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Barr Pushes Back on Claim That Trump Is Using DOJ to Punish Opponents

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Attorney General William Barr is fighting back against allegations that the Department of Justice (DOJ) has been weaponized to prosecute political opponents of President Donald Trump while benefiting his allies. 

During testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, Barr pushed back against claims that Trump has used the DOJ to benefit his allies and prosecute his opponents. 

“I would just ask people, I’m supposedly punishing the president’s enemies and helping his friends,” Barr said, adding, “What enemies have I indicted? Could you point to one indictment that has been under the department that you feel has been unmerited? That you feel violates the rule of law.”

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While Barr faced questions over the department’s decision to recommend a lighter prison sentence for Roger Stone and filed a motion to drop the prosecution of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, Barr argued that he was trying to “rectify the rule of law to make sure people are treated the same.”

In February, the Justice Department rescinded the original sentencing recommendation of seven to nine years, which it argued was “excessive.”

Stone was convicted on charges of obstruction of justice, witness tampering, and lying to Congress, and he was sentenced to three years and four months in prison.

And in May, the department filed to drop its prosecution of Flynn, as IJR reported. Flynn was charged with, and pleaded guilty to, making false statements to the FBI.

However, the Justice Department said further prosecution would “not serve the interests of justice.”

However, Barr argued on Tuesday that those decisions were not made to benefit the allies of Trump, “I agree the president’s friends don’t deserve special breaks. But they also don’t deserve to be treated more harshly than other people.”

“But that is what the rule of law is, and that’s what fairness to the individual ultimately comes to. Being willing to do what’s fair to the individual,” he added. 

Additionally, Barr noted that Stone was prosecuted and convicted under his tenure, and he found the prosecution to be “righteous.”

Despite Barr’s views on the Stone prosecution, Trump announced that he would commute Stone’s sentence.

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While Barr has taken a series of steps that his critics argue have benefited Trump’s allies, the department has also declined to prosecute two individuals the president regularly railed against.

In August 2019, the department said it would not prosecute former FBI Director James Comey after an inspector general report determined that he leaked classified information to the media. 

And in February 2020, the Justice Department announced it would not prosecute FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe for allegedly lying to investigators.

Barr argued that the department had strayed from its adherence to the rule of law and was unfairly punishing allies of the president and subjecting them to harsher treatment than others.

However, Congressional Democrats have regularly raised concerns that Barr has been using the department to protect Trump’s associates, and they have demanded Barr provide insight into several controversial decisions. 

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