Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Who’s In Charge Here?



Essentially, the nation’s top cop is the Attorney General of the Justice Department.

Like so many other Cabinet Members, Bill Barr sets a low-bar for the duties assigned him. And he’s worth singling-out because he has such a diverse and widely-spread influence on our lives as ordinary citizens.

When the FBI knocks on your door, Bill Barr sent them. This dude runs the Federal Prison System as well and reviews the conduct of local law enforcement as directed by the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994.

He’s who’s in charge here, in law enforcement. The top guy.


Which has historically been pretty much okay, with a glitch here and there such as J. Edgar Hoover. But someone’s got to do the job and Bill Barely measures up.

(David R. Lurie) Perhaps Barr’s ignorance about the role of the prosecutor helps explain his ineptitude, but that hardly excuses it.

Since the early 1990s, he has had the unique ability to advocate policies that been remarkably ineffective and costly to the American taxpayer. During his first tenure as attorney general, he championed a concordance of failed criminal justice policies: mass incarceration, aggressive use of pretrial detention, mandatory minimum sentences, prison labor, asset forfeiture, charging juvenile defendants as adults, and expanding prosecutorial authority to use wiretaps.

An entire body of scholarship has been devoted to documenting the racist impulses and moral vacancy of these measures—not to mention how they contribute to, rather than combat, cycles of crime.

So, who really gives a shit? There’s always a complaint about this or that political appointment and if you’re like me, your eyes pretty much glaze over in today’s media maze.

But then there’s the Roger Stone trial. Stone is a buddy of Donald Trump, a sort of political advisor Trump is supposed to have spoken with on an almost daily basis, who self-styles himself as a ‘political fixer.’

Briefly…

… Stone was arrested on seven criminal charges of an indictment in the Mueller investigation: one count of obstruction of an official proceeding, five counts of false statements, and one count of witness tampering.

He was found guilty and FBI prosecutors recommended a seven to nine year prison sentence.

Trump immediately tweeted (what else?) that the sentence was “horrible and unfair.” Bill Barr, almost as immediately, dictated a revised sentencing memorandum, stating that the sentence could be "considered excessive and unwarranted under the circumstances." All four prosecuting attorneys immediately resigned. Stone got a 40-month sentence.

And now, as I sometimes say, the fun begins.

The Department of Justice brought 74,843 criminal cases in 2019. Yet only two convictions warranted the attorney general’s direct involvement--those of Michael Flynn and Roger Stone.

The Stone case was the final straw for all those who faithfully served and retired from the Department of Justice:

(Edited version) “We, the (2,689) undersigned, are alumni of the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) who have collectively served both Republican and Democratic administrations. Each of us strongly condemns President Trump’s and Attorney General Barr’s interference in the fair administration of justice.

“…we support and commend the four career prosecutors who upheld their oaths and stood up for the Department’s independence by withdrawing from the Stone case and/or resigning from the Department. Our simple message to them is that we — and millions of other Americans — stand with them. And we call on every DOJ employee to follow their heroic example and be prepared to report future abuses to the Inspector General, the Office of Professional Responsibility, and Congress; to refuse to carry out directives that are inconsistent with their oaths of office; to withdraw from cases that involve such directives or other misconduct; and, if necessary, to resign and report publicly — in a manner consistent with professional ethics — to the American people the reasons for their resignation.”

Answering who really gives a shit, over two and a half thousand DOJ alumni cared enough to fix their names to a public statement.

That’s never happened before in the history of the department.

But then, this is an administration where many things in government and ethics have never happened before.

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