Saturday, May 18, 2024
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Longtime lawyers question DOJ prosecution of Trump



A congressional committee on Wednesday examined the Department of Justice’s treatment of former President Donald Trump under the Biden administration.

Trump faces a myriad of legal troubles at the state and federal level, but the federal prosecution of Trump has been under special scrutiny since it has been carried out by the DOJ under the supervision of President Joe Biden, Trump’s political rival.

Trump’s prosecution is uncharted political and legal territory for the U.S., and witnesses at a hearing of the House Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government raised concerns about its implications.

Gene Hamilton, a lawyer and leader at the Trump-connected America First Legal Foundation, blasted the DOJ, saying it has become politicized, and not just for its prosecution of Trump.

“Prosecution and charging decisions are infused with racial and partisan political double standards,” he said in prepared testimony. “Immigration laws are ignored. The Federal Bureau of Investigation harasses protesting parents (branded ‘domestic terrorists’ by some partisans) while working diligently to shut down politically disfavored speech on the pretext of its being ‘misinformation’ or ‘disinformation.’”

Hamilton went on to highlight instances of an apparent double standard at the DOJ.

“A department that prosecutes numerous FACE Act cases while ignoring dozens of violent attacks on pregnancy care centers and/or the coordinated violation of laws that prohibit attempts to intimidate Supreme Court Justices by parading outside of their homes has clearly lost its way,” he continued. “A department that has twice engaged in covert domestic election interference and propaganda operations – the Russian collusion hoax in 2016 and the Hunter Biden laptop suppression in 2020 – is a threat to the Republic.”

Democrats panned the committee’s work as overly politicized, alleging it was simply doing Trump’s bidding.

“We’re here at the beck and call of Trump fanatics,” U.S. Rep. Stacey Plaskett, D-N.Y., said at the hearing.

Long-time New York lawyer Robert J. Costello also testified at the hearing, echoing Trump’s complaint that the cases against him are unusual and politically motivated.

“I have been a lawyer for 51 years,” Costello said in his prepared testimony. “During that time, I have been involved in many different types of cases, but I have never seen the types of politically motivated cases that have been brought in this presidential election season. These political cases are being used as a weapon of war to damage, defeat or impede political adversaries and their allies.”

Costello made an apparent reference to New York Attorney General Letitia James, who promised during her 2018 campaign to go after Trump if elected to the office.

“Prosecutors are supposed to investigate crimes and prosecute those who commit them – not announce targets first and investigate until they can bring some charge, no matter how tenuous,” Costello continued. “But these days, you see individuals running for prospective office who claim that if you elect me, I will bring down this public figure or that public figure who disagrees with my political philosophy.”

Trump’s criminal charges for holding on to classified documents has been under particular scrutiny since Biden was not charged though he also held on to documents past his time in the White House after he was vice president.

Former DOJ attorney Jim Trusty said in prepared testimony Wednesday that Trump’s handling of the documents was not that different from past presidents of both parties, but he said the federal response certainly “took a distinct departure from history.”

“DOJ’s decision to use criminal enforcement tools in an exaggerated dispute about document retention was unique and simply wrong,” he said. “I have personally seen the September 11, 2018 letter from representatives of the Barack Obama Foundation to the Director of NARA in which President Obama’s representatives casually refer to their post-Presidency possession of a vast quantity of documents – specifically including classified ones.”

The hearing included a range of pointed questions from Republicans and complaints from Democrats. The witnesses raised a range of problems with the DOJ’s handling of Trump’s legal problems, but for now they remain in place and Trump faces an array of court proceedings.

“When individuals entrusted with power believe that the ends justify the means, we are left with a weaponized political agent, cheered on by partisans and those blinded by dislike of Candidate Trump,” Trust said in his prepared testimony. “If they succeed, we begin a new age where even old hands at criminal justice like me will not recognize the perversion of Justice and justice, and we 10 will descend into attacks and counterattacks launched by power hungry politicians masquerading as agents of fairness.”