On Thursday, Attorney General William P. Barr urged President Trump not to tweet about ongoing criminal matters, saying it makes it “impossible for me to do my job.”
On Friday, we got two separate reminders of just how many cases Trump has weighed in on. And one of them showed just how fruitful his efforts appear to have been.
The Washington Post confirmed that Barr has tasked an outside prosecutor with scrutinizing the case against Michael Flynn as well as other sensitive national security and public corruption cases. Trump has repeatedly decried the Justice Department’s actions regarding Flynn, who is awaiting sentencing. He has even doubted that Flynn lied, despite his pleading guilty to doing so.
“They ought to be ashamed of themselves — what they’ve done to General Flynn, what they’ve done to others,” Trump said Monday of his former national security adviser.
“And what they did to General Flynn is very unfair, in my opinion,” he said in December.
Trump also seemed to suggest in late 2018 what Flynn, who struck an agreement to cooperate with the government, should tell the courts.
Good luck today in court to General Michael Flynn. Will be interesting to see what he has to say, despite tremendous pressure being put on him, about Russian Collusion in our great and, obviously, highly successful political campaign. There was no Collusion!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 18, 2018
The whole thing bears striking similarities to the case of Roger Stone, whose sentence recommendation Barr intervened to reduce this week, triggering upheaval within the Justice Department. In each case, Trump criticized the department’s treatment of a Trump ally; in both cases, Barr has inserted himself in an unorthodox manner that invites accusations of politicization.
Those also invite comparison to U.S. Attorney John Durham’s investigation. Trump practically begged the Justice Department to probe the origins of the Russia investigation. After former attorney general Jeff Sessions begged off such theories, Barr took over and appointed Durham to look into it. The New York Times reported this week that Durham appears to be “hunting for a basis to accuse Obama-era intelligence officials of hiding evidence or manipulating analysis.”
But not every Trump effort has yielded his desired result. We also got news Friday on another case in which Trump has interfered with his public comments. Former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe’s lawyers told The Washington Post that the Justice Department has closed its investigation into whether it would charge him with lying to investigators. The move will undoubtedly infuriate Trump, who has repeatedly derided McCabe.
Trump both successfully pushed for McCabe’s ouster from the FBI and, since we learned that McCabe was under investigation, has suggested he was guilty.
On Tuesday, when the investigation was still ostensibly open, Trump lumped McCabe in with others who launched the Russia investigation. “Nothing happened with all the people that did it and launched this scam,” Trump said, adding: “What’s happening to McCabe? … What’s happening with them? It was a whole setup, it was a disgrace for our country, and everyone knows it too.”
After it was reported in September that the Justice Department had authorized charges against McCabe, Trump retweeted a comment from Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Tex.) urging the Justice Department to follow through.
If reports are accurate that the DOJ is recommending charges against former FBI Deputy Director Andy McCabe, I’m not surprised. As I told @MariaBartiromo Sunday, to do otherwise would be an admission of different legal standards applied to the same conduct for political reasons. pic.twitter.com/ebfxrtYRt4
— John Ratcliffe (@RepRatcliffe) September 12, 2019
Trump also quoted Fox News pundit Joe DiGenova that month calling McCabe a “dirty cop.”
Another name the president mentioned Tuesday as apparently deserving punishment? McCabe’s former boss, ex-FBI director James B. Comey.
We learned last month that Comey is also under investigation for potential leaking-related charges, and Trump has also commented on his case. When the news was reported, Trump retweeted a New York Times story approvingly. A week later, Trump said Comey “lied to Congress and did so many other bad things.”
The president’s commentary about cases involving his current and former allies is even more voluminous.
Along with Flynn and Stone, Trump has decried the treatment of former campaign chairman Paul Manafort while his case was underway. “It’s very sad what’s happened to Paul, the way he’s bring treated,” Trump said. “I’ve never seen anybody treated so poorly.” Trump also suggested that his former personal attorney Michael Cohen made up stories about him to get a more lenient prison sentence. All of that occurred while those two cases were underway.
“Michael Cohen asks judge for no Prison Time.” You mean he can do all of the TERRIBLE, unrelated to Trump, things having to do with fraud, big loans, Taxis, etc., and not serve a long prison term? He makes up stories to get a GREAT & ALREADY reduced deal for himself, and get…..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 3, 2018
And then there’s Tony Podesta. As the Justice Department scrutinized his overseas work, Trump repeatedly suggested he was guilty.
“Podesta was supposed to be Manafort on steroids,” the president said in August 2018. “They made him close up his firm. He was going to be indicted the next day, we heard. Never happened. Instead they go after Manafort.”
Trump also directly asked in May 2018 why Podesta was still a free man.
….and why hasn’t the Podesta brother been charged and arrested, like others, after being forced to close down his very large and successful firm? Is it because he is a VERY well connected Democrat working in the Swamp of Washington, D.C.?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 20, 2018
“Why hasn’t the Podesta brother been charged and arrested, like others, after being forced to close down his very large and successful firm?” he asked in a tweet.
Podesta eventually saw his case closed with no charges, just like McCabe has. So, clearly, Trump’s effort to lean on his Justice Department isn’t always so successful.
In the cases of Stone, Flynn and Durham, though, he provided a steady stream of commentary that preceded Barr’s taking a friendly action. The sudden onslaught of news on those cases this week meant Trump’s paper trail was suddenly unhelpful, but the paper trail has been there for Barr’s entire tenure. He just decided to speak up about it.
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