A Catastrophe for the DOJ

May 8, 2020 11:19 a.m.

From TPM Reader ANON

Your brief write-up is true as far as it goes, but doesn’t even scratch the surface of what a long-term catastrophe this will be for the Justice Department. I’ve been around federal law enforcement for virtually all of my career — as a federal prosecutor, defense lawyer, official at top levels of Main Justice, and judge — and I don’t think the Department has ever suffered a greater self-inflicted wound.

Good lawyers and law enforcement agents give up lucrative careers to serve the Department, and then work tremendously hard, usually in complete obscurity, because they want to feel like they’re doing the right thing. Now they know that their work and their professional reputations are expendable in Barr’s DOJ.

The public in general, and jurors in particular, will lose faith that DOJ follows the law — making it harder to get convictions even in non-political cases.

For many judges, this will undermine their willingness to assume DOJ’s good faith and honesty for as long as Barr is in charge, and likely even longer (their handling of the pandemic’s effect on prisoners ain’t helping in that department, either). Prosecutors and agents rely on that presumption not only to win marginal cases but also to make their jobs easier so that they can bring more cases than would be possible if they had to satisfy more skeptical judges.

It’s hard to overstate the importance of DOJ’s good reputation to the success of its mission. Both in terms of attracting and keeping good lawyers and agents, and in terms of bringing and winning cases, today’s debacle will haunt DOJ for years. Michael Flynn won’t nearly be the last criminal to benefit from that.

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