I am not a lawyer. Probably most of what I know about that profession I gleaned as a young lad from watching “Perry Mason” on TV every week. In any case, to use a cliched phrase, at this point in time, I find the actions of the federal Department of Justice and the attorney general to be a bit more than just puzzling.
For example, if a defendant admitted to violations of federal laws by lying to the FBI (twice) and pleaded guilty, how does the DOJ now declare that he should be released and his charges dismissed?
Former national security adviser and Gen. Michael Flynn is the defendant mentioned above, and is one of Donald Trump’s favored friends. The case Trump and his supporters have been trying to discredit is the investigation into Russian influence in the 2016 election.
Flynn has sought to withdraw his guilty plea, and last month Attorney General William Barr decided to seek to abandon the case, before a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia voted 2-1 to compel Judge Emmet Sullivan to dismiss the case. Two of the three, both Republican appointees — one by George W. Bush and the other by Trump — voted to order the case be dismissed. The third, a panelist appointed by Barack Obama, dissented.
There is much more legal and political wrangling to come in regards to the case before all is finally decided. I just find it curious that such a highly unusual and surprising decision came about. I naively believe that if one admits to breaking the law, unless some exculpatory evidence is brought forth, that should be the end. Just because the defendant is a friend of the president and at some point decides to recant his guilty plea, he may deserve a new trial, but the complete dismissal of charges is going a bit too far for me.
In a second, and somewhat similar case, it seems that Barr and the DOJ put pressure on the prosecutors working on the case of Roger Stone, another of Trump’s close friends, who was being investigated in connection with the Mueller probe of the 2016 election and Russian interference. Aaron Zelinsky, a longtime Justice Department prosecutor, has stated that Stone was being “treated differently” from other defendants because of his “relationship to the president.” This was underlined by the decision, “due to political considerations,” as he was told by superiors, to overrule the trial team’s recommendations and propose a lighter sentence.
Just recently, Barr tried to fire Geoffrey Berman, the top prosecutor in New York’s Southern District, who had been investigating Trump lawyer and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, for his role in the since-aborted Ukraine investigation of the Bidens. (Berman was eventually fired by Trump, after he refused to step down despite Barr saying that he had.) Reportedly also under investigation by Berman’s office were the Trump inaugural committee financial records. Maybe the heat was getting to close to ignore?
Barr’s actions and those of the DOJ under his so-called leadership make one wonder if all it takes to get away with crimes against the government and people of the good old USA is to be one of Trump’s buddies. It sure seems that way to me, but as I stated at the top, I’m not a lawyer and don’t even play one on TV.
Bill Kennedy writes every other week from Taneytown. You may contact him a email@example.com.