By Jon Dougherty
(TNS) Many have speculated that one of the best decisions President Trump made in rounding out his Cabinet was nominating long-time Washingtonian William Barr to replace Jeff Sessions as head of the Department of Justice.
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We ourselves have supported that contention and have noted in the past we believe that Bill Barr, who’s been around since the Reagan administration, came aboard mostly to repair what he (and other rational people) saw as Barack Obama’s gross politicization of his beloved DoJ, as well as the FBI, which manifested itself in the “Spygate” probe of Trump’s 2016 campaign.
That helps explain many of the positions he takes when it comes to defending the president: Barr said early on he was convinced the president’s campaign was “spied on,” and he knew — or had an instinct — that it was illegally done.
Turns out he was right.
In short, Bill Barr didn’t come back to head up the Justice Department because he needed a job; he came back as a labor of love to fix a broken institution he understands is vital to the functioning of our republic.
If Americans en masse lose confidence in our federal justice system — and tens of millions have, thanks to the two-tiered prosecutorial standard of going after political enemies while letting political allies skate — then it will become impossible to govern.
All of which brings us to the latest media-and-Democrat-generated ‘scandal’ regarding Barr’s alleged ‘interference’ in Roger Stone’s case.
In an interview with ABC News Thursday night, Barr explained that he and other members of the Justice Department including a new prosecutor felt that the 7-to-9-year sentencing recommendation for the crimes was excessive and should in fact be nuanced somewhat to give the federal judge in the case, Amy Berman Jackson, some sentencing leeway.
Perhaps in the back of Barr’s mind, he felt it was also a very political sentencing recommendation, given what’s happened to Trump up to this point and the fact that that two of the four prosecutors handling Stone’s case were associated with special counsel Robert Mueller’s “Russian collusion” probe, the narrative of which was always a hoax.
He also explained that he wasn’t pressed by the president to intervene in the case or to make a recommendation of a lesser sentence — which, he added, will ultimately be decided by the Berman Jackson.
He then critiqued Trump for tweeting about the incident and about pending Justice Department cases in general, in what ABC News is characterizing as ‘blasting’ the president.
On Wednesday, President Trump railed against federal prosecutors who had initially recommended a lengthy sentence for Roger Stone, calling it a “disgrace.”
“The fact is that Roger Stone was treated horribly and so were many other people,” Trump said. “Their lives were destroyed.”
“Roger Stone — nobody even knows what he did… Frankly, they ought to apologize to a lot of people whose lives they’ve ruined,” he added.
We see Barr’s interview differently. This wasn’t a ‘blast’ against Trump as it was a sincere, heartfelt warning.
We see this as a truly independent Barr who isn’t going to be bullied by the president, posing Democrats in Congress, or the biased mainstream media regarding his conduct as attorney general. And in the interview (below) he reminded us that he informed President Trump of that before he ever decided to take the job.
“I’m not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody…whether it’s Congress, a newspaper editorial board, or the president,” Barr said during his interview.
“I’m gonna do what I think is right, and you know…I cannot do my job here at the department with a constant background commentary that undercuts me,” he added — no doubt comments that were aimed at Trump, but also the rest of the Washington chattering class that cares little-to-nothing about facts and the truth but rather seeks to politicize everything for the sake of scoring points with their preferred voting base.
He further noted that he could not “assure the courts and the prosecutors and the department that we’re doing our work with integrity” if the Executive Branch appeared involved in departmental decision making.
Thus, he concluded, “I think it’s time to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases.”
As for the White House’s reaction, presidential spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham told ABC News the president wasn’t “bothered” by Barr’s comments in the least, while nevertheless defending his Twitter use.
“The president wasn’t bothered by the comments at all and he has the right, just like any American citizen, to publicly offer his opinions,” Grisham said. “President Trump uses social media very effectively to fight for the American people against injustices in our country, including the fake news. The President has full faith and confidence in Attorney General Barr to do his job and uphold the law.”
Let’s hope that’s true. Because Barr just laid down a gauntlet in front of the president.
Even if the president is right, Barr is saying: ‘Mr. President, we can discuss matters like this in private, where they should be handled, but I won’t tolerate having you undercut me in public. I want to fix this and get to the bottom of the injustice that was committed against you, but I can’t if it doesn’t look like a fair process, as in, one not guided by you.’
EXCLUSIVE: “I think it’s time to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases,” Attorney General Bill Barr tells @PierreTABC following Pres. Trump's tweets on Roger Stone sentencing. https://t.co/3bf9a1Z5v4 pic.twitter.com/yITwRgzutJ
— ABC News (@ABC) February 13, 2020
Update: Apparently, the president didn’t get the hint.
“The President has never asked me to do anything in a criminal case.” A.G. Barr This doesn’t mean that I do not have, as President, the legal right to do so, I do, but I have so far chosen not to!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 14, 2020
Update 2: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) weighs in, saying the president ought to listen to Barr about the tweets. “If the Attorney General says it is getting in the way of him doing his job, maybe the president should listen to the Attorney General,” he said.
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