Nothing to see here in the unraveling days of our republic. Except this: In one explosive day, all four federal prosecutors of convicted felon, Trump bestie and "cockroach of American politics" Roger Stone abruptly resigned after William Barr's supposedly impartial Department of Justice - which at this point should probably be renamed the Department of Cover-Up - butted in to reverse the recommendation of their own lawyers, who in a carefully reasoned, 26-page sentencing memo followed federal guidelines to argue Stone should serve 7 to 9 years in prison after being convicted by a jury of his peers on all charges of lying to and obstructing Congress in their Russia investigation, threatening witnesses, and, during his trial, trying to tamper with the jury and even bully the judge. Despite the seeming seriousness of those offenses - but her emails! - the DOJ, alleged defender of the rule of law, contended the sentence was "extreme, excessive and grossly disproportionate," a sudden, virtually unprecedented stand that obviously had nothing to do with the 2 a.m. Twitter hissy fit thrown by their Lord and Master, in which he pulled a Roy Cohn, fabricated the imaginary claim "the real crimes were on the other side," and wailed Stone's was "a horrible and very unfair situation...Cannot allow this miscarriage of justice!"
The Justice Department's virtually unprecedented decision to override its own prosecutors in order to call for a lighter sentence in a multiple-felony conviction prompted the swift and principled resignation of the four prosecutors - Aaron Zelinsky, Jonathan Kravis, Adam Jed and Michael Marando - who all heard about the usurpation of power on Fox News. All four were well-regarded career prosecutors; Jed and Zelinsky were on Robert Mueller's team, and Zelinsky quit not just his job but the DOJ. The historic Trump-says-jump-Barr-says-how-high moment of peak corruption was met with widespread horror: Critics called it "a shocking, cram-down political intervention in the criminal justice process" and a "break-glass-in-case-of-fire moment for justice in America." Many found the already sleazy Barr's growing complicity especially remarkable; one federal prosecutor noted that Barr now seems to both share and flaunt Trump's view of "his political opponents as crooks and his allies as righteous, regardless of the facts or the law." "It's an earthquake," said former ethical chief Walter Shaub. "The corruption of DOJ under Barr is now complete. Absolutely every decision the agency makes from now on will be suspect."
Starting, in fact, with their very next one: Shortly after the resignations, Justice (sic) officials announced they would seek a considerably lighter, two to four year sentence for Stone, urging Judge Amy Berman Jackson to consider Stone’s “advanced age, health, personal circumstances and lack of criminal history in fashioning an appropriate sentence.” Ultimately, intriguingly, Jackson gets to decide whether to accept their recommendation. Meanwhile, because "this is what an unleashed Trump looks like," the mad king is feverishly proving he has no interest whatsoever in learning any of those Collins-like "lessons," thanks. Since that 2 a.m. rant, he's flooded Twitter with raging, gloating, bonkers missives, from calling the prosecutors "illegal" and "cut and run," to lamenting Hillary's campaign manager's brother was never jailed (WTF) to lauding the lickspittle Barr for "taking charge." He also laughably insisted to reporters he had nothing to do with DOJ going full outlaw: He thought "the whole prosecution was ridiculous," it was "an insult to our country and it shouldn't happen," and he had "the absolute right" to tamper with whatever he wants including justice, but still, of course, he would never, and also he has a very nice bridge he'd like to sell you.
In case you have any doubts, in the words of one horrified observer, "the rule of law is collapsing in real time," there was also this today: Near the end of another unhinged grievance fest, Trump suggested maybe he hasn't punished Lt. Col. Vindman enough for telling the truth; the military "can handle him any way they want," he said about possible disciplinary action, "but if you look at what happened, they’re going to certainly, I would imagine, take a look at that." He also just withdrew Elaine McCusker's nomination for a Defense position because she tried to follow the law on Ukraine; this White House, explained an official, “needs people who are committed to implementing the president’s agenda...and not trying to thwart it.” He also did some other stuff so scummy and complex we can barely follow it, but it involves swapping accomplices in and out of jobs fast enough they never have to face confirmation and getting his judge sister to resign before she has to testify about her crimes because, duh, she's a Trump. Oh yeah, and Senate Republicans blocked THREE election security bills. Two called for illegal foreign election interference to be reported to authorities; one would have made voting machines harder to hack. Banana Republic, if you can keep it.
Arrested. Photo by Lynne Sladky/AP