justice for none: AG Barr protects Trump cronies declares war on citizens

And justice for none: AG Barr protects Trump’s cronies but declares war on US citizens

A photograph of Trump and Barr standing outside

Flickr / Office of Public Affairs

US Attorney General William Barr exercises his power toward two main goals: to protect the president and his cronies from punishment when they break the law, and to promote harsh legal action against regular Americans. From the moment his tenure began as Trump’s attorney general (AG), Barr has undermined cases against Trump’s cronies. At the same time, he has repeatedly argued against criminal justice reform.

Much has been made of the June 1 photograph of Trump holding up a Bible, but the greater hypocrisy was taking place just off-camera. AG Barr walked proudly through Lafayette Square to the sound of clanking tear gas canisters and frightened cries of peaceful activists who were attacked while exercising their First Amendment rights. He strolled beside the same president that he shields from criminal investigation.

At first, the White House credited Barr with the decision to clear Lafayette Park of demonstrators in order to make a path for the now-infamous photo op. But now Barr denies that he gave the order — although he was still happy to take credit for the planning, and was pleased with the outcome.

As denials go, this one was weaker than most, but this is just a blip in Barr’s work of flipping from one side to the other.

Barr argues AGAINST criminal justice reform for regular citizens

A screenshot of an activist; captioning reads, "the authorities are going after the wrong people."

Screenshot / YouTube

Barr’s willingness to use force against Black Lives Matter activists should come as no surprise. In the face of policies that could reduce police violence — like what occurred in the George Floyd arrest — Barr supports traditional police tactics.

In a speech at a Fraternal Order of Police conference in New Orleans in August 2019, Barr said citizens should, “Comply [with police] first, and, if warranted, complain later.” Using the “few bad apples” excuse for police brutality, Barr called for “zero tolerance for resisting police.”

The very first duty of government is to provide the police.”

“We are fighting an unrelenting, never-ending fight against criminal predators in our society,” Barr told his audience before laying out his priorities. “The very first duty of government is to provide the police.”

Not Barr’s first time to be ‘tough on crime’

A photograph of Ronald Reagan

Gage Skidmore/ Flickr

This is not Barr’s first round as Attorney General of the United States. He served as AG in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations and was part of the “tough on crime” policies that have resulted in mass incarceration and violent police tactics. When Barr speaks, it is clear that he believes that this is a good result.

AG Barr wants to turn back the clock instead of moving forward. He attacks district attorneys (DAs) who look to reform his own failed criminal justice policies. Calling them, “anti-law enforcement DAs,” Barr claims their “cities are headed back to the days of revolving door justice.”

This antiquated rhetoric ignores proof on the ground. In Chicago, Kim Foxx, the current Cook County State’s Attorney, is changing her system to actually protect the people she serves. She has allowed public scrutiny of the felony review process, refused to prosecute thousands of low-level cases, and favored treatment programs for drug offenses.

There has been a decline in homicides and shootings for three consecutive years since Foxx has made these reforms, but she receives demands from the police to resign, as well as criticism from US AG William Barr.

Barr blames immigrants for crime

A photograph of protestors. One carries and anti-hate sign.

Unsplash / T. Chick McClure

In a joint statement, 41 elected state and local prosecutors condemn “failed policies of past decades,” which disproportionately punish and imprison minorities and poor people.  This letter came in response to Barr’s speech to a National Sheriff’s Association conference.

Reading from prepared remarks, Barr’s inflammatory language called for “continuing — indeed, escalating — our efforts to combat violent crime,” and to focus on “the challenge presented by criminal aliens.” When Barr discusses the “drug front,” he may mention the explosion of prescribed opioids, but he focusses on the “immigration crisis” as the source of drug-related crime.

Barr also attacked sanctuary cities for “policies that are designed to allow criminal aliens to escape,” and announced the rollout of multiple actions the DOJ would take against states, counties, and other “uncooperative jurisdictions.”

Barr favors the death penalty — and fast

A grainy photograph of the first electric chair

Wikimedia

John Choi, chief prosecutor in Ramsey County, Minnesota, criticizes “the criminalization of drug use, mental illness and simply being poor. This has not made us any safer, but has instead, time and time again, resulted in the fracturing of families, intergenerational cycles of incarceration, a destabilization of communities and a growing distrust of law enforcement.”

What Choi calls destabilization and distrust of law enforcement, Barr calls, “disrespect.” Barr has pushed to expand and speed up executions, particularly for those convicted of “murder of a law enforcement officer.”

Punish the people, protect the powerful

A photograph of AG Barr speaking.

Wikimedia

Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-MD) talks about two sides of the “rule of law.” There is, “the baton in the ribs and the equivalent of the rubber bullets and the tear gas,” on one side. But Raskin says those who designed our government, like Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison, saw the rule of law as “a system of legal controls against people who had power.“

One of the driving forces behind the American Revolution — and founding principles of the US — is equality under the law.

Equality under the law does not interest our nation’s top law enforcement official. When it comes to the “rabble below,” AG Barr calls for a “fight against criminal predators in our society.” When it comes to the criminal predators at the top, Barr sings a different tune.

Barr got his job by promising to erase the Mueller report

A photo graph of Robert Mueller in conversation in the Oval Office.

Wikimedia

William Barr’s job application to the Trump administration consisted of an unsolicited memo to Trump’s DOJ criticizing the legal foundation for special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference. “The fact that Barr sent Trump this memo, and may have subsequently been rewarded with a nomination to join Trump’s cabinet, raises serious concerns,” writes the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

The ACLU was right to be concerned. Since his confirmation, Barr has worked to nullify Mueller’s work.

Barr gutted the Washington DC prosecutions of Trump cronies

A photograph of former US Attorney Jessie K. Liu.

law.com

In the District of Columbia, Barr and Trump maneuvered the US attorney, Jessie Liu, out of her position.

First Trump nominated Liu to a top position in his administration, the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial crimes. Liu had planned to continue as US attorney until she was confirmed to the Treasury Department but agreed to leave at Barr’s request. Barr cited “continuity” as his reason for asking Liu to leave early.

While Liu headed the DC US attorney’s office, she had overseen the prosecution of former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, and the case against Trump associate Roger Stone. Both of these cases stemmed from Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Barr kept Mike Flynn from sharing information

A photograph of former national security advisor Michael Flynn.

Screenshot / CNN

Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, specifically about his communications with the Russian ambassador. The judge in his case, Emmet Sullivan, delayed Flynn’s sentencing to give him a chance of “proving his value as a witness” to the government. This should have encouraged Flynn to share who else had inappropriate communications with Russia.

But this delay worked in Flynn’s favor in a different way. Now that Barr and Trump had Jessie Liu out of the way, Barr replaced Liu with one of his own close aides, Timothy Shea, as acting US attorney. On the day Liu left the US attorney’s office, Shea submitted a lighter sentencing recommendation for Flynn. Liu’s prosecutors had recommended up to six months in jail, but suddenly, under Shea, that was softened to a request for probation.

Now it looks like Shea and Barr have gotten the case against Mike Flynn dropped completely.

Barr protected Trump buddy Roger Stone

Side by side photo of Barr and Stone

Screenshot / YouTube

In February 2020, Trump suddenly withdrew Liu’s nomination to the Treasury Department, leaving her little choice but to resign from the administration entirely. This came the week before strange back-to-back sentencing requests were submitted for Trump advisor Roger Stone.

The day after withdrawing Liu’s nomination, Trump told reporters that he thought the prosecution of Roger Stone was “ridiculous,” which suggests that Trump’s nomination offer to Liu had been a ploy to remove her from oversight of the case.

Stone had been convicted on all charges brought against him, including obstruction, lying to Congress, and witness tampering. Roger Stone had not exactly been a model defendant either. Leading up to the trial, Stone posted a picture of the trial Judge, Amy Berman Jackson, with a target symbol above her head (Instagram removed the post for violating their terms of service). During the trial, Stone repeatedly disobeyed Judge Jackson’s orders about social media posts and talking to the media.

The prosecutors recommended a sentence of 7 – 9 years in prison for Roger Stone.

Now remember, AG Barr is “tough on crime,” in the “never-ending fight against criminal predators in our society.” But what happens when Barr meddles in the prosecution of the president’s fellow “criminal predators”?

That night, Trump tweeted that this sentencing recommendation was “Disgraceful.” Lo and behold, the next morning, Barr’s man Shea sent a new memo to the judge, denying the earlier recommendation and asking that Stone serve “far less.”

This conflicting recommendation was not delivered by any of the four prosecutors on the Stone case, because all of them resigned the case in protest. Three are still in the DC US Attorney’s Office, but the lead prosecutor, Aaron Zelinsky, returned to his office with the Maryland US attorney.

Yes, THAT Aaron Zelinsky

Aaron Zelinsky standing behind a podium

Hopkins.edu

Aaron Zelinsky was one of two Justice Department officials to testify on June 24 in front of congress. Speaking about William Barr’s use of the DOJ for the president’s personal interests, Zelinsky pointed to “political reasons” for the reduced sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone. Zelinsky had heard a supervisor in the DC US attorney’s office call the change “unethical and wrong.”

Zelinsky walked away from the Stone case when he was asked to minimize Stone’s poor conduct during the trial in order to support the request for a lighter sentence. This pressure came from acting US attorney Shea, who “was receiving heavy pressure from the highest levels of the Department of Justice.” Zelinsky testified that Shea reduced the sentencing recommendation in the Stone case because he was “afraid of” Trump.

William Barr, aka “the highest level of the Department of Justice”, is scheduled to testify about these matters in front of the House Judiciary Committee on July 28, but he has promised to appear before and never shown up.

Meanwhile, in New York, Michael Cohen implicated Trump

Side By side photographs of Michael Cohen and Donald Trump

Flickr / IowaPolitics.com

Before Trump appointed Barr as Attorney General, the president’s long time personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations. At the time of his plea, he expressed his willingness to cooperate with Southern District of New York (SDNY).

Cohen made good on his promise: at his plea hearing in the Manhattan US District Court, Cohen told the judge that he made payments to women to protect Donald Trump from scandals during his run for the presidency. These payments were made “in coordination with and at the direction of a candidate for federal office,” (meaning Trump), “for the principal purpose of influencing the election.” Cohen also shared information on several other related investigations.

Barr weighed in on investigations based on Cohen’s testimony

William Barr looking confused

Screenshot / YouTube

By the time Barr was confirmed as AG in February of 2019, Cohen had been sentenced — and Trump had been embarrassed by Cohen’s case. Once he was installed at the AG’s office, Barr spent weeks “questioning the prosecutors” in the Cohen case over their charging decisions. This included having Department of Justice (DOJ) lawyers in his own office in Washington, DC, prepare a memo with legal arguments against the campaign finance charges.

Barr demanded updates on continuing investigations into people connected to the Cohen case, including a senior Trump Organization executive. The majority of these investigations into in Trump’s inner circle were quietly concluded in July  2019 without any further charges being brought. Neither SDNY nor DOJ were willing to say whether Barr was involved in the closure of these investigations, but AG Barr has now ordered briefings from investigations about Trump’s latest personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.

Barr is infiltrating the cases against Rudy Giuliani, Lev Parnas, and Igor Fruman

A photograph of Mike Pence, Lev Parnas, Igor fruman, Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani standing together with big smiles.

Screenshot/YouTube

Barr has also been looking into SDNY cases against the two Ukrainian businessmen, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who were helping Giuliani in his efforts to scrape up politically damaging information in Ukraine on Trump’s potential 2020 rivals.

Charges against Parnas and Fruman were announced in October 2019, and Parnas offered evidence of Trump’s involvement, but those cases, as well as investigation of Giuliani, have now been delayed because of the coronavirus. Media discussion of these cases has also faded into the background of the pandemic.

But Barr isn’t taking any chances. If Biden is elected in November, Barr will get swept out with the rest of the trash. In the meantime, AG Barr is doing all he can to shield the president.

AG Barr is working to eviscerate the SDNY office

Barr standing at a podium

Flickr / Office of Public Affairs

It is a long and winding road that leads to suppressing investigations. On June 20, late on a Friday evening, Barr announced that the US attorney for the SDNY, Geoffrey Berman, was stepping down. The intended replacement for Berman was Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Jay Clayton. Clayton has no experience in litigation or prosecution, but he does golf with Trump.

Barr planned to put Clayton in charge of the ongoing SDNY investigations into Giuliani, Parnas, and Fruman.

Unfortunately for Barr, this was the first Berman had heard of it. “I have not resigned, and have no intention of resigning, my position,” Berman responded after reading about his own imminent retirement in a DOJ press release.

In the end, Barr had to announce that Trump had fired Geoffrey Berman, but by then Trump’s golf buddy Clayton was off the table as a replacement. Berman stepped down and his own deputy, Audrey Strauss, took over. Berman is confident Strauss “will continue to safeguard” the investigations and independence of the SDNY.

At least until Trump can get Mitch McConnell to ram someone else through the Senate.

TAKE ACTION: The House just passed a major bill to help end racist and violent policing. Now, it’s up to the Senate. Call your senators and demand they pass S.3912, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. Reply with your ZIP & we’ll connect you directly. To call your second senator, dial 844-307-1698. – Krissy, Amnesty USA

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