Rule of Law Takes Heavy Damage in Trump’s Weeklong Twitter Barrage

WASHINGTON (CN) — A look back at Donald Trump’s Twitter feed this week tells the story of a president who took aim and fired at the courts as the fallout from his Justice Department reversing its recommended sentence for Roger Stone battered Washington.

No one involved escaped the attacks. Trump railed at the career federal prosecutors who resigned in protest, the judge set to sentence his longtime ally next week and the jury foreperson who spoke out in defense of justice.

Trump Barr
President Donald Trump and U.S. Attorney General William Barr. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

The barrage directed at the one government agency that had so far dodged the president’s social media spitfire confirmed Democrats’ fears that the GOP-controlled Senate’s acquittal of the president just last week on abuse of power and obstruction of justice impeachment charges would leave him unrestrained in the Oval Office.

 

Accusing Trump of political interference in a criminal prosecution, Democrats are now calling for investigations by Senate Judiciary Chair Lindsey Graham and Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, spurring what could be another monthslong probe into the president’s alleged misconduct.

This week’s Twitter barrage started very early Tuesday, when the president responded to a Justice Department sentencing memo filed Monday evening recommending seven to nine years in prison for Stone.

“This is a horrible and very unfair situation. The real crimes were on the other side, as nothing happens to them. Cannot allow this miscarriage of justice!” the president tweeted Tuesday at 1:48 a.m.

The outburst marked Trump’s second public commentary on Stone’s case since a federal jury found the president’s longtime confidant guilty of lying to Congress, obstruction and witness tampering. Moments after the unanimous verdict this past November convicting Stone on all seven criminal charges, Trump weighed in on Twitter to question whether the jury’s decision was a “double standard like never seen before in the history of our Country?”

Facing a maximum sentence of 50 years, Stone had been expected to receive a lenient prison term as a first-time offender. The seven- to nine-year proposal from the prosecutors who brought the case to trial considered sentencing guidelines and statutory factors.

By midmorning Tuesday, the Justice Department signaled it planned to roll back the sentencing recommendation.

“Is this the Judge that put Paul Manafort in SOLITARY CONFINEMENT, something that not even mobster Al Capone had to endure? How did she treat Crooked Hillary Clinton? Just asking!” the president tweeted Tuesday at 8:47 p.m.

The judge, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, has presided over the criminal cases of Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, campaign deputy chair Rick Gates and Gates’ associate Alex van der Zwaan, all indicted by former special counsel Robert Mueller.

Known in Washington to be a fair and exacting judge, Jackson rejected the notion that Gates got “caught up” in D.C. political drama when she sentenced him – a vortex she now finds herself at the very center of.

“It’s perfectly possible to conduct yourself with ethics, integrity, and no hint of scandal, even in politics, even in D.C., even in Ukraine,” Jackson told Gates from the bench on Dec. 17. “Politics don’t corrupt people, people corrupt politics.”

In a rare break of judicial silence, Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell of the U.S. District Court in D.C. issued a statement Thursday night defending the court where Jackson will sentence Stone on Feb 20.

The judges of the court, Howell wrote, base their sentencing decisions on careful consideration of the “actual record” in the case before them, adding: “Public criticism or pressure is not a factor.”

If Trump saw the chief judge’s defense of her court, he held back from countering with a second attack on Jackson or throwing a Twitter blow at Howell.

Instead, he followed his Tuesday attack on Jackson less than an hour later with a hit at the four career prosecutors who quit the Stone case shortly after the Justice Department subverted their sentencing recommendation.

“Who are the four prosecutors (Mueller people?) who cut and ran after being exposed for recommending a ridiculous 9 year prison sentence to a man that got caught up in an investigation that was illegal, the Mueller Scam, and shouldn’t ever even have started? 13 Angry Democrats?” the president tweeted Tuesday at 9:45 p.m.

At 10:58 p.m., he tweeted “Prosecutorial Misconduct?” suggesting the four Justice Department attorneys who prosecuted Stone had illegally handled the case. He also shared a post from “Israel and USA Forever” that read: “Raise your hand if you believe it’s time for a FULL PARDON for Roger Stone and Michael Flynn.”

The tweet share flew mostly under the radar, though the president made clear to reporters in the Oval Office the next day that he had not ruled out pardoning Stone.

The president’s Twitter bombardment only bolstered cries that the Justice Department acted at the direction of the Oval Office. Trump took to Twitter first thing Wednesday morning with words that appeared to confirm the accusation that Attorney General William Barr acted on behalf of the president and not to uphold the rule of law.

“Congratulations to Attorney General Bill Barr for taking charge of a case that was totally out of control and perhaps should not have even been brought. Evidence now clearly shows that the Mueller Scam was improperly brought & tainted. Even Bob Mueller lied to Congress!” the president tweeted Wednesday at 6:53 a.m.

Continuing to defend the adviser who had first pushed him to make a bid for the White House in 1998, Trump again implied that the prosecutors had diverged from department norms on Stone’s sentencing.

“Two months in jail for a Swamp Creature, yet 9 years recommended for Roger Stone (who was not even working for the Trump Campaign). Gee, that sounds very fair! Rogue prosecutors maybe? The Swamp!” the president tweeted Wednesday at 7:06 a.m.

Zeroing in on the jury box, the president fired off a tweet Thursday at foreperson Tomeka Hart, who spoke out over Facebook on Wednesday evening to defend the four prosecutors.

“Now it looks like the fore person in the jury, in the Roger Stone case, had significant bias. Add that to everything else, and this is not looking good for the ‘Justice’ Department,” the president tweeted Thursday at 7:57 a.m.

Hart, a former president of the Memphis City Schools Board of Commissioners, had named all four federal prosecutors in her online post.

“It pains me to see the DOJ now interfere with the hard work of the prosecutors. They acted with the utmost intelligence, integrity, and respect for our system of justice,” she wrote.

The foreperson further defended her fellow jurors, writing that together the panel had carefully reached a guilty verdict on all seven counts.

Even Barr appeared to call out the president – and defend his department’s independence from the White House – in an interview with ABC on Thursday.

“I cannot do my job here at the department with a constant background commentary that undercuts me,” Barr said.

But on Friday, Trump sent off another morning remark that fueled speculation Barr acted in lock-step with the White House to come to Stone’s rescue, despite the president’s denials throughout the week that he had a hand in the sentencing flip. And he also made it clear he believes he has every right under the law to steer the Justice Department from the Oval Office.

“‘The President has never asked me to do anything in a criminal case.’ A.G. Barr This doesn’t mean that I do not have, as President, the legal right to do so, I do, but I have so far chosen not to!” the president tweeted Friday at 8:33 a.m.

Amid the fury of pronunciations of an undermined judiciary and Trump’s cries in defense of Stone, the one party silent in the lead-up to the sentencing firing up Washington has been Judge Jackson, who will decide Stone’s fate Feb. 20.

But the president holds the power to pardon Stone, along with the cadre of Trump advisers found guilty of crimes that came to light through the Mueller probe. His sights set on another four years in office, the question everyone in the Beltway wants to know is whether the president will wait until after Election Day to make such a show of executive power.

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