The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Nine Years

It is true that Roger Stone is an unsavory character—just like dozens of Democratic and GOP smear-miesters (Glen Simpson of Fusion GPS comes to mind) who operate daily in Washington, DC, making millions for their efforts. But Stone had a problem, he was connected to Donald Trump and as a consequence, he became a target of Mueller and Justice Department lawyers who are sympathetic to the Dems and loath this president. They worked to convict Stone of process crimes (something that can be done to virtually anyone who has testified before the FBI or Congress), succeeded, and then recommended a prison sentence not to exceed a nine-years (!!)

Donald Trump did what he always does, he expressed his outrage at the excessive sentencing request, and now we have yet another "scandal." As they always do, the Democrats tripped over themselves expressing their "outrage," and even AG Barr told Trump to back off. In the end, the story you hear from the trained hamsters in the media is far from the truth. As she always does, Kim Strassel provides accurate background:
Democrats claimed Mr. Trump politically interfered with justice, bullying the department into going easy on a political crony. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer proclaims “a crisis in the rule of law.” Rep. Adam Schiff (D., Impeachment) declared another “abuse of power.” The press is casting it as Example A of how a postacquittal Trump feels emboldened to ignore the law.

This has it entirely backward. Here’s what actually happened: Justice sources tell me that interim U.S. Attorney Tim Shea had told the department’s leadership he and other career officials in the office felt the proposed sentence was excessive. As the deadline for the filing neared, the prosecutors on the case nonetheless threatened to withdraw from the case unless they got their demands for these stiffest of penalties. Mr. Shea—new to the job—suffered a moment of cowardice and submitted to this ultimatum. The filing took Justice Department leaders by surprise, and the decision to reverse was made well before Mr. Trump tweeted, and with no communication with the White House. The revised filing, meanwhile, had the signature of the acting supervisor of the office’s criminal division, who is a career civil servant, not a political appointee.

This is Mr. Barr getting rid of politics in justice—as he promised. In his confirmation hearing, the attorney general vowed an “even-handed application of the law” rather than judgments based on politics or favoritism (see Clinton investigation vs. Trump investigation). Before the president’s tweet, even liberal commentators were acknowledging the initial recommendation of up to nine years in prison was harsh, given that Mr. Stone is a first-time offender. The request came from a prosecutorial team—which included two members of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s staff—that wanted to punish Mr. Stone for his ties to a president they loathe.

And don’t forget the mitigating factors. Remember how Mr. Stone ended up in the Justice Department’s crosshairs. It was after Team Clinton, the Democratic National Committee and Fusion GPS weaponized the Federal Bureau of Investigation to go after political opponents. Mr. Mueller could easily have unraveled this ambush. Instead, he rampaged through dozens of lives, and—unable to find collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, his original charge—obtained indictments for process crimes. That’s no excuse for Mr. Stone’s behavior, but his sentence ought to reflect that he was prosecuted by an overzealous, politicized Justice Department.

Mr. Barr also promised accountability, and the permanent bureaucracy is displaying its contempt for that mission. Line prosecutors made clear up front that they’d cause a political spectacle unless their demands were met. When overruled, four went on to withdraw. In a Washington Post op-ed, former Justice Department employee Chuck Rosenberg summed up the resistance to supervision: “We all understand that the leadership at the top of the department is politically appointed, and we make peace with that.”
The core of this story has NOTHING to do with Roger Stone. At its core we again see partisan deep state operatives (in this case Justice department lawyers) operating as rogue agents who sole job it is to embarrass and/or harass members of the political party they don't like. They need to be stopped, and it's the job of leadership in government departments to stop them. That's what Bill Barr is trying to do, and Donald Trump's tweets on the Stone sentence (although absolutely accurate in the main) won't help one bit.

The editors of the Wall Street Journal state: "The danger for Mr. Trump is that Mr. Barr will resign because he is tired of having his credibility undermined by a President who can’t control his political id no matter the damage it causes." They're not wrong.