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Legal Leaders Offer Support for DOJ Dissidents

Former American Bar Association presidents, former judges and state and local bar leaders, are offering support to any Justice Department officials who resign or speak out against evidence of politicization before the presidential election, Politico reports. “The public and these professionals should know that if they stand up to such misuse — whether via resignation, public statements, or other forms of expressive dissent — they will have broad support in the legal profession, whose best traditions they will be upholding,” the attorneys and judges wrote in a letter signed by 600 attorneys, judges and DOJ alumni issued Thursday. The letter is meant to back officials like James Herbert, a veteran Massachusetts federal prosecutor who wrote a letter assailing Attorney General William Barr in the Boston Globe last month, as well as prosecutors who have withdrawn from cases amid concerns about political interference.

The attorneys, in a group called Lawyers Defending American Democracy, include retired federal District Court Judge Fern Smith, a Ronald Reagan appointee, retired Appeals Court Judge Thomas Vansakie, a Barack Obama appointee, and retired federal District Court Judge Thelton Henderson, a Jimmy Carter appointee. The lawyers say Barr has enabled President Donald Trump’s false claims about alleged voter fraud, raised the specter of releasing politically explosive documents during the 2020 presidential campaign and intervened in cases affecting allies of the president. Barr rejects the idea he has turned the Justice Department into political weapon for Trump. Yet he has made a case for rethinking the role of politics in the Justice Department, describing it as an essential form of accountability for an agency managed by an elected president and his handpicked appointees.