On Sunday February 16, 1,100 former Department of Justice attorney’s and officials signed an open letter calling for Attorney General William Barr to resign. The call to resign comes as a reaction to Barr lowering Roger Stone’s 9 year prison sentence handed out Monday, after President Trump tweeted his displeasure with the prison sentence.
Why the Alumni is Angry
The letter represents the anger of DOJ alumni that have served in Republican and Democrat administrations. In their legal opinion, what Barr did was nothing short of the “interference in the fair administration of justice.” They are outraged because they feel Barr failed in allowing the law to be applied equally regardless of ones social status. This action won’t come as a surprise to most legal professionals and indeed voters that did not vote for President Trump. However, non-legal professionals including pundits will deem the action as an anti-Trump agenda, and all 1,100 former DOJ officials Never Trumpers.
Appearance of is All That Matters
The action taken by the former DOJ officials is actually a perfect example of why A.G. Barr said it makes it impossible to do his job with the President tweeting about ongoing investigations and cases. Whether President Trump was signaling Barr to intervene doesn’t matter. Whether Barr had Stone’s sentencing on his radar with plans of his own to intervene doesn’t matter after the fact. What matters to the former DOJ officials is that it gives the appearance of intervening in the application of justice, by exerting presidential power on the Attorney General through the court of public opinion. I personally don’t know what Trump’s intentions were with the tweet, but, I can admit to the appearance the tweet gave. I can also understand the precarious position William Barr found himself in, and has found himself in since becoming AG. Investigators and attorneys do their best work out of the public purview. This is for many reasons, all of them professional.
DOJ lawyers not only take an oath but, they also are expected to follow the DOJ’s rulebook, The Justice Manual. The Justice Manual states that decisions of the Department “must be impartial from political influence.” Barr’s action in lowering Stone’s sentence following President Trump’s tweet, simply gives the appearance of Barr being influenced by political power. In the words of the DOJ alumi themselves, ” Governments that use the enormous power of law enforcement to punish their enemies and reward their allies are not constitutional republics; they are autocracies.”
Why Being Out of the Public Purview Matters
While I am not accusing President Trump of leading us into an autocracy, having studied law and investigating, I can appreciate the out of public purview environment in which legal professionals and investigators prefer to work. It makes it easier to stay focused on where the evidence leads. There is less apprehension about decisions made becoming decisions questioned. It all but eliminates the court of public opinion calling into question bias, integrity, and ethics. Just a jurors are kept from being publicly influenced during cases they will decide, it works the same way for investigators and attorneys. Whether they are government or private legal professionals or investigators.