A Justice Department in peril

By Conor Kelly

The rule of law is at risk, and the department in charge of enforcing the rule of law. It is supposed to be preventing corruption, and yet, it is proving to be inadequate at protecting our legal system. The Justice Department is one of the most important agencies, its reputation—its very usefulness—depends upon its independence from the political machinations of Washington, both in fact and in perception. Under the Trump Administration, this kind of independence and impartiality is at risk. President Donald Trump has frequently argued that he has the right to intervene in the affairs of the Justice Department despite the longstanding bipartisan agreement to keep the department independent from political affairs.

When Attorney General William Barr moved to lower the sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone, a former ally of the President, he exposed the fundamental reality that the Justice Department has become an extension of the President’s will, resulting in four of the prosecutors involved in the case resigning. Barr has referred to Trump’s tweeting as making his job “impossible,” among other things and that may have served to motivate the Department to eliminate the prosecutors’ recommended sentence. Without providing a justification, Barr undercut the discretion that prosecutors depend on to do their jobs effectively.

Barr’s behavior – and the administration’s – is nothing new, as he had previous obfuscated the full conclusions of Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, omitting the numerous connections that campaign members had with the Russians, something Judge Reggie B. Walton lambasted the Attorney General for in a recent Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

Barr has also appointed a prosecutor to review the case against former Trump ally Michael Flynn, despite the fact that Flynn himself agreed to a plea deal with the prosecutors. Flynn’s lawyers have failed to substantiate claims of misconduct in prosecution, as reported by The New York Times.

Trump has also tweeted about the Flynn case, lamenting the alleged treatment Flynn has received. The fact that Barr has intervened in some way or another in cases directly related to the political interests of his boss raises questions about the impartiality of the Justice Department and serves only to undermine the rule of law in our country.

Aside from my view, Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, along with eight other Senators, have submitted a letter to Attorney General Barr that calls for his resignation as a result of his inability to uphold the rule of law. If this irresponsibility continues, the Justice Department’s reputation and the rule of law may undergo irreversible damage.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/05/us/politics/mueller-report-barr-judge-walton.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage –Judge Repudiates William Barr


https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2020-02-14/trump-claims-legal-right-to-intervene-in-justice-department-cases -Trump claims legal right to interfere in court cases.

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Conor J. Kelly was the Opinion Editor for the Lorian and a prolific staff writer. He graduated from Loras College in April of 2021 and is now pursuing his master's in public administration at the University of Illinois, Springfield. His new work can be found on The Progressive American substack.

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