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Bill Barr's moves signal 'a political infestation' at Justice Dept

Trump blurted out an admission of sorts, confirming that his handpicked attorney general "took charge" of a case involving one of his friends.
Image: Attorney General Barr Announces Findings Into Pensacola Naval Base Shooting
Attorney General William Barr during a press conference on the shooting at the Pensacola naval base, in Washington on Jan. 13, 2020.Win McNamee / Getty Images file

It was just last month when there was an unexpected shake-up in the U.S. Attorney's office in Washington, D.C. Jessie Liu, who was leading the office, was replaced by Timothy Shea -- Barr's longtime aide -- at which point there were some notable developments that appeared awfully political.

In the case of former White House National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, for example, prosecutors backed off a sentencing recommendation of six months behind bars, instead telling a court that probation would be appropriate. In the case of Republican operative Roger Stone, the U.S. Attorney's office backed off another sentencing recommendation yesterday, prompting four prosecutors to resign and sparking a crisis at the Justice Department.

Naturally, there have been widespread questions about possible interference in prosecutorial decision-making. An NBC News report helped answer those questions last night, noting that Attorney General William Barr has, in both the Flynn and Stone cases, taken "control of legal matters of personal interest to President Donald Trump, according to multiple people familiar with the matter."

A quote from the piece rang true:

"This signals to me that there has been a political infestation," NBC News legal analyst Chuck Rosenberg, a former U.S. attorney in Virginia, said on MSNBC. "And that is the single most dangerous thing that you can do to the Department of Justice."

While the Justice Department would clearly prefer that the public believe a more benign version of events -- the DOJ argued yesterday, for example, that it was just a coincidence that the department backed off a Stone sentencing memo after a presidential tweet on the subject -- Donald Trump clearly isn't helping matters. He published this tweet a few hours ago:

"Congratulations to Attorney General Bill Barr for taking charge of a case that was totally out of control and perhaps should not have even been brought. Evidence now clearly shows that the Mueller Scam was improperly brought [and] tainted. Even Bob Mueller lied to Congress!"

That was soon followed by another condemnation of the original Stone sentencing memo, in which the president questioned whether it was prepared by "rogue prosecutors" and members of "the swamp."

Or put another way, it appears Trump, relying on Twitter, blurted out an admission of sorts, confirming that his handpicked attorney general "took charge" of a case involving one of his friends and former campaign aides, unnecessarily intervening in criminal proceedings.

It's a curious thing for the president to celebrate in public, though he does have a habit of inadvertent confessions.