The U.S. Attorney Four—They Deserve Medals of Freedom, not Rush Limbaugh February 16, 2020
Well how’s Demagogue/Tyrant Donald’s behavior working out for you, Senator Susan Collins (R-ME)? You “brilliantly” thought this narcissist-in-chief “had learned from being impeached” to behave and so you gave him a free pass to keep his job. What alternative universe do you inhabit? And then there’s Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN). You too gave Trump an acquittal because you were also members of the Trump “had learned his lesson club (dailykos.com, McCarter, 2/12/20, huffpost.com & AP Madhani, Lemire, & Jalonick, 2/13/20).” Now, Sen. Murkowski, you have discovered too late what most of us already knew. In Murkowski’s words, “There haven’t been strong indicators this week that he (Trump) has learned anything from impeachment (See nytimes.com, Fandos & Edmondson, 2/12/2020).” Unlike Bill Clinton who expressed post-impeachment regret over the Monica Lewinsky affair, Tyrant King Donald immediately went on what critics rightly called a “Retribution Tour.”
First there was the 2/07/2020 “Friday Night Massacre” when Trump began settling “all family business.” King Donald had decorated Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who provided damaging testimony against him in the impeachment inquiry, as well as his twin brother, who was never involved in this case, escorted from the White House grounds by armed security. The two of them can no longer work in the National Security Council (NSC) located in that building (cnn.com, Westwood & Hoffman, 2/08/20). Trump dismissed his former mega-donor Gordon Sondland as U.S. Ambassador to the European Union. Sondland had testified during the House impeachment proceedings that Trump was “in the loop” and did not stop his buddy Rudy Giuliani from trying to dig up “dirt” on Joe Biden in Ukraine (See cnn.com, Westwood & Hoffman). Even Trump’s former White House chief-of-staff John Kelly, who often backed many of Donald’s draconian actions, stated that Lt. Col. Vindman was right to raise questions about Trump’s call to the President of Ukraine in which Trump called for investigation of his political rivals. Kelly stated that Vindman did “exactly what he was told, not to follow an illegal order and tell your boss about it (nytimes.com, Shear & Sullivan, 2/13/20).”
As horrible as these firings were, the worst attacks on our democracy came on the 2/11/2020 “Tuesday Afternoon Massacre.” Hours after a middle-of-the night Twitter eruption in which King Donald attacked the original seven to nine years sentence recommended by federal prosecutors against his friend GOP activist Roger Stone, Trump’s “Toady Plus” Attorney General William Barr intervened. Barr, like Trump, assailed the original sentencing recommendation as “excessive” in a revised memorandum (law.com, Scarcella, 2/12/20). Trump later congratulated Barr “for taking charge of a case that was totally out of control and perhaps should not have even been brought.” Donald added that the prosecutors “ought to apologize” to Mr. Stone (nytimes.com, Benner, Savage, LaFraniere, & Protess, 2/12/2020). Trump additionally yanked the nomination of Jessie Liu for a top Treasury Dept. job because she had previously, as the head of the U.S. Attorney’s office in D.C., overseen Stone’s prosecution. Liu resigned from the Treasury Dept. on 2/12/20 (cnn.com, Collins, 2/13/20).
Stone, a GOP dirty trickster activist since Nixon’s time, was convicted by federal prosecutors working for then special counsel Robert Mueller. Mueller had been looking into Trump’s ties to Russia during the 2016 election. After a trial in federal court, Stone was convicted of lying to Congress, witness tampering, and obstructing a federal proceeding (cornellsun.com, Penenory). Stone is scheduled to be sentenced on 2/20/2020 by U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson (law.com, Scarcella). Sentencing guidelines are advisory, not mandatory, and Judge Jackson will have the final say (Scarcella). However, the advice of U.S. Attorneys is often persuasive. Since the 1973 Watergate scandal, the White House has kept its hands away from any political interference with Justice Dept. recommendations.
In 2001, William Barr, who had first served as Attorney General under H.W. Bush stated, “You didn’t mess around with it (the Justice Dept.), you didn’t intervene, you didn’t interfere (nytimes.com, Brenner et al, 2/12/20).” Now under King Donald, ultra-lackey Barr has suddenly decided to overrule his independent U.S. Attorneys on a case Trump is obsessed with. And Barr’s intervening in the Stone case is not a “one off” incident. Barr has been quietly intervening in a series of other politically charged cases, including that of Michael T. Flynn. Flynn was Trump’s former national security advisor who had twice pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. in the Russia investigation. Atty. General Barr has, in fact, installed a phalanx of outside lawyers to re-examine national security cases with the possibility of overruling career prosecutors. Such action constitutes a highly unusual move that like the Stone case could prompt more accusations of Justice Department politicization to help convicted individuals friendly to Trump (See nytimes.com, Savage & Goldman, 2/14/20).
After the Trump/Barr intervention in the Stone case, four U.S. Attorneys who had prosecuted, convicted, and recommended Stone’s sentence, Aaron Zelinsky, Adam Jed, Jonathan Kravis, and Michael Marando withdrew from the Stone sentencing. After the Trump/Barr intervention, many of the 93 U.S. Attorneys fear more political pressure from the Trump White House on cases involving Donald’s friends and aides (nytimes.com, Brenner et al). Many former prosecutors and legal experts condemned the Trump/Barr move. A former W Bush Justice Dept. Attorney Jack Goldsmith stated, “Trump is making him (Barr) look like his political lapdog (nytimes.com, Brenner et al).” A former juror on the Stone trial, Tomeka Hart, said what many others believed. She declared, “I want to stand up for Aaron Zelinsky, Adam Jed, Michael Marando, and Jonathan Kravis. It pains me to see how the DOJ (Dept. of Justice) now interferes in the hard work of the prosecutors. They (the prosecutors) acted with the utmost intelligence, integrity, and respect for our system of justice (cnn.com, Prokupecz & Fantz, 2/12/20).”
The legal world, reporters, pundits, Democrats and many other Americans are horrified by Trump/Barr turning the Justice Department into part of their expanding “banana republic.” However, the response by Trump’s GOP enablers, especially in the Senate that just let Donald off the impeachment hook, was another story. Rebuking Trump over destroying the independence of the U.S. Attorneys was not on the Senate “to-do list (See nytimes.com., Fandos & Edomondson, 2/12/20).” The U.S. Attorney interference matter was, in Sen. John Cornyn’s (R-TX) words, “kind of immaterial.” Super Trump-loyalist Lindsey Graham, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was “not losing any sleep” over the four departing U.S. Attorneys. He believed that Donald had done “nothing wrong (nytimes.com, Fandos & Edmondson, 2/12/20).” LA GOP Sen. John Kennedy called Trump’s tweeting on this matter “very problematic” but believed the Justice Dept. “had been properly handling the situation.” (LOL). Even Sen. Mitt Romney who had voted to convict Trump in the impeachment trial stated that he didn’t have time to “get into the particulars of the Stone case and trusted the judge to do what is right.” Romney added, “I can’t begin to spend time discussing the president’s tweets. That would be a full-time job.” GOP Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of KY “had no opinion on that (nytimes.com, Fandos & Edmondson, 2/12/20).” Obstructionist top GOP planner Mitch suddenly was at a loss for words on a major issue. Susan Collins (R-ME) had a “convenient” memory lapse. After Trump’s “revenge tour” and attempted intervention in the court on Stone’s behalf, Collins now said that her vote to acquit Donald was “not based on predicting his future behavior (nytimes.com, Fandos & Edmondson).” When CNN’s Manu Raju asked Collins about her prior comment that Trump had learned his lesson by being impeached after all the post-impeachment retaliatory actions he had taken, Collins stated “she didn’t know what actions Raju was referring to (cnn.com, Cillizza, 2/12/20).” Wow! Suddenly Collins has ignorance of the Stone situation, the Vindman Brothers firings, or Atty. General Barr’s opening up a channel to deal with information, read, fake “dirt,” on Joe and son Hunter Biden, collected by wacko Rudy Giuliani. Sen. Collins, you have twisted yourself into a humungous pretzel trying to defend your vindictive/mercurial “Supreme Leader.” Sen. Collins, it is time for you to go in 11/2020. Obviously, the only lesson Trump learned from impeachment was that “Team Red” will follow him and bail him out no matter what (See Cillizza, cnn.com, 2/12/20).
And while Trump’s servile GOP will do anything to save him, we still have heroes we must support and admire. The U.S. Attorney Four deserve Medals of Freedom, not Rush Limbaugh. Terminally ill Rush still has the utter nerve to attack presidential candidate Mayor Pete Buttigieg for his sexual orientation (cnn.com/videos/politics). Unlike the U.S. Attorney Four, bigoted Rush has never had any “sense of decency.”
The U.S. Attorney Four are also no intellectual slouches. New Haven, CT native Aaron S.J. Zelinsky (36) graduated from Yale Law. He clerked for the late Supreme Ct. Justice John Paul Stevens and retired Supreme Ct. Justice Anthony Kennedy. He has written for the Yale Law Journal as well as the Alabama and Michigan Law Reviews. He taught constitutional law at Peking University and the University of MD. During the Obama administration, from 2010-2011, he served as Special Assistant to the State Dept. Legal Adviser Harold Koh. Zelinsky played a central role in prosecuting George Papadopoulos during the Mueller investigation. Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying about his contacts with Russian intermediaries during the 2016 campaign and served 14 days in jail (huffpost.com, 2/13/20, ctmirror.com, Bass, 2/14/20, Vigdor, nytimes.com, 2/11/20).
Adam Jed (38) graduated from Harvard Law and also clerked for Justice Stevens. Before joining the Mueller team, Jed worked in the Justice Dept.’s civil division as an appellate lawyer. In 2013, he argued that a ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional (nytimes.com, Vigdor, 2/11/20).
Michael Marando (42) graduated from Cornell Law. Before being part of the Stone sentencing team, he was an Assistant U.S. Atty. for the District of Columbia. In that post, he had prosecuted high profile money laundering, fraud, and sex offender cases. In 1/2020, Marando helped secure a 60-month prison sentence for a VA man who pleaded guilty to stealing over $1.3 million from companies and individuals by requiring deposits for bogus loans (nytimes.com, Vigdor, cornellsun.com, Penenory).
Jonathan Kravis (42) received his law degree from Yale. He clerked for D.C. Appeals Ct. Justice Merrick Garland, the jurist nominated by Obama to replace the late Supreme Ct. Justice Antonin Scalia but blocked by the GOP Senate under Mitch McConnell’s “leadership.” Kravis also clerked for Supreme Ct. Justice Stephen Breyer. Before being on the Stone sentencing team, Kravis was an associate White House counsel for Obama. He also was a trial attorney in the public integrity section of the Justice Dept.’s criminal division. At the time of his resignation, he was an Assistant U.S. Attorney. Neal Kaytal, a former acting U.S. Solicitor General under Obama, had taught Kravis at Yale Law almost two decades ago. He called Kravis “one of the best students I ever had. Glad to see he has a conscience to match his intellect (nytimes.com, Vigdor, law.com, Scarcella, 2/12/20).”
On 2/16/2020, more than 1,100 former Justice Dept. officials who served under both GOP and Democratic administrations posted a statement calling on Atty. General Barr to resign over the political damage he has done to that department (cnn.com, Jarrett, 2/16/20). We must continually protest this awful politicization of justice by the “Trump/Barr” DOI, Department of Injustice. Most important of all, to protect our democracy, on 11/03/2020, we must fire Trump, Barr, and their GOP lackeys in Congress by voting in droves plus. Elections matter.
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