There is no longer a question as to how low Donald Trump will stoop to solidify his power and ensure his political survival. He has demonstrated time and again that he will happily abuse the vast powers of the Oval Office if there is some personal gain to be had. He knows he can break just about any norm, violate any law, and break any oath with impunity because the Republican-controlled Senate has shown that they have absolutely no interest in holding him accountable.
This president should have been removed from office when it became clear that he froze and then leveraged military aid to a foreign country to scare up damaging investigations into his political rivals. Instead, the GOP looked the other way out of fear of angering his base, acquitted him, and now an emboldened Trump is escalating his corruption right out in the open.
The Department of Justice is currently under siege. A fish rots from the head and Attorney General William Barr is a man who cares far more about being a good foot soldier in the MAGA movement then upholding the rule of law. It now appears that Barr, at Trump’s behest, intervened in the sentencing of Roger Stone in order to ensure a lighter punishment than the one originally handed down. After the AG feigned annoyance at Trump’s tweeting and whined that it makes it hard to do his job, the president publicly asserted today that if he wants to he has a “legal right” to interfere in criminal cases.
In a new opinion piece in The Washington Post Sally Yates—the former Acting Attorney General who was fired by Trump for bucking his racist Muslim ban—states that the DOJ is in crisis. She starts off by explaining the importance of the Justice Department functioning as a nonpartisan, independent entity. She outlines how, since the Carter administration, the department has worked hard to instill confidence in the American people by holding itself above the mud-slinging Republican/Democrat divide. Up until now, presidents have honored those efforts.
“All [administrations since Carter] have observed a ‘wall’ between the White House and the Justice Department on criminal cases and investigations. While it is appropriate to communicate about administration policies and priorities, discussion with the White House about specific criminal cases has traditionally been off-limits. Presidents and department leaders from both parties have recognized that for case decisions to have legitimacy, they must be made without political influence — whether real or perceived. Implementation of these restrictions has not always been perfect, but the department’s independence has remained honored and unquestioned,” writes Yates.
Yates goes on to argue that Donald Trump has completely shredded this crucial norm and that since his inauguration he has sought “to use the Justice Department as a cudgel against his enemies and as a shield for himself and his allies.” He has tried to force investigations into his political opponents and abort probes aimed at his allies.
From there, Yates walks through the disturbing details of the Trump-Barr scheme to lessen Roger Stone’s sentencing and points out that such behavior isn’t new for Barr, who also chose to deliberately misrepresent the findings of Robert Mueller’s investigation, obfuscate the fact that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, and facilitate a backchannel for Rudy Giuliani to deliver dirt on Democrats to the DOJ. A servant of the people William Barr is not.
Yates slams trump for using the Justice Department as his “personal grudge squad,” which is the aptest description of the relationship between Trump and the department to date.
Unfortunately for us, there is no functioning mechanism for the American people to heed Yates’s warnings and stop Trump in the short term since Republicans have abdicated their constitutional responsibilities. The only option left is to vote him out in November.
Read the full piece here.