The Justice Department’s reputation is on life support

More worrisome is the naked countermand of the recommendation of career prosecutors in favor of a sweetheart recommendation for a political ally of the president. This is indefensible in the U.S. justice system for any reason, least of all raw political favoritism.

I have never experienced or even heard of a situation in which a career prosecutor had been ordered to withdraw a sentencing memorandum within the guidelines’ range. The original filing in the Stone case came from two career federal prosecutors and two special assistant U.S. attorneys. This rebuke has to be maddening for them.

As a general matter, the Justice Department and the White House are supposed to communicate only in rare, well-defined instances and almost never about the results of individual cases. Such contact is a third rail. For those of us committed to the normal course of legal justice, it cuts into bone for the department to do the White House’s bidding in a case in which the president has a strong personal stake.