By Robert A. Vella
Two contrasting events occurred yesterday in the U.S. Attorney General William Barr, evoking nightmares of Adolf Hitler’s brutal police enforcer Heinrich Himmler, overrode the criminal sentencing recommendations of federal prosecutors in the trial of Roger Stone who just happens to be a close ally of President Trump. In response, the four prosecutors resigned in protest. Their recommendation that Stone be sentenced to 7-9 years after being convicted last November on all seven counts he was charged with – which included making false statements to investigators, obstructing a congressional probe, and witness tampering – was well within the federal sentencing guidelines for such crimes. As we shall see in the following links, this isn’t the first time that Trump and Barr have usurped the Department of Justice’s constitutional duty to uphold the rule of law for blatantly personal and political reasons. However, it is the first time that career officials resigned en masse as an act of defiance. To say that the DOJ is now in a full-fledged internal crisis is not overstating this situation, and neither is it an overstatement to say that Donald Trump is marching America headlong towards dictatorship and fascism.
The other event, in contrast, was yesterday’s primary elections in New Hampshire which transpired smoothly compared to last week’s debacle in the Iowa caucuses (which still remain unresolved). Progressive populist Bernie Sanders won the contest followed closely by moderates Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar. Two other high-profile candidates, progressive Elizabeth Warren and centrist Joe Biden, failed to reach the vote threshold necessary to capture any delegates. Both of their respective campaigns now look problematic going forward with Nevada, South Carolina, and the Super Tuesday states coming up later this month. But, aside from these horse-races, something perhaps more significant can be gleaned from the results. Voter turnout in the Democratic primary far surpassed the 2016 figure and at last check was nearing the record turnout of 2008. Independents, in particular, participated much more in the Democratic than the Republican primaries which so far have recorded 285,000+ votes for Democratic candidates versus 140,000+ for Republican candidates (see: 2020 New Hampshire Republican primary). Furthermore, Trump challenger Bill Weld surprisingly garnered about 10% of the GOP vote; and, Lawrence O’Donnell reported last night on MSNBC that the number of registered Republicans in the state has declined by about 20,000 since 2016. All this information is consistent with other evidence over the last three years indicating that although Trump’s support among his rabid base remains strong, he is losing support more broadly nationwide.
Crisis at the Department of Justice
The prosecution team in Roger Stone’s criminal case abruptly resigned from the case on Tuesday after the Justice Department said it planned to reduce the recommended sentence for the longtime Trump associate.
Joyce Vance, an MSNBC contributor and former federal prosecutor, tweeted the dual withdrawal notices from the prosecutors speak “loudly to those of us who used to work at DOJ. There is a 4-alarm fire at Justice.”
Rep. Adam Schiff, the California Democrat who was the lead prosecutor in Trump’s impeachment trial, said that “if If reports are correct, the Department of Justice and Attorney General Bill Barr are poised to overrule career prosecutors who made a sentencing recommendation yesterday, following a midnight tweet from the President attacking the proposed length of sentence.”
Schiff said it would “it would be a blatant abuse of power if President Trump has in fact intervened to reverse the recommendations of career prosecutors at the Department of Justice.”
David Laufman, a former senior Justice Department official, tweeted that the move was “a shocking, cram-down political intervention in the criminal justice process. We are now truly at a break-glass-in-case-of-fire moment for the Justice Dept.”
WASHINGTON — Congressional Democrats on Wednesday called for an emergency hearing and investigation into the Department of Justice’s decision to reduce the recommended sentence for longtime Donald Trump confidante Roger Stone.
Top Democrats are pushing for the GOP-led Senate Judiciary Committee to hold a hearing to review the decision that led to the sudden resignation of all four prosecutors Tuesday from the Stone criminal case. Stone was found guilty in November of all seven counts against him including making false statements, witness tampering and obstructing a congressional probe.
One Democrat said Wednesday that Attorney General Bill Barr should step down.
“Something egregious like this demands that the inspector general investigate and demands that the chairman of the Judiciary Committee hold a hearing now,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on the Senate.
Schumer sent a letter to DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz on Tuesday, writing that the development amounts to “improper political interference in a criminal prosecution.”
A key witness in Roger Stone’s trial is defending the quartet of prosecutors who withdrew from the federal case against the controversial Republican operative, accusing President Donald Trump of targeting the attorneys with a “vile smear job.”
“As the son of a man who spent 10 years in prison, I have consistantly [sic] opposed incarceration,” Randy Credico, a longtime Stone associate and colorful New York radio host, tweeted on Wednesday.
“That being said, Trump’s vile smear job on the 4 DC prosecutors were appalling and ominous,” he added. “In my experience, I found them to be professional, moral, ethical and non partisan.”
WASHINGTON — The U.S. attorney who had presided over an inconclusive criminal investigation into former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe was abruptly removed from that job last month in one of several recent moves by Attorney General William Barr to take control of legal matters of personal interest to President Donald Trump, according to multiple people familiar with the matter.
A person familiar with the matter has confirmed to NBC News that President Trump has now rescinded the nomination of the U.S. attorney, Jessie Liu, for a job as an undersecretary at the Treasury Department.
But that wasn’t the first time senior political appointees reached into a case involving a former Trump aide, officials told NBC News. Senior officials at the Justice Department also intervened last month to help change the government’s sentencing recommendation for Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who pled guilty to lying to the FBI. While once the prosecutors in the case had recommended up to six months in jail for Flynn, their latest filing now says they believe probation would be appropriate.
New Hampshire primaries
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Senator Bernie Sanders narrowly won the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday, consolidating support on the left and fending off a late charge by two moderate rivals to claim his second strong showing in two weeks and establish himself as a formidable contender for the Democratic nomination.
Mr. Sanders had about 26 percent of the vote with 90 percent of the ballots counted, while former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., was a close second. Mr. Buttigieg split the centrist vote with Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who surged in New Hampshire to finish in third.
Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Mr. Sanders’s progressive rival, finished a distant fourth in her neighboring state, and in a stinging blow to his candidacy, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. finished fifth.
Nearly half of those surveyed said they decided on their candidate in the past few days, according to an exit poll conducted for CNN and other television networks.
In addition, about half of those surveyed said Friday’s debate in Manchester was an important factor in deciding their vote for president.
By a roughly 2-1 margin, voters said they are looking for a candidate who can beat President Donald Trump over one who agrees with them on the issues. Eight in 10 of those surveyed said they were “angry” about the Trump administration.
About four in 10 cited health care as the most important issue, and six in 10 said they could support a single-government plan, such as Medicare for All, a proposal touted by Sanders. Climate change was the next most often cited issue with about 3 in 10 naming it their top concern.
With over 91 percent of precincts reporting Wednesday morning, 285,680 votes were cast in the Democratic presidential primary, far outpacing the 254,780 ballots cast in 2016. Turnout in the state was more similar to that of 2008, when primary participation set records nationwide and 288,672 votes were cast in New Hampshire.
The number is particularly noteworthy given the lower than expected turnout in the Iowa caucuses last week.
Before Tuesday’s primary, New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner predicted that 292,000 votes would be cast in the Democratic primary, and his prediction is looking fairly accurate at this point. That number, compared with 2016’s turnout, exceeds the state’s population growth, which could show a particularly enthusiastic Democratic electorate for this year’s election in a key general election swing state.
… an NBC News exit poll showed that 43 percent of the Democratic primary electorate in the state were independents, only slightly up from 40 percent in 2016, which would seem to suggest that there wasn’t a big influx of independents who voted on the Republican side in 2016 and switched to the Democrats this time around.
President Trump easily won the New Hampshire Republican primary on Tuesday, but his challenger, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, was able to secure nearly 10 percent of the vote.
With 85 percent of precincts reporting, Trump has 85.7 percent of the vote, and Weld has 9.2 percent of the vote. Write-in candidates received 5.3 percent.
The Senate is set to pass a bipartisan resolution this week to limit President Donald Trump’s authority to launch military operations against Iran weeks after the U.S. killed a top Iranian general.
The War Powers resolution, introduced by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), will come to the floor Wednesday with a final expected vote Thursday. While the measure is not likely to garner enough support to overturn a likely Trump veto, its expected passage in the Senate nevertheless illustrates a rare congressional effort to rein in the president’s executive authority.
In addition to all 47 Democrats, the measure so far has support from Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Todd Young of Indiana, Mike Lee of Utah, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Jerry Moran of Kansas. The Democratic senators running for president are expected to be in Washington for the vote on Thursday, ensuring that the 51-vote threshold for the War Powers resolution will be met.