Findings, music, and occasional reflections by Paul Woodward

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Law

Post-impeachment, Trump declares himself the ‘chief law enforcement officer’ of America

The Washington Post reports: During his Senate impeachment trial, Democrats repeatedly asserted that President Trump is “not above the law.” But since his acquittal two weeks ago, analysts say, the president has taken a series of steps aimed at showing that, essentially, he is the law. On Tuesday, Trump granted clemency to a clutch of political allies, circumventing the usual Justice Department process. The pardons and commutations followed Trump’s moves

Trump threatens lawsuits over Mueller probe

Politico reports: President Donald Trump on Tuesday threatened to file retaliatory lawsuits “all over the place” for damages he claims to have incurred as a result of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. In a multi-post morning Twitter screed, the president fiercely condemned the 22-month-long probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, and also appeared to weigh in once again on the federal criminal case against his longtime political

James Comey: Justice is supposed to be blind. Bill Barr can’t see that

James Comey writes: Recent events have prompted a lot of talk about the Justice Department and threats to its credibility. Many alumni of the department believe the president and attorney general are doing grievous damage to an essential American institution. Other people might not understand what we are so worried about. They might not know this institution and appreciate the gravity of the threat. What is the Justice Department? Most

Trump grants clemency to another round of crooks he saw on Fox News

The Daily Beast reports: President Donald Trump on Tuesday granted clemency to 11 people, including several convicted felons who are either Fox News regulars or have been championed by the president’s favorite cable-news network. Among those granted pardons or sentence commutations were former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was sentenced to 14 years in prison for attempting to sell former President Barack Obama’s Senate seat; former New York City police

Barr must resign, says former U.S. Deputy Attorney General under George H.W. Bush

Donald Ayer writes: When Donald Trump chose Bill Barr to serve as attorney general in December 2018, even some moderates and liberals greeted the choice with optimism. One exuberant Democrat described him as “an excellent choice,” who could be counted on to “stand up for the department’s institutional prerogatives and … push back on any improper attempt to inject politics into its work.” At the end of his first year

These prosecutors want radical criminal justice change. Barr is fighting to stop them

NBC News reports: Progressive prosecutors, coming off one of the biggest years in their movement’s short history, are looking to 2020 with hope of winning key district attorney offices around the nation and boosting their influence with an overhaul of the system from within. Attorney General William Barr is standing in their way. Tensions reached a peak last week after Barr eviscerated the movement in a speech before the Major

Over 1,100 former Justice Department lawyers condemn ‘Barr’s interference in the fair administration of justice’

The New York Times reports: More than 1,100 former federal prosecutors and Justice Department officials called on Attorney General William P. Barr on Sunday to step down after he intervened last week to lower the Justice Department’s sentencing recommendation for President Trump’s longtime friend Roger J. Stone Jr. They also urged current government employees to report any signs of unethical behavior at the Justice Department to the agency’s inspector general

Fearful of Trump’s attacks, Justice Dept. lawyers worry Barr will leave them exposed to political meddling

The New York Times reports: In an email a few days ago to the 270 lawyers he oversees, Nicola T. Hanna, the United States attorney in Los Angeles, offered a message of reassurance: I am proud of the work you do, he wrote. Other U.S. attorneys in the Justice Department’s far-flung 93 field offices relayed similar messages of encouragement after President Trump’s efforts to influence a politically fraught case provoked

Sally Yates: Trump thinks the Justice Department is his personal grudge squad

The former deputy attorney general, Sally Yates, writes: The imperative of Justice Department independence from political influence has deep roots. After the Watergate scandal, Attorney General Griffin Bell sought to reestablish Justice’s independence and ensure that the department would be “recognized by all citizens as a neutral zone, in which neither favor nor pressure nor politics is permitted to influence the administration of the law.” The nation had lost faith

Barr sends outside prosecutors to review politically sensitive cases

The New York Times reports: Attorney General William P. Barr has assigned an outside prosecutor to scrutinize the criminal case against President Trump’s former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn, according to people familiar with the matter. The review is highly unusual and could trigger more accusations of political interference by top Justice Department officials into the work of career prosecutors. Mr. Barr has also installed a handful of outside

U.S. readied sanctions on Russian oligarch’s associates — then mysteriously backed off

The Daily Beast reports: Something strange happened in mid-December involving Oleg Deripaska, the Russian oligarch. Late last year, the U.S. government signaled that it was about to level a new round of sanctions targeting people and entities linked to Deripaska, according to two Western officials with knowledge of the communication. Back in April 2018, the U.S. sanctioned the oligarch, who once lent millions of dollars to convicted Trump campaign chief

Barr’s rebuke of Trump is a distraction from blatant political interference in the administration of justice

Aaron Blake writes: Attorney General William P. Barr offered his first public comments Thursday after a controversy erupted at the Justice Department this week. And while he offered a significant rebuke of President Trump, Barr’s comments seem as much geared toward creating a veneer of independence as addressing the root of the controversy. Barr told ABC News that Trump’s tweets about ongoing criminal matters — in this case, Roger Stone’s

Trump lashes out at Judge Amy Berman Jackson ahead of her sentencing his felon friend, Roger Stone

The Washington Post reports: First he went after the prosecutors who recommended a multiyear sentence for his friend Roger Stone. Then President Trump turned his Twitter ire to the “witch hunt disgrace” of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation, which led to Stone’s indictment. But perhaps most surprising was Trump’s decision to target U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson — who will determine Stone’s fate when he appears in

When Trump turns the Justice Department into his own political weapon, no American remains safe

Joyce White Vance writes: Among the Founding Fathers’ chief goals was to do away with a government where the king was above the law and had absolute power over the lives of his subjects. In our system, the President, like every other citizen, is meant to be subject to the law. The Founding Fathers were explicit about that intention when they debated the shape the new government they were creating

A conservative judge’s blistering opinion rebuking William Barr for overstepping his constitutional authority

Kimberly Wehle writes: President Donald Trump has defanged Congress’ oversight authority. That became clear when the Senate acquitted the president of obstruction. But one conservative judge isn’t willing to let the executive branch steal power from his branch of government. In a jaw-dropping opinion issued by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago on January 23, Judge Frank Easterbrook—a longtime speaker for the conservative Federalist Society and someone

Trump fires Defense official because she attempted to follow the law

Jonathan Chait writes: Two days after Senate Republicans acquitted President Trump on both counts of impeachment, the Trump administration fired a number of national-security officials: European Union ambassador Gordon Sondland and Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council staffer, for voluntarily testifying before the House, as well as the latter’s twin brother, Lieutenant Colonel Yevgeny Vindman, for being related to Alexander. Now, the “Friday Night Massacre” is extending into