of the Department when it did not suit the president. And he ran political errands for Trump, even if that was a blow to the department’s credibility. He left behind a colossal mess that will take a long time and hard work to clean up. “

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