Republicans were furious when Obama prejudged the Clinton case, and when Bill Clinton visited Attorney General Loretta Lynch on the Phoenix airport tarmac, which also posed at least an appearance problem. They were furious because the president’s statements and the attorney general’s actions seemed to violate Justice Department independence and presented at least an appearance of self-serving law enforcement. That is an important principle.
But where are Republicans on that principle today, when President Trump violates it much more often and much more crassly and in much more obviously self-serving ways, all of which are enormously destructive to public confidence in law enforcement by the Justice Department? The answer is familiar but still ugly: They don’t care about the principle when ignoring it serves their political interests. Which means: They don’t care about the principle.
As for Attorney General Barr: He has contributed to the perception of politicized law enforcement by giving interviews and speeches that appear to prejudge the investigation of the origins of the 2016 FBI investigation into President Trump, and that, more broadly, indicate that he sees many law enforcement and law-compliance issues through a left-right political lens. But now he has acted in a manner consistent with the president’s overt and highly political wishes to minimize Stone’s sentence, and the president has praised him for it. Whatever the reality of Barr’s decison-making process, it definitely appears that he bowed to the president’s politically self-serving wishes.