A former federal prosecutor, who resigned his post this year to protest the Justice Department’s intervention in the sentencing of Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone, issued a scathing rebuke Monday of Justice officials for abandoning its prosecution of former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
“Last week, the department again put political patronage ahead of its commitment to the rule of law … notwithstanding Flynn’s sworn guilty plea and a ruling by the court that the plea was sound,” Jonathan Kravis wrote in an op-ed published by The Washington Post.
Kravis’ admonition came as about 2,000 former Justice Department officials signed their names to an open letter, calling on Attorney General William Barr to resign.
“We continue to believe that it would be best for the integrity of the Justice Department and for our democracy for Attorney General Barr to step aside,” the letter stated. “In the meantime, we call on Congress to hold the Attorney General accountable. In the midst of the greatest public health crisis our nation has faced in over a century, we would all prefer it if Congress could focus on the health and prosperity of Americans, not threats to the health of our democracy. Yet Attorney General Barr has left Congress with no choice.”
In February, more than 2,000 former DOJ officials asked Barr to resign over the Justice Department’s handling of Stone’s case.
The Justice Department declined to comment on Monday.
Kravis, one of four prosecutors who withdrew from the case in February after Justice officials recommended a lighter sentence for Stone, later resigned from department altogether in wake of the decision that ignited a firestorm inside and outside the department.
“I left a job I loved because I believed the department had abandoned its responsibility to do justice in one of my cases, United States v. Roger Stone,” Kravis said, breaking a monthslong silence. “At the time, I thought that the handling of the Stone case, with senior officials intervening to recommend a lower sentence for a longtime ally of President (Donald) Trump, was a disastrous mistake that the department would not make again. I was wrong.”
Justice officials, in court documents filed Thursday, served notice of their intent to drop the Flynn case, claiming that the FBI’s 2017 interview of the then-national security adviser was “unjustified” as they sought to learn about his communications with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
In that interview, Flynn lied when he told agents that he had not discussed sanctions imposed against Russia by the Obama administration. He subsequently pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with Russia special counsel Robert Mueller before reversing course early this year and sought to withdraw his plea, asserting that he was duped by federal investigators.
“The government is not persuaded that the January 24, 2017 interview was conducted with a legitimate investigative basis and therefore does not believe Mr. Flynn’s statements were material even if untrue,” the Justice Department concluded. “Moreover, we do not believe that the government can prove either the relevant false statements or their materiality beyond a reasonable doubt.”
In his op-ed, Kravis said that he felt “compelled to write because I believe that the department’s handling of these matters is profoundly misguided.”
“I am convinced that the department’s conduct in the Stone and Flynn cases will do lasting damage to the institution,” he said.
In the Stone case, Justice backed away from a stiff prison sentence recommended for Stone, a longtime ally of the president, after Trump’s public criticism of the recommendation.
Stone was found guilty in November of lying to Congress and obstructing the Russia investigation to protect Trump and his presidential campaign. The 67-year-old longtime GOP operative was one of six former Trump aides to be convicted in cases stemming from former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Prosecutors had initially recommended he serve seven to nine years in prison, drawing the ire of Trump who called it a “miscarriage of justice.”
Justice quickly reversed course, saying the initial recommendation “does not accurately reflect” the agency’s position. Although the department maintained that imprisonment was warranted, the agency said seven to nine years “would not be appropriate.”
Stone was subsequently sentenced to just more than three years in prison, but he is appealing the conviction.
“In my experience, the Justice Department staunchly defends sentences within the guidelines range, particularly for defendants (such as Stone) who are convicted at trial, and especially for defendants (such as Stone) who repeatedly demonstrate disrespect for the judicial system,” Kravis wrote.
“I resigned because I was not willing to serve a department that would so easily abdicate its responsibility to dispense impartial justice,” Kravis said.