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Former Deputy Attorney General Donald Ayer On Justice Department Politicization, Integrity

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Image by Shane T. McCoy/U.S. Marshals CC BY 2.0: http://bit.ly/2v3Eswc

The position of Attorney General is among the most powerful in American government. As head of the Department of Justice and chief legal counsel to the president, an AG's primary responsibility is to uphold federal law and apply equal and impartial justice to all American citizens.

In February, U.S. Attorney General William Barr drew stark criticism for intervening in the sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone, a longtime and well-known associate of President Trump. 

Prosecutors recommended Stone receive seven to nine years for his unlawful behavior, which included witness tampering and lying to investigators. President Trump then tweeted that such a sentence would be a “miscarriage of justice.” Later, the Justice Department amended its original recommendation.

Some officials dispute the timeline of events while others see Barr’s actions as irresponsible and damaging to the AG's office. Barr's alleged interference at the behest of President Trump prompted more than 2,000 former DOJ officials to call for his resignation.

Is criticism of Barr warranted? How has he responded to the uproar? How does an attorney general keep politics from creeping into the Department of Justice?

How does the injection of politics impact the DOJ's institutional prerogatives? What's at risk? Who provides a check of the AG's power and decision making, and what would that process look like?

Guest: Donald Ayer, served as United States Attorney and Principal Deputy Solicitor General in the Reagan administration and Deputy Attorney General under George H.W. Bush

"The Source" is a live call-in program airing Mondays through Thursdays from 12-1 p.m. Leave a message before the program at (210) 615-8982. During the live show, call 210-614-8980, email thesource@tpr.org  or tweet @TPRSource.

*This interview was recorded on Tuesday, February 25.

Kim Johnson is the producer for Texas Public Radio’s live, call-in show The Source. She is a Trinity University alum with bachelor’s degrees in Communication and Spanish, and a Master of Arts Degree from the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin.