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Can Trump Tell the Justice Department To Do Whatever He Wants? Not according to the Constitution.

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“The Constitution compels the president, among other things, to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” Trump has described that document as “like a foreign language,”  so let’s explain that  this clause does not give him the authority to run the Justice Dept. like a goon squad at one of his failed casinos. In any ordinary Justice Department, a president publicly calling for leniency toward a close personal ally would set off alarm bells. An aspiring autocrat is only as powerful as his enablers, and  Trump hit the jackpot in Mr. Barr.The departure of four respected prosecutors under these circumstances should worry all Americans, as Congress abdicates its responsibility to act as a check on the executive and Trump packs the Justice Department with loyalists like Mr. Barr, upholding the law, and not to helping a president abuse his office.”

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I began teaching in 1963,; Ba and BS in Education -Brooklyn College. I have the equivalent of 2 additional Master's, mainly in Literacy Studies and Graphic Design. I was the only seventh grade teacher of English from 1990 -1999 at East Side (more...)
 

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Susan Lee Schwartz

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The Roger Stone case highlights our pernicious system of tiered justice

Submitted on Thursday, Feb 13, 2020 at 5:32:14 PM

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Susan Lee Schwartz

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Author 40790
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From Teresa Hanafin on Trump's Politicizing the Justice Department :"Look, we all know there's plenty of injustice in the justice system. Trump used the power of the presidency to put his stubby thumb on the scales of justice to benefit a close ally and longtime friend.

"Trump's demand that the sentence recommended by federal prosecutors for his good buddy Roger Stonebe reduced is astonishing enough. But adding to the impropriety was the fact that AG William Barr and top Justice Department officials jumped when Trump interfered, declaring that they would change the prosecutors' recommendation to a lighter sentence for the president's friend because, well, that's what you do when you're in the tank."The whole stinking mess caused all four prosecutors to resign from the case -- and one quit the Justice Department altogether."

"To recap: Stone is a longtime political adviser to Trump, who used him during the 2016 campaign as a conduit to WikiLeaks, which had more than 19,000 e-mails that had been stolen from the servers of the Democratic National Committee. He tried to use Stone to get a heads-up when WikiLeaks was going to release e-mails that were damaging to Hillary Clinton's campaign.It was special counsel Robert Mueller who charged Stone last year. There were seven charges, all felonies: five counts of lying to investigators, one count of obstructing Congress (specifically, the House Intelligence Committee), and one count of tampering with a witness (in both the House inquiry and Mueller's investigation).A jury found Stone guilty of all seven charges. As is customary, the probation department then came up with a recommended sentence -- 7 to 9 years in prison -- and the prosecutors agreed.They argued that Stone's conduct was exceptionally egregious because the House and Mueller probes into Russian interference in the 2016 election were critical to our electoral system, and because of the danger to our democracy posed by foreign meddling.But the bulk of the prison time prosecutors requested was related to Stone's witness tampering because it involved threats of physical violence to his longtime associate, Randy Credico, after Credico indicated that he would cooperate with the House committee. Stone and Credico both said the threats were jokes, but the jury didn't believe them.

"Stone's defense attorneys say federal guidelines call for a sentence of 15 to 21 months, and they are asking for probation. Prosecutors say their enhanced sentence request because of the threatened violence is in keeping with federal guidelines. As I'm sure you know, prosecutors often overreach when asking for sentences, and defense attorneys always downplay the offenses.

"After Trump's interference, the Justice Department announced that it would take the rare step of changing its prosecutors' recommendation. DOJ officials ended up submitting a statement to the judge without a sentence recommendation, but asked her to impose a lighter sentence.Yes, these are the prosecutors asking the judge to go easy on a convicted felon.So it's up to Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who could impose a lesser sentence or a harsher sentence. Or she could demand that the Justice Department explain why it changed the original recommendation, and ask the prosecutors who resigned why they did so."

"Unsurprisingly, Trump already has attacked Jackson. He also declared that Stone should not have been found guilty -- a nice trashing of the system of trial by jury -- and should never have even been charged with anything because only Trump's political opponents are supposed to be investigated and locked up.Now congressional Democrats are demanding that the DOJ inspector general -- who is independent of the department -- investigate. House Democrats may also call Barr to Capitol Hill to explain his actions."

"Please remember how critical it is to our democracy that justice be administered fairly and independent of influence. Imagine if one of your kids were arrested with a friend for say, drug use, but the parents of your child's friend were chummy with the mayor, who gets the local prosecutors to drop the charges against that kid. But your kid gets jail time because you're not buddies with the mayor. Would you shrug your shoulders the way congressional Republicans are?"

Submitted on Thursday, Feb 13, 2020 at 5:42:52 PM

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