Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

President Donald Trump listens to Attorney General William Barr during the 38th Annual National Peace Officers' Memorial Service at the west front of the Capitol May 15, 2019 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump listens to Attorney General William Barr during the 38th Annual National Peace Officers' Memorial Service at the west front of the Capitol May 15, 2019 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

How Justice Works in the Trump-Barr System

In furtherance of his sycophancy, nothing pleases Barr more than doing things that please the Trump.

Christopher Brauchli

"There is no such thing as justice—in or out of court."
—Clarence Darrow, 1936 Interview

A number of readers have asked me to explain the different ways the Trump justice system impacts those who have been convicted of criminal activity. It is the mark of a truly just justice system that not every criminal is treated the same since it suggests that there is a concern for the individual and not a mindless imposition of punishment on those convicted of criminal activity notwithstanding their other virtues. And so it was that within a very short time we saw how a Trumpian justice system furthers the cause of justice.

Of the recent examples the most notable is, of course, the commutation of the four year, four month sentence of Roger Stone. Stone is a man who has, until recently, avoided the consequences that flow from lack of integrity, as brilliantly described in the Netflix drama about Stone's career. Of course, lack of integrity can sometimes has adverse consequences, as Stone learned when he was convicted of seven felony counts, including witness tampering and lying to investigators. And further adverse consequences can flow from such convictions, as Stone learned when the judge in his trial imposed a sentence of 40 months in federal prison. Here is something else Stone learned. He learned that properly placed friends can be more important than avoiding the consequences of criminal conviction for unlawful activities. And no friend can be more properly placed than the man permitted by the people to live in the White House.

The Trump has long been a friend and colleague of Stone. In an apt demonstration of how justice works in the Trump world, the Trump commuted Stone's sentence, meaning Stone would not have to serve any time in prison. Explaining the reason for the commutation, Kayleigh McEnany, the Trump mouthpiece, explained away Stone's witness tampering and lying, saying: "Roger Stone is a victim of the Russia hoax that the Left and its allies in the media perpetuated for years in an attempt to undermine the Trump presidency." In other words he was convicted of seven felonies because of the investigation of corrupt activities involving the 2016 election. She concluded her remarks saying: "Roger Stone is a free man!"

A second example of justice in the Trump era is provided by William Barr. Barr is the attorney general of the United States and a sycophant of the Trump. In furtherance of his sycophancy, nothing pleases him more than doing things that please the Trump. The conviction of Michael Flynn afforded Barr the perfect opportunity to demonstrate his eagerness to please the Trump.

Flynn's career as a Trump crony began on November 18, 2016 when he was named the Trump's national security adviser. During December 2016 he discussed with the Russian ambassador U.S. sanctions on Russia imposed by the Obama administration. In describing those conversations to Mike Pence he misled Pence as to the nature of the conversations. When that was disclosed, the Trump dismissed Flynn, explaining that he did so because Flynn "had lied to the vice president and the FBI."

On December 1, 2017, Flynn pled guilty to lying to FBI investigators about his communications with the Russian ambassador. While Flynn awaited sentencing, the Trump concluded that Flynn had been improperly charged. When the Trump came to that conclusion Flynn had already twice pled guilty. In response to the Trump's concern, Barr took the unusual step of asking the judge in the case where Flynn was awaiting sentencing to dismiss the charges, thus bringing an end to the prosecution of Flynn. The judge refused to dismiss the case and Barr then appealed to the next higher court to compel the dismissal. As this is written it is not known whether the case against Flynn will be dismissed or whether Flynn will be sentenced by the trial court.

Justice is, of course, not always deflected in the Trump world. Daniel Lewis Lee and Wesley Purkey could attest to that were they still with us. The United States has not made use of the death penalty since 2003. The executions of Lee and Purkey on July 14 and 16 respectively ended that hiatus. Daniel Lewis Lee was executed on July 14, 2020 over the objections of the family of his victims, who sought a life in prison sentence for him instead of imposition of the death penalty. Wesley Purkey, whose execution had been put on hold by a federal judge to determine his mental competency, was executed on July 16 after the U.S. Supreme Court lifted the stay.

The reawakening of the death penalty as a tool to be used to punish certain convicted criminals was explained by the Trump sycophant in response to one of Lee's lawyers who said, after Lee's execution, that it was "shameful that the government, in the end, carried out this execution in haste." Not wanting to permit that appeal to decency to go unanswered, Barr responded: "We owe it to the victims and their families to carry forward the sentence imposed by our justice system."

As we now know, nothing is owed to a country whose national security adviser admits to lying under oath to investigators, nor is anything owed to the country when a sometime close friend of the Trump is sentenced to prison following his conviction on seven felony counts. That is how justice in the Trump-Barr justice system works.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Christopher Brauchli

Christopher Brauchli

Christopher Brauchli is a columnist and lawyer known nationally for his work. He is a graduate of Harvard University and the University of Colorado School of Law where he served on the Board of Editors of the Rocky Mountain Law Review. He can be emailed at For political commentary see his web page at

Rev. Barber Says West Virginians Are Ready for 'Non-Violent Sit-Ins' Against Manchin for Abetting GOP Voter Suppression

"This is a moral issue, a constitutional issue, and we're gonna stand and fight against it—even if we gotta go to jail."

Jake Johnson, staff writer ·

'Sorely Disappointed' by Court Ruling, Pipeline Foes Demand Biden 'Act Immediately to Stop Line 3'

"Every day President Biden refuses to stop the Line 3 pipeline is a slap in the face to environmental justice communities and a renewed breaking of his promises on climate and Indigenous rights."

Brett Wilkins, staff writer ·

300+ Progressive Groups Urge Corporations to Ditch ALEC for Pushing Voter Suppression Bills

"If corporations really believe in protecting our democracy and the right to vote, they must end their affiliation with ALEC," said one advocate.

Kenny Stancil, staff writer ·

Reality Winner's Release From Federal Prison Met With Calls for Full Pardon for the NSA Whistleblower

Winner will serve the rest of her five-year sentence under the supervision of a halfway house.

Julia Conley, staff writer ·

Analysis Highlights Biden Proposal to End $84 Billion Gift to Big Oil Buried in Trump Tax Scam

"We can stop this insane corporate welfare and use it to pay for a renewable energy future."

Andrea Germanos, staff writer ·