Apparently, part of President Donald Trump’s interference campaign against the Justice Department also involves going to bat for ruthless dictators who ask him for favors — because Attorney General Bill Barr personally tried to kill the prosecution of a Turkish bank after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan asked Trump for help.
Last April, Erdogan sought assistance from Trump after the Southern District of New York busted Halkbank in a multi-million dollar scheme to evade Iran sanctions, which Trump himself slapped against Iran after killing the nuclear deal achieved under the Obama administration.
Even as he threatened our European allies against ignoring the sanctions, Trump treated Turkey with kid gloves, assuring Erdogan that Barr and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin would take care of things.
For his part, Barr focused his effort on trying to make sure federal prosecutors offered a deal to the bank that would amount to a slap on the wrist instead of an indictment.
“According to a person familiar with the discussions, Barr personally spearheaded an effort last year to negotiate a settlement with the bank that would have allowed it to sidestep an indictment after Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, pressed Trump in a bid to avoid charges,” CNN reported.
But Barr was thwarted by U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman, who refused to back down in the face of pressure from the administration.
“Berman, however, insisted on criminal prosecution, according to the people familiar with the matter,” CNN said.
This is just another sad example of Trump’s pervasive meddling in Justice Department matters, which have come to a head recently after he complained about the sentencing recommendation in the Roger Stone case.
Barr responded to Trump’s complaint by denouncing the recommendation, resulting in all four prosecutors who worked the case withdrawing from it in protest.
Now it appears Barr intervened to help Trump please a foreign dictator, raising further concern over the independence of the Justice Department. Is the Justice Department safe from foreign interference? Clearly not. If Trump and Barr are willing to interfere with the Justice Department for Erdogan, what stops Vladimir Putin or North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un from making similar requests?
And given Trump’s obsession with secrecy, what if they already have?
Featured image via Wikimedia Commons
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