Former federal prosecutors Joyce Vance and Barbara McQuade penned a scathing column in New York Magazine outlining the degree to which Attorney General Bill Barr is destroying the law and how Americans can stop it.
The prosecutors began their case noting that they've spent the better part of the last four years "not shocked" but surprised, as it has become the norm for President Donald Trump's administration. After all, this is the same administration that decided to separate children from their parents and put them in cages on the border. When the children were released to foster care, the government lost track of them.
"On Wednesday, a federal prosecutor, a whistleblower still employed by the Justice Department, testified to the House Judiciary Committee that he resigned from a case because of political pressure applied to the conduct of a prosecution," the column said.
In his opening statement before Congress, Asst. US Attorney Aaron Zelinsky, said, “What I heard — repeatedly — was that Roger Stone was being treated differently from any other defendant because of his relationship to the president.”
Presidents have the right to pardon their friends if they're convicted and thrown in jail, but the Justice Department lawyers being told to go easy on Roger Stone isn't supposed to happen. The Principles of Federal Prosecution specifically forbids it. But in Trump world, laws seem to be mere suggestions.
"Zelinsky says political pressure was imposed to seek a lighter sentence for Stone, Trump’s longtime confidant, and that prosecutors were asked to obscure the correct sentencing guidelines calculation and favorably misrepresent Stone’s conduct," the column explains. "He testified that he had been told the acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, Timothy Shea, was afraid of the president and that he himself was told he might be fired if he didn’t go along.
The Principles of Prosecution discuss “Impermissible Considerations,” saying: “In determining whether to commence or recommend prosecution or take other action against a person, the attorney for the government should not be influenced by: The person’s race, religion, gender, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, or political association, activities, or beliefs.”
But according to the US attorneys, it's clear the rule of law doesn't apply to this administration.
"We are living in a troubled time where people are faced with a daily struggle to protect their families," said Vance and McQuade. "The words of a federal prosecutor may seem to involve a remote threat, but our most fundamental rights are at stake here. The decay at the Department of Justice impacts all of us."
Justice statues depict a woman in a blindfold holding the scales because justice is supposed to be blind in deciding cases. There is no "fear or favor" the U.S. attorneys wrote. Today, the fear is of the president and the Trump friends are the favor.
Former Deputy Attorney General Donald Ayer, who served under George W. Bush, testified to Congress that Barr “poses the greatest threat in my lifetime to our rule of law.” He said the Trump administration is working on a “systematic effort to undo the checks that were put in place in Watergate.” But that was in an era when Republicans put country before party.
"But today, in the face of direct testimony from an experienced federal prosecutor that the president of the United States personally influenced decision-making in a prosecution, we hear crickets from the Republican side of the aisle," the lawyers wrote, noting that if President Barack Obama had done something similar, Republicans would still be talking about it.
"There is no future in this Department of Justice, the one that is led by Bill Barr," the column continued. "He has destroyed the public’s ability to have faith in the integrity of prosecutions."
They implored Congress to pursue Barr and the unethical behavior at the DOJ.
They "could start by subpoenaing the supervisors that Zelinsky named during his testimony and it could continue when Barr testifies in July," Vance and McQuade encouraged. "As Zelinsky noted in his opening statement, the deliberative process privilege, which the White House has long used to shield the president’s allies from testifying, does not apply if it is being used to cover up government misconduct or if the government selectively releases information in a misleading fashion. The House Judiciary Committee should not permit Barr to skirt its subpoena and should ask him pointed questions about his conduct in the Stone sentencing, the Michael Flynn dismissal, and the teargassing of protesters outside the White House."
They closed by explaining that no other prosecutor could get away with what Barr has done but the politics behind it are inconsequential.
"With misconduct that is so egregious and a violation of the attorney general’s oath that is so blatant, House Democrats have to do the right thing and let the cards fall where they may," the closed.