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Justice Department’s credibility is on ‘life support’ as Bill Barr goes ‘rogue’: Ex-prosecutor

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On Tuesday, former federal prosecutor Harry Litman wrote a blistering op-ed that excoriated Attorney General William Barr for his Justice Department’s apparent political abuses of power.

“The withdrawal of all four career prosecutors handling the case against Roger Stone, in the wake of the Justice Department’s sentencing shift, underscores that Attorney General William P. Barr’s department has effectively gone rogue,” wrote Litman. “Resignation is the strongest possible protest that prosecutors can employ, within professional bounds, against improper conduct by their leadership. The president’s tweet and the department’s reduction of Stone’s sentencing were utterly rank and improper. The action runs counter not only to standard practice but also to the standard that the Justice Department is supposed to embody: the administration of justice without fear or favor.”

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The DOJ’s decision to overrule those prosecutors’ sentencing recommendations for Stone, Litman wrote, is unprecedented.

“Stone was convicted of serious crimes: lying to Congress and witness tampering,” wrote Litman. “His recommended sentence was by the book — literally. Federal prosecutors go by a manual from the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Commission that lays out appropriate sentences for specific offenses. The seven- to nine-year sentence that prosecutors had sought was precisely what equal justice mandated. That’s far from the ‘miscarriage of justice’ that Trump called it in a tweet.”

“I have never experienced or even heard of a situation in which a career prosecutor had been ordered to withdraw a sentencing memorandum within the guidelines’ range,” wrote Litman. “The original filing in the Stone case came from two career federal prosecutors and two special assistant U.S. attorneys. This rebuke has to be maddening for them.”

“As a general matter, the Justice Department and the White House are supposed to communicate only in rare, well-defined instances and almost never about the results of individual cases,” continued Litman. “Such contact is a third rail. For those of us committed to the normal course of legal justice, it cuts into bone for the department to do the White House’s bidding in a case in which the president has a strong personal stake.”

“Amid this troubling trend, the prosecutors’ departures will ring the loudest alarm in the Justice Department and in Washington generally,” concluded Litman. “The department’s reputation for doing the right thing, already eroded by the abuses that have piled up since Barr became attorney general, is on life support. That is among the most odious achievements of the Trump presidency.”

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‘Empty the Pews’ chronicles the ‘nurtured insanity’ of a fundamentalist upbringing

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There is a great exodus taking place in Christian circles. Can it be called a loss of faith? I don’t think so. It is rather a loss of confidence in everything at once. Christianity has always been about “the Word,” but these days, words don’t seem to matter. They’ve lost their power to describe and convince in the face of horrible deeds, from climate-change denial to the persecution of trans people to the wholesale abandonment of Christ’s teachings in favor of abusive meanness. The hard-right white evangelical voter gave us Trump. The church sat silent as industrial oligarchs ruined the earth.

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‘Impeach him again!’ Assange sets off bombshells with Trump pardon claim

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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange claims President Donald Trump dangled a pardon through a Republican lawmaker if he agreed to cover up Russia's involvement in 2016 election hacking.

Assange's lawyer Edward Fitzgerald told a London court Wednesday that former Rep. Dana Rohrabacher had passed along the offer in exchange for testimony that Russia had nothing to do with DNC leaks -- and the allegation shocked legal experts and other social media users.

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Religious leaders need ‘Empty the Pews’ — which chronicles the darker side of the ‘Nones’ phenomenon

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Empty the PewsEdited by Lauren O’Neal and Chrissy StroopEpiphany Publishing (November, 2019)

In 2020, the rise of the so-called religious “Nones”—those who claim no religious affiliation—has evolved from a story of interest to a small niche of readers into an entire genre on the religion beat. While the term None has some usefulness as a blanket descriptor, we are beginning to understand that most individual stories about religious disaffiliation are far more complicated than just checking “none of the above” on a survey. Stories about the decline in Gen Z, Millennial and Gen X believers are a regular feature in secular news—Religion News Service even publishes an entire column dedicated to statistical data on Nones, compiled by the sociologist Ryan Burge—and a growing number of books exploring the narrative stories of Nones have appeared in recent years, including a book of my own.

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