Democrats claimed Mr. Trump politically interfered with justice, bullying the department into going easy on a political crony. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer proclaims “a crisis in the rule of law.” Rep. Adam Schiff (D., Impeachment) declared another “abuse of power.” The press is casting it as Example A of how a postacquittal Trump feels emboldened to ignore the law.
This has it entirely backward. Here’s what actually happened: Justice sources tell me that interim U.S. Attorney Tim Shea had told the department’s leadership he and other career officials in the office felt the proposed sentence was excessive. As the deadline for the filing neared, the prosecutors on the case nonetheless threatened to withdraw from the case unless they got their demands for these stiffest of penalties. Mr. Shea—new to the job—suffered a moment of cowardice and submitted to this ultimatum. The filing took Justice Department leaders by surprise, and the decision to reverse was made well before Mr. Trump tweeted, and with no communication with the White House. The revised filing, meanwhile, had the signature of the acting supervisor of the office’s criminal division, who is a career civil servant, not a political appointee.
This is Mr. Barr getting rid of politics in justice—as he promised.