The rule of law is essential to the enduring strength of the nation and its economy.
Voters should keep that in mind as they consider whether to reelect President Donald Trump, whose efforts to undermine the judicial system’s legitimacy are deeply troubling.
This is not a partisan issue. Attacking the courts and hyper-politicizing prosecution is intolerable regardless of who is in office.
In recent weeks, Trump smeared the courts, pardoned a rogues’ gallery of notorious lawbreakers and prodded prosecutors to go easy on a thuggish crony caught lying to Congress. Then he declared himself chief law enforcement officer. Where is the widespread outrage that helped check overreach by past administrations — are Americans too worn down to care?
Six Trump associates and campaign leaders have now been convicted of crimes, including lying and deceiving Congress. These are not petty crimes. They were not prosecuted because of a liberal conspiracy or witch hunt by Democrats; rather, they were prosecuted by federal attorneys in the Trump administration.
Roger Stone, the latest crony sentenced to jail, was found guilty of seven felonies, including obstructing a congressional investigation, making numerous false statements to Congress and witness tampering. The latter included threats to kill a witness and his dog, including a message that said “prepare to die, [expletive].” Stone also threatened the judge, posting a picture with rifle crosshairs added.
After prosecutors suggested a seven-year jail sentence, Trump tweeted that was “horrible and very unfair” and “cannot allow this miscarriage of justice!” There should be no dispute that what was horrible was Stone’s behavior.
As if on cue, Attorney General William Barr withdrew the recommendation. The department then told the judge “far less” prison time “would be reasonable” — prompting four prosecutors to resign from the case, including one who quit the job. Barr later complained about Trump’s tweets, saying they “make it impossible for me to do my job and to assure the courts and the prosecutors in the department that we’re doing our work with integrity.”
So even Barr is saying Trump’s going too far. Though Barr could also be trying to avoid going down in history as a toady. Perhaps he should have intervened before the higher sentence was recommended.
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson ultimately sentenced Stone to 40 months for his criminal behavior.
“If it goes unpunished, it will not be a victory for one party or another; everyone loses,” Jackson said during sentencing.
At this point, Trump and his supporters cannot deny that his inner circle during the tainted 2016 campaign included multiple criminals and liars. They were prosecuted on his watch, by his administration.
Rather than disavow or condemn the crooks, Trump is attacking the justice system and undermining the rule of law. That causes lasting harm in pursuit of his short-term political gains.
Voters should consider what this all says about Trump’s judgment and values, not to mention how it reflects on the country.
It’s one thing to elect an unconventional president who shakes things up. It’s something else altogether to elect one who knocks down pillars of government to deflect attention from his pals’ criminal behavior.
This year’s election is time to consider what core values transcend partisanship. Is it worth winning a fight to lose what we’re all fighting for?
Hyper-politicizing the judicial branch of government and meddling in federal law enforcement makes America weaker and worse, not stronger or better.