So here’s a storyline we never thought we’d see, although on second blush it makes darkly logical sense. Donald Trump wants to commute Roger Stone’s sentence – which is a de facto pardon – yet Bill Barr is so opposed to the move, he’s talking about a “mutiny” at the Department of Justice if it happens. So what’s really going on?
This surreal development, courtesy of Vanity Fair, is a reminder of just how criminal of an enterprise the Trump administration is – and how desperate it’s become. The Vanity Fair piece doesn’t really get at why Barr is opposed to Trump bailing out Stone, but we don’t think it’s all that difficult to parse.
We’ve already seen Bill Barr take corrupt, extreme, and criminal measures to try to bail out Roger Stone and other Trump co-conspirators. So it’s not as if Barr has suddenly grown a conscience. Nor do we believe that Barr suddenly cares what anyone in the DOJ thinks of him, as he’s spent the past couple years simply getting rid of everyone who isn’t corrupt enough for his tastes.
The reality is that with all the counts of felony obstruction of justice that Bill Barr has committed since taking office, he’s going to need a pardon himself, on Donald Trump’s way out the door. But if Trump pardons or commutes Roger Stone now, it’ll set off a legal battle that could result in the courts ruling that Trump can’t pardon his own alleged co-conspirators. In such case Trump wouldn’t be able to pardon Barr on his way out the door.
Donald Trump may only be able to pull off one round of co-conspirator pardons before getting shut down, and we suspect Bill Barr doesn’t want Trump wasting it on Stone now. But Stone sure must be sitting on some ugly dirt about Trump, if Trump is willing to use his one shot now to keep Stone quiet, even at the risk of not being able to pardon his own kids later.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report