“More than 1,100 former federal prosecutors and Justice Department officials called on Attorney General William P. Barr on Sunday to step down after he intervened last week to lower the Justice Department’s sentencing recommendation for President Trump’s longtime friend Roger J. Stone, Jr.,” The New York Times reported on Sunday—if you can call it reporting.
Not once in the 800-word article did the Times address the overwhelming evidence that the thousand-plus signatories were politically motivated critics of President Donald Trump. In fact, to the contrary, the Times claimed “the former Justice Department lawyers” “came from across the political spectrum” to sign the open letter that condemned “President Trump’s and Attorney General Barr’s interference in the fair administration of justice.” Those actions, the much-touted letter claimed, “require Mr. Barr to resign.”
The letter and the charge that Barr interfered “in the fair administration of justice” focused on the decision last week by senior Department of Justice officials to override the recommendation lower-level prosecutors had made for a nine-year prison sentence for Roger Stone. The AG’s office viewed a nine-year sentence recommendation as too severe for Stone’s non-violent offenses but did not make a specific recommendation for an appropriate prison sentence.
Barr denied politics played any role in the DOJ’s decision and the Justice Department stressed that no one had discussed the Stone case with anyone at the White House. And there is no evidence to the contrary. Nonetheless, several Democrats pounced, pushing for Barr to resign, or, as Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren threatened, be impeached.
Over the weekend and earlier this week, left-leaning media outlets coalesced on the latest anti-Trump conspiracy theory, using the letter of the former DOJ employees to bolster the appearance of impropriety. In addition to the Times, Jennifer Rubin at the Washington Post pointed to the 1,100 signatories as evidence of Trump’s misconduct and Barr’s supposed acquiescence. (At least Rubin wrote under the opinion category, unlike the Times article.)
NPR likewise parroted the misleading claim that “the signatories on a letter have worked under both Republican and Democratic administrations,” when interviewing Julie Zebrak, one of the signatories and a former DOJ attorney of nearly 20 years. NPR did provide a tad of pushback, though, asking Zebrak what she would say to listeners who dismiss what she says as “partisanship.” Zebrak’s reply followed the same misdirection, noting that “if you look at the list, you’ll see that almost everyone on that list has served through multiple administrations, including Republican and Democrat.”
That may well be true, but as Peter Strzok and Lisa Page proved beyond doubt, you can be an extreme, left-leaning, hate-filled partisan and work in (and against) Republican administrations. Had the New York Times, the Washington Post, NPR, or any of the other liberal outlets bothered to act like journalists instead of the PR arms of Democratic and anti-Trump outfits, they would have quickly discovered evidence of a partisan bias underlying the letter calling for Barr’s resignation.
First, as The New York Times noted, “Protect Democracy, a nonprofit legal group, gathered the signatures from Justice Department alumni and said it would collect more.” Here’s what the Times and other outlets failed to report: Protect Democracy was founded in 2017 by Ian Bassin, who was the associate White House counsel for President Barack Obama from 2009-2011, and Justin Florence, who also served in the Office of the White House Counsel as a special assistant to the president and associate counsel of the president.
Bassin is also the president of the liberal American Constitution Society and Florence had also served as a senior counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee for Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.). Protect Democracy also boasts a Who’s Who of the Never Trump resistance as advisors, such as failed presidential candidate Evan McMullin and running mate Mindy Finn.
The media also missed the reality that this latest attack on Barr (and in turn Trump) is nothing but a recycling of Protect Democracy’s earlier outrage over the Robert Mueller report. Shortly after the special counsel’s report issued, the same outfit ran the same “we are former federal prosecutors” who “served under both Republican and Democratic administrations” schtick to argue that Trump should have been charged with multiple felonies for obstruction of justice. As the following snippet shows, the signatories, for the most part, overlapped as well.
So, what about those signatories? They spun themselves as apolitical, by stressing they worked for both Democratic and Republican administrations, but a quick visit to the Federal Elections Commission website to search for political contributions, aided by some amazing crowdsourcing, revealed extensive contributions to Democrats and liberal organizations by many of the signatories—so many, in fact, I called off the troops.
Surely the Times, or Washington Post, or NPR could put a research assistant on the project and determine how many of the 1,000-plus names have contributed to Democrats versus Republicans. Or at least sampled 10 percent of the Barr-bashers. But no. They couldn’t even research campaign contributions by the individuals named in their articles!
“The letter’s signatories included Donald Ayer, a former deputy attorney general under President George Bush, and about 50 former U.S. attorneys,” the Times reported, while ignoring that Ayer has donated to a slew of Democrats—and no Republicans—in recent years.
NPR likewise seemed completely lacking in curiosity about Julie Zebrak’s background when interviewing her and accepted at face value her claim that she “would have the same feeling if there was a Democrat in the White House and a Democrat at the helm of the Department of Justice.” Maybe. Or maybe Zebrak just wants a Democrat back in the White House.
Rubin likewise ignored the easily discovered political predisposition of the signatories she spoke with. Former prosecutor Renato Mariotti told Rubin, “the sheer number of signatures is surprising, given that many DOJ alumni represent clients adverse to the department.” Maybe not so surprising, though, when you consider the proof of a political motive, albeit not so flush in the case of Mariotti.
Then there was Noah Bookbinder, who told Rubin, “the outrageousness of the intervention hasn’t been fully understood by the public yet, and I hope this letter will help the magnitude of it start to break through.” While a search for recent political donations turned up blank for Bookbinder, Rubin reported he heads Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. What she failed to mention was the organization’s anti-Trump bias.
Rubin also buried the bias in quoting former prosecutor Mimi Rocah, the latter of whom called the letter “extraordinary.” “Usually buttoned-up and wary of calling attention to themselves, more than 1,100 bipartisan [attorneys] with hundreds of years of combined service under dozens of attorneys general in a very short time signed this statement calling for AG to resign,” Rocah told Rubin. Rocha’s one-sided political contributions—and those of her comrades—give lie to the apolitical sale’s pitch.
The “bipartisan” bull in the “buttoned-up and wary of calling attention to themselves” line is laughable given that Rocah signed the earlier letter concerning Mueller’s report, as did hundreds of her straight-laced, limelight-avoiding compatriots.
Likewise laughable is that The New York Times continues to hold any cachet in this country when the Old Grey Lady has proven time and again a prostitute will part with her reputation for petty politics. And that is exactly what the attacks on Barr are.