I don’t have an editor or owner hanging overhead. I wear both hats; so this column I write twice monthly is mine alone–successful or otherwise.
Sometimes, I’m stumped. No idea what to write about. Mostly I just cock an ear toward the Universe and listen. To be honest, that’s what I’ve always done. And I have to say that it requires something–a leap of faith, say–to collapse your faculties, lower your flag, and just listen.
To take dictation from who knows what or where.
But that’s what I do. Weirdly, it’s also what I rely on when I know exactly what I want to say. The Voice tells me how to phrase it.
Now, the Chief is a proper writer and works hard at it–she writes, reads, re-reads , edits, then re-edits, and I don’t truly understand what any of that means.
I have never really written anything. I’ve transcribed. I am a secretary.
And what am I hearing as I type this page? The Department of Justice, the rattle of its death throes, as an independent DOJ goes the way of the Dodo.
Am I hearing this right?
Apart from his power to pardon, the president feels entitled to meddle in criminal cases he has an interest in? The attorney general feels duty-bound to abide by him?
Am I hearing right the news last week that, via Twitter, the president suggested to his attorney general that the sentencing recommendation against his longtime advisor, Roger Stone, was too harsh? Stone had been convicted of seven felonies and, according to standard guidelines, the prosecution recommended a prison sentence between seven and nine years. Am I hearing right that the attorney general obliged the president by ordering his prosecutors to lower their original recommendation to a maximum sentence of four years?
Ultimately, Stone’s sentencing will be up to the judge who presided over his case, U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson. I hope she gives him 10 years. Yes–a full decade. The attorney general will be powerless to oppose this. But Stone will still be able to avail himself of an appeal, and there could always, as mentioned, be a presidential pardon in the offing.
Though extreme in its blatancy in this case, a pardon would be the sole legitimate remedy available to the president. People might balk at, might complain about and mock such an action–but it would be acceptable.
Why, with the power of the pardon in his back pocket, is the president even bothering with these machinations? Because he can’t control himself. If he could we might still be living in the United States instead of, as the president once put it, a “sh*t hole country.” A country, say, where the rule of law is being undermined, where once-respected apparati are under attack, journalism is a dirty word and our dear leader behaves with impunity. In other words, a banana republic.
It is unacceptable–past that, it’s an outrage–for the president to use DOJ as his personal political magic wand, lightening sentences for some and possibly stiffening them for others.
The guidelines for sentencing are standardized to prevent justice from being Balkanized. That is to say, wherever one is in the country, federal penalties will remain constant. They are not to differ by region, red or blue state, or individual.
Or by decree from on high. Just imagine how capricious that could be. How autocratic.
From Bloomberg News: “The history of the department, when it’s written, will have two parts–before Trump and after Trump,” said Patrick Cotter, a former federal prosecutor. “This is the hinge.”
Finally, did I hear it right when on ABC News last Thursday the attorney general urged the president to stop tweeting about ongoing criminal cases? That such tweets make his job “impossible?”
“I cannot do my job here at the department with a constant background commentary that undercuts me,” he said. “It’s time to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases.”
Because, as a proponent of expanded presidential authority, the attorney general doubtless sees his “job” as enabling the president in his nefarious schemes–if only the president would cease calling attention to them. On Twitter.
He is asking the president to quit shining so bright a light on what amounts to overt corruption.
There’s irony for you. He is not saying the president interferes with his job, proper; he is saying, I think, that the president interferes with the jobs he’s trying to do for him quietly.