By Robert A. Vella
Here’s today’s news roundup highlighting the internal crisis at the Department of Justice and former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly speaking out against President Trump.
WASHINGTON — For decades after Watergate, the White House treated the Justice Department with the softest of gloves, fearful that any appearance of political interference would resurrect the specter of Attorney General John Mitchell helping President Richard M. Nixon carry out a criminal conspiracy for political ends.
In 2001, William P. Barr, describing his first stint as attorney general, under President George Bush, spoke of the department’s protected status in the post-Watergate era. “You didn’t mess around with it, didn’t intervene, you didn’t interfere,” he recalled in an oral history.
Fast forward to 2020, and Mr. Barr is attorney general once more. But President Trump’s ground-shaking conduct has demolished those once-sacrosanct guardrails. Mr. Barr’s intervention to lessen a prison sentencing recommendation for the president’s convicted friend Roger J. Stone Jr. prompted all four career prosecutors handling the matter to quit the case.
To career prosecutors around the country, the Stone case raised new fears of what is to come. Until now, according to conversations with more than a dozen career lawyers in some of the 93 U.S. attorney’s offices, they had watched other divisions in the Justice Department execute significant shifts in response to Mr. Trump while the work of prosecuting crimes was largely unaffected by the politics of the moment. Now career prosecutors said they worried they might face more pressure.
MORRISTOWN, N.J. — Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, the former National Security Council aide and impeachment witness President Donald Trump fired Friday, was just doing his job, former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly told students and guests at a Drew University event here Wednesday night.
Over a 75-minute speech and Q&A session, Kelly laid out, in the clearest terms yet, his misgivings about Trump’s words and actions regarding North Korea, illegal immigration, military discipline, Ukraine, and the news media.
Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general, said that Vindman is blameless and was simply following the training he’d received as a soldier; migrants are “overwhelmingly good people” and “not all rapists”; and Trump’s decision to condition military aid to Ukraine on an investigation into his political rival Joe Biden upended long-standing U.S. policy.