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Prosecutors were furious with Bill Barr well before the Roger Stone incident: report

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The New York Times reported Sunday that the difficulties at the Justice Department began long before the Roger Stone incident from the past few weeks.

In the past weeks, prosecutors in the Stone case recommended seven to nine years for his sentence. Barr intervened and rewrote a sentencing memo, four lawyers in the case resigned, and even the prosecutor that replaced them ignored the new sentencing memo. Ultimately, the judge in the case gave Stone just over three years in prison, which President Donald Trump also opposes.

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“A new boss, Timothy Shea, had just arrived and had told them on his first day that he wanted a more lenient recommendation for Mr. Stone, and he pushed back hard when they objected, according to two people briefed on the dispute,” reported the Times. “They grew suspicious that Mr. Shea was helping his longtime friend and boss, Attorney General William P. Barr, soften the sentencing request to please the president.”

One of the prosecutors for Stone had an awkward encounter with Shea’s chief of staff, David Metcalf, who clapped his hand on Aaron S.J. Zelinsky’s shoulder. A “terse and sharp verbal exchange” followed.

“The tensions between the office, the Justice Department, and the White House date back further than the tumult in the Stone case. They have been simmering since at least last summer, when the office’s investigation of Andrew G. McCabe, a former top FBI. official whom the president had long targeted, began to fall apart,” said the Times.

Shea’s predecessor, Jessie Liu, was a Trump appointee in 2017, spoke highly of a case against McCabe, even though prosecutors said they couldn’t win a conviction. When a second team was brought in and couldn’t deliver a grand jury indictment, Liu’s relationship with Barr went downhill. She was gone shortly after.

“The McCabe case had always been politically charged: Investigators were scrutinizing an accomplished former top law enforcement official whom the president had repeatedly attacked for his deep involvement in the Russia investigation,” the Times explained. “The inquiry focused on whether he misled internal investigators examining the source of disclosures of sensitive information in a Wall Street Journal article.”

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The case eventually crumbled. Two main prosecutors believed they couldn’t get a jury to convict McCabe, blaming, in part, Trump’s relentless attacks on Twitter that would have poisoned any possible jury pool.

Prosecutors weren’t happy, and a chain reaction began that led to the crisis today. “Prosecutors in the office began to worry that Mr. Barr was intervening in sensitive cases for political reasons even as he has publicly pushed back against Mr. Trump, a rebuke the president has ignored,” wrote the Times.

Liu then was forced into a difficult conversation with DOJ officials. She then began looking for other jobs, including a top Treasury Department post. But her departure created more problems in the department. She emailed her office, saying that she’d remain at the DOJ until she was confirmed by the Senate. Barr, however, shoved her out early.

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When Shea took over the office, Barr assigned outside prosecutors to examine the possibilities of investigating and prosecuting Trump’s political rivals.

The string of events “suggests undue meddling by higher-ups at the Justice Department or elsewhere,” said former US attorney Channing Phillips.

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By the time the Stone incident happened, things had exploded. Barr told Trump via ABC News that he wished Trump wasn’t making things worse with his tweets and essentially told him to lay off and let him handle the DOJ.

“Whether the storm has passed remains to be seen. The reviews of the Flynn case and others are continuing. And hours after Mr. Stone was sentenced, the president called again for his exoneration,” the Times closed.

Read the full report.

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Expert explains the psychopathology that underlies Trump’s dictatorial behavior

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I’m not being hyperbolic or melodramatic when I say that democracy itself is on the line on November 3. Donald Trump has been on a mission to subvert our democracy and to push it toward an autocracy. No president has ever disavowed democracy like Trump. No president has ever wanted to change our democratic way of life like Trump.

Trump has shown little interest or intent in following our Constitution. He is not abiding by the emoluments clause. He breaks norms and rules at will. He does not recognize that the three branches of government are co-equal. He operates as if the executive branch has total power. Our democracy is not based on the executive branch having absolute power. It requires that the three branches have separate powers in a check-and-balances system. Trump impugns democracy because it limits his power and requires him to be held accountable.

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‘Donald who?’ Presidential historian predicts GOP support for Trump will erode in the face of a ‘blue wave’

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MSNBC's Jon Meacham predicts that President Donald Trump won't be able to count on Republican support through a lengthy vote-counting process.

The historian and author told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" that GOP support may wane if Democrats strengthen their House majority and take over the Senate from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, even if the results of the presidential election aren't known until weeks later.

"There's a much better chance that Joe Biden will end up somewhat centering the Democratic Party than anybody is going to come along and center the Republican Party," Meacham said, "and I think that's an existential threat to a Republican Party that has sold its soul, the check bounced, and they've got to figure out what are they going to do to attempt to be something approaching majority party in this demographically changing country."

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Historian details how ‘anti-science’ views of white evangelicals in the South helped fuel the 2nd wave of COVID-19

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When the coronavirus pandemic was killing thousands of New York City residents in the spring, many far-right Republicans in Texas and the Deep South argued that they shouldn’t be forced to practice social distancing or wear protective face masks because of a Northeastern Corridor problem. They failed to realize that pandemics, from the Black Death in Medieval times to the Spanish flu in 1918/1919, can rapidly spread from one place to another. Historian Laura Ellyn Smith, in a blistering op-ed for the Washington Post, discusses the fact that COVID-19 has been hitting the South so hard recently — and argues that the “anti-science” views of far-right white Christian fundamentalists are partly to blame.

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