U.S. Prosecutors Accuse Attorney General of Politically Influencing Criminal Investigations

June 25, 2020 by Tom Ramstack
Attorney General William Barr adjusts his glasses as he speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, Wednesday, April 1, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON — Current and former Justice Department attorneys on Wednesday accused the U.S. Attorney General of allowing Trump administration policies to influence criminal investigations and prosecutions.

They also said during a House Judiciary Committee hearing that Justice Department administrators threatened attorneys who complained about the political influence.

Most of their blame fell on U.S. Attorney General William Barr, who they said acted as a “fixer” for President Trump by protecting some of his associates from criminal liability.

Former deputy attorney general Donald Ayer said Barr “poses the greatest threat in my lifetime to our rule of law.”

Ayer suggested that Barr be forced to resign.

“What’s happening now is much worse than what happened in Watergate — much worse,” Ayer said. “It’s across-the-board. It’s a systematic effort to undo the checks that were put in place in Watergate and others that existed in the Constitution.”

Republicans on the congressional committee bristled at the whistleblower allegations, sometimes loudly interrupting Democrats and witnesses.

Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the committee’s top Republican, said politicized prosecutions in the Justice Department can be traced to Obama administration officials who initiated investigations of President Donald Trump’s top advisors.

He also denied Barr made prosecutorial decisions based on political motives.

“They’re not political, they’re just right,” Jordan said.

The first FBI investigations in 2016 led to the Mueller investigation of alleged Trump administration collusion with Russian agents to influence the presidential election.

Thirty-four people were indicted. Eight pleaded guilty or were convicted of felonies, some of them involving financial crimes rather than Russian political manipulation in favor of Trump.

One of them was Roger Stone, a Trump campaign advisor accused of seeking information from a Russian agent that could damage the campaign of former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Stone pleaded not guilty but a jury convicted him on seven charges.

Stone was sentenced to 40 months in prison in February, which prosecutors testifying before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday characterized as a lenient sentence influenced by Trump.

Aaron Zelinsky, an assistant U.S. attorney in Maryland, said he agreed to be a whistleblower witness because he was ordered to take actions in the Stone prosecution that violated his oath of office.

“I was told there was heavy political pressure from the highest levels of the Department of Justice to cut Roger Stone a break,” Zelinksy said.

Prosecutors originally intended to recommend a seven-to-nine year prison sentence for Stone, Zelinsky said. Political influence resulted in the reduced 40-month sentence, he said.

The Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution requires that prosecutions be based on the evidence of cases rather than patronage politics.

“We don’t cut [criminal defendants] a break based on politics either,” Zelinsky said. “But that wasn’t what happened with Roger Stone.”

Other allegations of political influence came from John Elias, a career Justice Department attorney in the antitrust division.

He said Barr ordered investigations of marijuana company mergers because of his “personal dislike” of the businesses rather than evidence of criminal conduct. The investigations failed to result in convictions against any corporate executives.

“A personal dislike of an industry is not a valid grounds” for an investigation, Elias said.

A Barr spokeswoman announced Wednesday that the attorney general agreed to testify before the House Judiciary Committee on July 28.

Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., threatened this week to subpoena Barr to explain why he fired U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman last weekend.

In The News




Corruption Cases Against Public Officials, Law Enforcement Rising
Corruption Cases Against Public Officials, Law Enforcement Rising
May 4, 2021
by TWN Staff

Prosecutions for "official" corruption -- a catch-all meaning bribery, graft, conflicts of interest and other violations by federal, state, local officials and law enforcement -- have been rising steadily during the first six months of FY 2021, according to a report from the Transactional Records Access... Read More

$1.6 MIllion to Go to Protesters at 2017 Inauguration
$1.6 MIllion to Go to Protesters at 2017 Inauguration
May 3, 2021
by Tom Ramstack

WASHINGTON - The District of Columbia government this week agreed to pay $1.6 million to settle two lawsuits by protesters during the January 2017 presidential inauguration of Donald Trump. In one of the lawsuits, six demonstrators represented by the ACLU of the District of Columbia will... Read More

Feds Raid Giuliani's Home, Office, Escalating Criminal Probe
Law Enforcement
Feds Raid Giuliani's Home, Office, Escalating Criminal Probe

NEW YORK (AP) — Federal agents raided Rudy Giuliani's Manhattan home and office Wednesday, seizing computers and cellphones in a major escalation of the Justice Department's investigation into the business dealings of former President Donald Trump's personal lawyer. Giuliani, the 76-year-old former New York City mayor... Read More

Senate OKs Bill to Fight Hate Crimes Against Asian Americans
Senate OKs Bill to Fight Hate Crimes Against Asian Americans

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate on Thursday overwhelmingly passed a bill that would help combat the rise of hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, a bipartisan denunciation of such violence during the coronavirus pandemic and a modest step toward legislating in a chamber where... Read More

Haaland Announces Indian Affairs Bureau Missing and Murdered Unit
Haaland Announces Indian Affairs Bureau Missing and Murdered Unit
April 21, 2021
by Reece Nations

WASHINGTON — Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland announced a new division of the Missing and Murdered Unit will operate within the Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Justice Services. The new unit will direct federal resources in unsolved investigations into cases of missing and murdered... Read More

Jury Finds Chauvin Guilty of All Charges in Floyd Killing
Jury Finds Chauvin Guilty of All Charges in Floyd Killing
April 20, 2021
by Dan McCue

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has been found guilty of all charges in the murder trial of George Floyd, whose death led to months of demonstrations against police brutality last summer. Chauvin was charged with second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder; and second-degree manslaughter. The end... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top