In interviews with a constitutional law scholar and a former federal prosecutor, a conservative columnist for the Washington Post highlighted the fact that Attorney Bill Barr’s refusal to turn over transcripts of phone calls between for Donald Trump’s national security advisor Michael Flynn and the Russians is not only suspicious — but puts Barr on the spot with the judge for refusing.
According to Jennifer Rubin, legal scholar Laurence Tribe said Barr may have created a major headache for himself by defying a court order.
Noting that, “Federal prosecutors on Friday declined to make public transcripts of recorded conversations between Michael Flynn and Russia’s ambassador to the United States in December 2016, despite a judge’s order,” Tribe said Barr’s Justice Department broke with legal protocols.
“Even if the district court’s order to release the Flynn-Kislyak transcripts goes further than justified by the sentencing matter before the court, I would’ve thought that, in a government of laws, the only way to avoid compliance is to take an appeal to a higher court,” he explained, noting that they didn’t even go through the motion of asking for a stay.
Former federal prosecutor Mimi Rocah agreed and said the refusal likely raised questions Barr may not want to answer.
“Normally when prosecutors don’t want to make something public for national security reasons, etc., they file a document under seal with the judge explaining that reasoning and requesting relief from the presumption that things should be made public,” she explained.
She then added, “The fact that the government didn’t do that here is puzzling. Instead, they took a very unusual tact of refusing the judge’s order publicly, which suggests that they didn’t think the judge would go along with keeping the material under seal. While it doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t have legitimate motives, the disrespectful and atypical nature of their action makes me suspicious. And it certainly doesn’t mean the judge is just going to say, ’Okay, let’s just forget I asked.’ ”
For her part, conservative Rubin added, “The House should, as a distinct part of its pre-impeachment fact-finding, hold ‘Hearings on the Defiance of Court Orders and Refusal to Produce Mandated Production of Witness and Documents and Subpoenas’.”
“The committee and the House don’t need Robert S. Mueller III or any other Trump witness to proceed. The result could be impeachment hearings against Trump or against Barr,” she continued. “If allowed to continue this conduct, the Trump administration will do permanent and serious damage to the Constitution. For this alone, impeachment and removal may be required.”
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