As the nation is justifiably distracted by the threatening coronavirus pandemic, U.S. Attorney General William Barr is systematically dismantling the cases filed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller against associates of President Donald Trump.
In yet another reversal in a case initiated by Mueller, DOJ filed a motion this week to dismiss charges against two Russian businesses. It’s another curious filing by the Department of Justice that should not be lost amid news about COVID-19.
As noted by former prosecutor Barbara McQuade in a column for Justice.org, the Justice Department has already filed revised memoranda seeking more lenient sentences for Trump indicted associates. And now, it has filed a motion to dismiss the charges against Concord Management and Consulting LLC and Concord Catering, companies run by a man known as “Putin’s chef.”
From the column:
“In 2018, Mueller indicted the two businesses along with 13 Russian individuals and the Internet Research Agency, alleging conspiracy to defraud the United States by engaging in a disinformation campaign to interfere with the 2016 presidential election. The Concord entities are controlled by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a wealthy businessman with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Prigozhin was one of the Russian individuals who were sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury for election interference.
DOJ has already filed revised memos reducing its sentencing recommendations for Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his discussions with the Russian ambassador. It has done the same for Roger Stone, who was convicted at trial for obstructing a congressional investigation into Russian interference. “
In the Stone case, the revised sentencing memo came only after Trump tweeted that the government’s initial sentencing recommendation was “horrible,” “very unfair” and a “miscarriage of justice.” Timothy Shea, the former aide to Attorney General William Barr who replaced the D.C. U.S. Attorney in January, overruled the sentencing recommendation of career prosecutors, who then withdrew from the case. One prosecutor resigned from DOJ altogether.
Throughout his handling of the Mueller investigation, Barr undermined his own credibility through his conduct, McQuade writes, pointing out that a federal judge has accused Barr of publicly spinning the Mueller Report in a way that was “distorted” and “misleading.” Barr has referred to the FBI’s investigation of the Trump campaign as “spying,” a loaded term that is not routinely used at DOJ.
In May, Trump gave Barr unprecedented authority over all U.S. intelligence agencies to make all decisions relating to classified information as part of his review of the Mueller investigation. Now that he is directing the dismissal of charges, his decisions can only be met with suspicion. Is he protecting Trump from the disclosure of facts that will cause Americans to question the legitimacy of his election as president, which Trump adviser Hope Hicks told Mueller’s investigators was Trump’s “Achilles heel”?
“As a federal prosecutor, I was always mindful that the credibility I enjoyed was earned not so much by me, but through the work of the DOJ lawyers across the country who came before me,” McQuade writes. “By damaging his own credibility, Barr is inviting speculation that he is quietly dismantling the work of Mueller.”
Barr has famously said that he is not concerned about his reputation because “everyone dies”.
“While he is entitled to hold nihilistic views about himself, he has a higher duty to the department he leads,” she concluded.