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‘Trump justice’ is an oxymoron — thanks to the president’s GOP enablers: Robert Reich

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- Commentary

“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it sometimes rhymes,” Mark Twain is reputed to have said.

My first job after law school was as an attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice. I reported for work September 1974, just weeks after Richard Nixon resigned.

In the years leading up to his resignation, Nixon turned the Justice Department and FBI into his personal fiefdom, enlisting his political appointees to reward his friends and penalize his enemies. Reports about how compromised the Justice Department had become generated enough public outrage to force the appointment of the first Watergate special prosecutor, Archibald Cox.

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Before Nixon’s mayhem was over, his first two attorneys general were deep in legal trouble — John Mitchell eventually served 19 months in prison — and his third resigned rather than carry out Nixon’s demand to fire Cox.

Watergate also ushered into politics a young man named Roger Stone, who, under the Committee for the Re-election of the President (known then and forevermore as CREEP), helped devise lies and conspiracy theories to harm Democrats.

After Nixon resigned, the entire slimy mess of Watergate spawned a series of reforms. During the years I worked at the Justice Department, regulations were put into place to insulate the FBI and DOJ from political interference.

“Our law is not an instrument of partisan purpose,” said Edward Levi, Gerald Ford’s attorney general.

Now we’re back to where we were 50 years ago. Donald Trump seems determined to finish Nixon’s agenda of rigging elections and making the Justice Department a cesspool of partisanship. In Trump’s 2016 campaign, even Stone was back to his old dirty tricks of issuing lies and conspiracy theories directed at a Democratic opponent.

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Trump has out-Nixoned Nixon: firing FBI Director James Comey after asking him to “let go” of an inquiry into former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s interactions with Russian officials; repeatedly calling the Russian inquiry a politically motivated “witch hunt”; launching an assault on special counsel Robert Mueller’s own investigation; and appointing a lapdog attorney general, William Barr, to do whatever the president wishes.

Barr has out-Nixoned Nixon’s attorney general, John Mitchell: whitewashing Mueller’s conclusions; defending Trump’s phone call to the president of Ukraine seeking dirt on Joe Biden; opening an “intake process” for dirt Rudy Giuliani dredges up on Trump’s political opponents; and continuing to respond to Trump’s every whim, including, last week, suggesting Stone should get a milder sentence than the one career prosecutors recommended.

In November, Stone was convicted of obstructing Congress and seeking to intimidate witnesses. Last week, prosecutors recommended that Stone be sentenced to between seven and nine years in federal prison.

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This prompted an enraged Trump to tweet: “Cannot allow this miscarriage of justice!” Hours later, Barr decided to seek a more lenient sentence. In response, the career prosecutors withdrew from the case. One decided to leave government altogether.

The incident caused such an uproar that Barr was forced to declare last Thursday in a TV interview that he wouldn’t be “bullied” and that Trump’s tweets make it “impossible to do my job.”

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But anyone who has watched Barr repeatedly roll over for Trump saw this as a minimal face-saving gesture. As if to underscore Barr’s subordinate role, on Friday Trump tweeted that he has the “legal right” to meddle in cases handled by DOJ.

That’s as wrongheaded now as it was when Nixon held the same view. If a president can punish enemies and reward friends through the administration of justice, there can be no justice. Justice requires impartial and equal treatment under the law. Partiality or inequality in deciding whom to prosecute and how to punish invites tyranny.

A half-century ago, I witnessed the near dissolution of justice under Nixon and the enablers then drawn to him, such as Roger Stone. I served in the Justice Department when it and a bipartisan Congress resolved that what had occurred would never happen again.

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But what occurred under Nixon is happening again. Like Nixon, Trump has usurped the independence of the Department of Justice for his own ends.

Unlike Nixon, Trump won’t resign. He has too many enablers — not just a shameful attorney general but also shameless congressional Republicans — who place a lower priority on justice than on satisfying the most vindictive and paranoid occupant of the White House since Richard Milhous Nixon.


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
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WATCH: John Oliver exposes Trump’s lies about vote-by-mail — and the Fox News ‘cult’ claiming the election is already ‘rigged’

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"Last Week Tonight" host John Oliver's main story Sunday refuted President Donald Trump's latest crusade against vote-by-mail. Trump announced on Twitter that the more people who vote in an election, the more Republicans tend to lose. So, he wants fewer people to have access to the ballot in November, even if people are too scared to go out during the coronavirus crisis.

Oliver called out Missouri Gov. Mike Parson (R-MO), who outright told people not to vote if they were too afraid to vote in the local elections next week.

"Well, hold on there," Oliver interjected. "Voting is a right. It has to be easy to understand and accessible to anyone."

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John Oliver rips Fox News’ Tucker Carlson for urging ‘order’ from people of color — but never demanding it of police

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John Oliver opened his Sunday show, shredding Fox News host Tucker Carlson for uring "order" among protesters, but refusing to urge "order" to police and "wannabe police" who can't stop killing people.

It's a lot, Oliver explained. "How these protests are a response to a legacy of police misconduct, both in Minneapolis and the nation at large and how that misconduct is, itself, built on a legacy of white supremacy that prioritizes the comfort of white Americans over the safety of people of color."

While some of it is complicated, Oliver conceded, most of it is "all too clear."

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Cars set on fire blocks from White House as DC protests turn violent

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The Washington, D.C. protests turned violent as the city approached the 11 p.m. curfew the mayor instituted Sunday afternoon.

The policy of D.C. police is that when they are attacked, they advance forward. So, when fireworks were fired, the line of officers began pushing the protesters back further from the White House. Behind the line of police officers also stand a line of National Guard troops that President Donald Trump has demanded stand watch in the city.

Lights that normally shine on the White House have also been turned off, reporters revealed.

https://twitter.com/markknoller/status/1267291138655956992

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