Past prosecutors are also free to be clear about the impact of Trump’s interference and Barr’s eager participation. “In essence, the leadership of the Justice Department has commandeered the sentencing in a politically sensitive criminal matter, reversing the position uniformly accepted and promoted by the career prosecutors,” said a former head of the Justice Department’s counterintelligence and export control section.
Trump’s intervention in the Stone sentencing—the sentencing of a man whose crimes were committed as part of his role as an intermediary between WikiLeaks and the Trump campaign—follows Trump having Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman fired from his White House job for testifying under subpoena before the House, and making clear that the firing was retaliation. It follows Barr setting up a smear-job pipeline for information from Rudy Giuliani attacking Trump’s political opponents, continuing out in the open the project that Trump was impeached for beginning in secret.
And it cannot be overstated how much Trump’s intervention in a federal criminal case violates the standard of behavior that presidents since Richard Nixon have worked to uphold. As Barr himself said in 2001 of the Justice Department’s independence from political pressure, “You didn’t mess around with it, didn’t intervene, you didn’t interfere.” Now Barr is at the top of the Justice Department with the reverse motto: Intervene, interfere.