After their impeachment fiasco miserably failed, Democrats wasted no time creating another alleged “impeachable” offense. This time, the alleged indiscretion involved Roger Stone, the president’s comments regarding his proposed sentence, and Attorney General Bill Barr’s decision to overrule his prosecutors and reduce Stone’s sentence. This effort, like the last one, should also fail.
Stone was convicted of witness tampering and lying to Congress in November. These crimes (often called “process crimes”) occurred during the investigation into alleged collusion between Russia and Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. Federal prosecutors recommended that Stone serve a prison sentence of seven to nine years.
President Trump did not take kindly to this recommendation, calling it “terrible and unfair.” Shortly thereafter, the Justice Department announced that the recommended sentence was “shocking” and that it planned to amend its recommendation to the court and ask for a shorter sentence. That led all four prosecutors to withdraw from the case. The president subsequently congratulated Barr for the decision to seek a lighter sentence.
As the Daily Caller reported, a Justice Department source indicated that the decision to revise Stone’s recommended sentence was made before Trump published his tweets. Moreover, a senior Justice Department official told Fox News, “The department finds seven to nine years extreme, excessive and grossly disproportionate. The sentencing recommendation was not what had been briefed to the Department.”
Naturally, some on the Left called for Barr’s immediate resignation or possible impeachment. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) indicated that Barr had “no choice” but to resign. Presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) tweeted:
Congress must act immediately to rein in our lawless Attorney General. Barr should resign or face impeachment. And Congress should use spending power to defund the AG’s authority to interfere with anything that affects Trump, his friends, or his elections.
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) February 12, 2020
Abusing official power to protect political friends and attack opponents is common in authoritarian regimes like Putin’s Russia. Trump and Barr’s conduct has no place in our democracy. To end it, Congress must act—and the American people must hold them accountable in November.
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) February 12, 2020
Calls for Barr’s resignation or impeachment are ludicrous—simply another effort by congressional Democrats to create another “scandal” or “blockbuster” story to deflect attention from the Democratic Party’s bigger problems.
Barr is clearly within his rights to ask the court to reduce Stone’s sentence. Moreover, President Trump is well within his rights to offer his opinion about the recommended sentence (although it would probably be best if he refrained from doing so). As former Congressman Trey Gowdy correctly pointed out in a Fox News interview:
The notion that Barr should resign is about the dumbest damn thing I’ve ever heard. If a United States Senator really believes that the head of the Department of Justice cannot weigh in on what a proportional sentence is . . . there are child pornographers, people who rob banks who do not get nine years. So let the judge decide, I think two or three years is about right.
Gowdy went on:
The president has the power to commute Roger Stone’s sentence if he wants to. He has the power to pardon him, he can pardon him right now if he wants to. He could do it by tweet tonight. I mean, he is the head of the executive branch and people have a chance in November if they want a different one.
Of course, this is not the first time that Democrats in Congress have gone after Barr. After the Mueller report was released last year, some Democrats raised the possibility that Barr had broken the law or obstructed justice because of how he handled the report. They cited his unwillingness to release the full and unredacted report pursuant to applicable laws and regulations. As Politico reported at the time:
Some members of Congress are even asking whether Barr himself has broken the law, saying his characterization of the Mueller probe allowed Trump and his allies to build a public narrative clearing the president of any wrongdoing—all without actually releasing a full version of the special counsel’s findings.
“If it turns out that he has obstructed justice by how he has handled the Mueller report that will be a deep stain on his legacy,” said Rep. Hank Johnson, a Georgia Democrat and member of the House Judiciary Committee, who cautioned that Barr’s conduct is difficult to evaluate without seeing the full report.
It was evident that Democrats’ focus on Barr was nothing more than a political and partisan attempt to somehow “find dirt” on the president. Fortunately, Barr quickly extinguished their efforts.
On March 31, Barr is scheduled testify in front of the House Judiciary Committee. One hopes he can put an end to this partisan witch hunt before the Democrats lead the country into another time consuming, expensive, and baseless investigation.