Justice Department alumni are alarmed over the agency’s change of direction in two politically charged cases tied to President Donald Trump.
WASHINGTON (CN) — Nearly 2,000 former Justice Department officials called for Attorney General William Barr to resign Monday over what they said was his egregious role in the government dropping the case against President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
The alumni decried the shocking move by the agency as the second time the country’s top law enforcement officer has come to the president’s political aid.
“Make no mistake: The department’s action is extraordinarily rare, if not unprecedented. If any of us, or anyone reading this statement who is not a friend of the president, were to lie to federal investigators in the course of a properly predicated counterintelligence investigation, and admit we did so under oath, we would be prosecuted for it,” their letter states.
The letter links the shocking filing to dismiss the case — signed not by career prosecutors but by Trump’s U.S. attorney in Washington — to the alarming reversal by the Justice Department in its sentencing recommendation for longtime Trump ally Roger Stone.
“As we said then, ‘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 states.
Last week, the Justice Department told the federal judge on Flynn’s case that the government no longer found the defendant’s false statements to investigators to be material.
But the former government attorneys said that “purported justification” does not hold up to scrutiny. There was ample evidence, they argue, to prosecute Flynn and the defendant had pleaded guilty — “under oath and in open court” — that he told material lies to the FBI.
The president responded to the government dropping the case against Flynn, who was fired from the White House for lying to Vice President Mike Pence, by calling his former adviser an “innocent man” and accusing career prosecutors of treason.
The filing Thursday cited new evidence uncovered by Eastern Missouri U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Jensen that the department said made the prosecution no longer justifiable.
Coolly backing Trump’s accusations that investigators had targeted Flynn, the attorney general claimed that the team prosecuting Flynn had become “wedded to a particular outcome” and pursued a particular agenda.
Jonathan Kravis – the former federal prosecutor who retired from the Justice Department in response to senior officials intervening to recommend a lower sentence for Stone just hours after Trump called the original proposal of seven to nine years a “miscarriage of justice” – warned that Barr had struck a blow to dedicated public servants who cannot respond publicly.
“Department lawyers are ethically bound to protect the confidences of their client. Barr’s decision to excuse himself from these obligations and attack his own silenced employees is alarming,” Kravis wrote in an op-ed for the Washington Post on Monday. “It sends an unmistakable message to prosecutors and agents — if the president demands, we will throw you under the bus.”
A 10-year federal prosecutor, Kravis was recently hired by District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine. He argued that the Justice Department had betrayed its underlying principles by protecting people close to Trump.
“In both cases, the department undercut the work of career employees to protect an ally of the president, an abdication of the commitment to equal justice under the law. Prosecutors must make decisions based on facts and law, not on the defendant’s political connections,” Kravis wrote.
As of Monday afternoon, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan had not responded to the motion to dismiss Flynn’s charges. The Justice Department alumni on Monday called on the judge to hold an evidentiary hearing with witnesses, and deny the motion to dismiss and proceed with sentencing, if appropriate.
“While it is rare for a court to deny the department’s request to dismiss an indictment, if ever there were a case where the public interest counseled the court to take a long, hard look at the government’s explanation and the evidence, it is this one,” the letter states.
Calling on the House of Representatives to hear testimony from Barr in a hearing postponed due to Covid-19, the former Justice Department officials warned that democracy depends on the agency acting “as an independent arbiter of equal justice, not as an arm of the president’s political apparatus.”