Just before noon on Monday Attorney General Bill Barr told reporters, “As long as I’m attorney general, the criminal justice system will not be used for partisan political ends.”
Less than an hour later The Washington Post published a report detailing that Barr was installing an attorney to oversee career federal prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for D.C.
“The arrival of Associate Deputy Attorney General Michael R. Sherwin — who won the conviction of a Chinese trespasser at President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida in September — has triggered new accusations that Justice Department leaders are bypassing career prosecutors in the office and intervening in cases favoring the president’s allies, current and former federal prosecutors in the office said,” The Washington Post reported.
“This represents a politicization of the U.S. attorney’s office of the District of Columbia that is remarkable, and unique, and unprecedented,” said Stuart M. Gerson, a Republican and former Barr aide who served as acting attorney general briefly under presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. “It’s a political coup, there really can be no question about it.”
Barr’s interference “seriously undermines the U.S. attorney’s office in D.C.’s … long-standing reputation for independence from political influence,” says Charles R. Work, a former federal prosecutor in that office, who was a Republican Justice Department political appointee and president of the D.C. Bar.
They are far from the only ones.
On social media legal experts quickly responded to the news.
This certainly raises questions regarding whether Barr is installing a loyalist in this post to have greater direct control over the activities of the D.C. office to ensure that he can influence the outcome of politically-sensitive cases without taking overt action.
— Renato Mariotti (@renato_mariotti) May 18, 2020
Agreed. The corruption of our justice department and assaults on the rule of law are accelerating. Our chance to fix this in November can’t come soon enough. https://t.co/YVGNds2tcW
— Jennifer Rodgers (@JenGRodgers) May 18, 2020