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Law And Disorder At The Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney General William Barr listens during a Department of Justice African American History Month Observance Program at the Department of Justice in Washington, DC.
U.S. Attorney General William Barr listens during a Department of Justice African American History Month Observance Program at the Department of Justice in Washington, DC.

The Department of Justice has seen attorney generals come and go with each presidential administration. Some leave more of a mark than others— and current Attorney General William Barr is leaving his.

More than 1,100  former department officials and prosecutors have called on Barr to resign after he insisted prosecutors lower the sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone. The longtime political operative — and ally of President Donald Trump — was convicted on charges of witness tampering and making false statements last November.

Prosecutors on the case had  recommended a sentencing of up to 9 years in prison for Stone, which was criticized by President Trump on Twitter. In a sentencing memo the next day, the Justice Department called for less prison time. All four of the main prosecutors on Roger Stone’s case withdrew shortly afterward.

In the open  letter demanding Barr’s resignation, prosecutors criticized the lenient sentencing as a political favor — one that has diminished the department’s reputation for impartial justice:

“Such behavior is a grave threat to the fair administration of justice. In this nation, we are all equal before the law. A person should not be given special treatment in a criminal prosecution because they are a close political ally of the President. Governments that use the enormous power of law enforcement to punish their enemies and reward their allies are not constitutional republics; they are autocracies.”

The letter also called for current DOJ officials to resign from any cases that involve political interference, and to report any future abuses of power to the American public.

What’s going on at the Department of Justice? What impact is the Attorney General having on morale? And are we really in a crisis moment for the DOJ — or has some of the reaction been overblown?

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