Earlier This Year, Billy Barr Minimized Threats of Violence against Judges

Billy Barr lies, a lot.

One of the things he has lied about — first anonymously to irresponsible beat reporters and then repeatedly on the record — is that Amy Berman Jackson agreed with his sentencing recommendation in the Roger Stone case. To Steve Inskeep, for example, Barr first lied by hiding that he created a dispute by replacing Jesse Liu with his crony Timothy Shea  so Shea could start disagreeing with prosecutors.

I was the decision maker in that case because there was a dispute. And usually what happens is, disputes, especially in high profile cases, come up to the attorney general. It’s not unusual for there to be a dispute in a high-profile case and for it to be resolved by the attorney general. And what actually happened in that case is that the four prosecutors who had prosecuted the case, the first line, they wanted to recommend a seven to nine year sentence on Stone, and the U.S. attorney felt that was too severe and was not justified under the circumstances.

Barr then claimed that all he did, in replacing the sentencing memo written by prosecutors adhering to DOJ guidelines on calling for the maximum sentence with one calling for far less, was to lay out the relevant information and let Amy Berman Jackson decide.

And what I said was set forth all the relevant information and leave it to the judge’s discretion to select the right decision, which is also not uncommon in the department. And that judge actually gave the sentence that I thought was correct, which was half of what the line prosecutors were recommending. They could not point to any case even remotely close to the seven to nine year sentence. The cases were essentially centered on about two and a half to three years. The judge gave him three years and four months, which I thought was a fair sentence under the circumstances. And it was essentially what I was proposing, or thought was fair. And so the proof of the pudding is in the eating. I made that decision based on what I was felt was fair to that person.

Aaron Zelinsky has made it clear that, in fact, even in the first memo, prosecutors were ordered to downplay certain information.

The more important detail — given that an anti-feminist Trump supporter allegedly targeted the family of federal judge Esther Salas, killing her son and also shooting her spouse — is how he overrode the sentencing recommendation of prosecutors.

As I laid out in this post, prosecutors asked for the following enhancements:

  • 8 levels for the physical threats against Randy Credico
  • 3 levels for substantial interference
  • 2 levels for the substantial scope of the interference
  • 2 levels for obstructing the administration of justice

The last of these, per the original sentencing memo, had to do with Stone’s threats against ABJ.

Finally, pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 3C1.1, two levels are added because the defendant “willfully obstructed or impeded, or attempted to obstruct or impede, the administration of justice with respect to the prosecution of the instant offense of conviction.” Shortly after the case was indicted, Stone posted an image of the presiding judge with a crosshair next to her head. In a hearing to address, among other things, Stone’s ongoing pretrial release, Stone gave sworn testimony about this matter that was not credible. Stone then repeatedly violated a more specific court order by posting messages on social media about matters related to the case.

This enhancement is warranted based on that conduct. See U.S.S.G. § 3C1.C Cmt. 4(F) (“providing materially false information to a magistrate or judge”); see, e.g., United States v. Lassequ, 806 F.3d 618, 625 (1st Cir. 2015) (“Providing false information to a judge in the course of a bail hearing can serve as a basis for the obstruction of justice enhancement.”); United States v. Jones, 911 F. Supp. 54 (S.D.N.Y. 1996) (applying §3C1.1 enhancement to a defendant who submitted false information at hearing on modifying defendant’s conditions of release).

Barr’s memo got to the outcome he wanted by eliminating the 8-point enhancement for physically threatening Credico and the 2-point enhancement for threatening ABJ.

The memo suggested the 8-level enhancement shouldn’t apply, first, because doing so would double Stone’s exposure.

Notably, however, the Sentencing Guidelines enhancements in this case—while perhaps technically applicable— more than double the defendant’s total offense level and, as a result, disproportionately escalate the defendant’s sentencing exposure to an offense level of 29, which typically applies in cases involving violent offenses, such as armed robbery, not obstruction cases. Cf. U.S.S.G. § 2B3.1(a)-(b). As explained below, removing these enhancements would have a significant effect on the defendant’s Guidelines range. For example, if the Court were not to apply the eight-level enhancement for threatening a witness with physical injury, it would result in the defendant receiving an advisory Guidelines range of 37 to 46 months, which as explained below is more in line with the typical sentences imposed in obstruction cases.


Then, Barr’s memo argued (and this is the truly outrageous argument) that Stone’s attempts to obstruct his own prosecution overlapped with his efforts to obstruct the HPSCI investigation.

Second, the two-level enhancement for obstruction of justice (§ 3C1.1) overlaps to a degree with the offense conduct in this case. Moreover, it is unclear to what extent the [defendant’s obstructive conduct actually prejudiced the government at trial.]

Effectively, this language treated threats against a judge as unworthy of enhancement.

The Attorney General of the United States found a way to go easy on the President’s life-long rat-fucker by downplaying the importance of threats against those participating in trials.

ABJ disagreed with both of those changes (though she did rule against the government’s enhancement on scope), taking Credico’s letter asking for leniency into account but also noting that in his grand jury testimony Credico had described being genuinely fearful of Stone’s thuggish buddies, and insisting on the import of the threat against her.

She got to close to the same conclusion as Barr, however, because she believes that sentencing recommendations are too harsh.

On one side, Barr dismissed the import of physical threats against a witness and a judge (while otherwise backing harsh sentencing). On the other side, ABJ insisted in the import of threats to participants in the judicial system, while finding sentencing recommendations generally too harsh.

ABJ in no way agreed with Barr’s logic, in part because she felt it important to punish threats against judges. Barr, however, thought it more important to go easy on Trump’s rat-fucker than reinforce the danger of threats to judges.

Then Trump commuted Stone’s sentence, showing that he doesn’t much give a damn if people threaten witnesses and judges either (unsurprisingly, because he does so much of it himself).

In the wake of the attack on Salas, Barr has taken to the press, proclaiming how serious he thinks such attacks to be.

U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr also offered his condolences to Judge Salas and her family.

“This kind of lawless, evil action carried out against a member of the federal judiciary will not be tolerated, and I have ordered the full resources of the FBI and U.S. Marshals Service to investigate the matter,” Barr said in a statement.


You don’t get to proclaim how serious you think attacks on judges are if earlier this year you took extraordinary measures to minimize threats on a judge. The actions Barr and Trump took earlier this year sent the message that it doesn’t much matter if someone undermines the entire judicial system by intimidating judges and witnesses — particularly if they’re supporters of Trump.

Billy Barr wants you think he’s a hard ass on such violence. But earlier this year, he took unprecedented action to dismiss the import of violence against judges. No credible journalist should print his statements without explaining that Barr is part of the problem.

40 replies
  1. Peterr says:

    Even if he’s not a hardass on violence against judges, Bill Barr is demonstrating in spades that he’s a hardass on graffiti artists who paint on judicial buildings.

    See “Portland, Pinochet-ing of.”

  2. CapeCodFisher says:

    That’s what we call “talking out of both sides of your mouth”. Who was the last AG to go to prison? John Mitchell? What did he get, a few years? How many crimes has this AG committed? Why are his transgressions so difficult to explain to ordinary citizens? Can’t we just get this out in the open?

    • ducktree says:

      “Paging Martha Mitchell to the white porcelain courtesy phone . . . ” Them were the days!

    • vicks says:

      I believe Barr refers to his role in each of the situations described as “landing the plane”
      He seems to be a busy guy most days…

      • Hika says:

        My recollection is that it was Rod Rosenstein that spoke of “landing the plane” for Trump.
        I thought I’d check it out and indeed it seems that the quote about landing the plane was attributed to Rosenstein, but further checking showed there is a strong chance that the attribution was done by a WashPo source named William Barr, who has used the phrase in other public statements.
        So, as you were.

        • vicks says:

          On April 10th in a Senate Appropriations Committee meeting Barr said “I’m landing the plane right now and I’ve been willing to discuss my letters and the process going forward, and the report is going to be out next week and I’m not going to go into the details until the plane is on the ground.”
          At/around 1:33
          Rosenstein was quoted saying “I can land the plane” on a phone call with Trump in an article in the Washington Post on April 26.
          There was quite a bit of hay made of Barr’s comment at the time so it may be a reach to use the repetition of the phrase as a quote to infer that was Barr that leaked (or manufactured) the news of the call.
          But who knows…
          I did get a sad smile when listening to the meeting to refresh my memory, Barr also talked a bit about protecting “statutes” including one on the flag.
          I couldn’t help but think about our stable genius and his ability to process information and bragging to Chris Wallace about the difficulty of the Alzheimer’s screening test he “aced”

  3. P J Evans says:

    I have to assume that Barr approved of Trmp’s attacks on judges that were based solely on their ancestry. And that he really believes that graffiti is a form of violence.

  4. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Graffiti is the freedom of expression of the powerless. Only the ideas it expresses are threats to the powerful, and then only if others take up the cause, which is what the graffiti asks for. It is also an ominous sign that crumbs of bread and the circus clown in the White House are not sufficient to quell anger of the crowd.

    Bill Barr is a prince among the soldiers of Christ. He argues for any outcome that enhances the power of his lord and patron, and against any practice that would subject him to rebuke or restraint. That he and Trump, in effect, have rehired John Yoo, is testament to those beliefs. That they need Yoo’s absurdist arguments is a sign that they have only begun to defend their god-emperor from the baying mob, begging for his removal from public life. (It’s also a sign that they need him as a lightning rod, to distract from the illegal acts they are about to commit.)

    • Rugger9 says:

      John Yoo needs to be fired from teaching constitutional law at Boalt Hall (UC Berkeley) but, alas he’s tenured.

      However, the point about Yoo’s ideas getting traction in the WH is proof that Biden needs to at least have the truth commission similar to South Africa’s, but frankly prosecutions would be better. Obama tried to be nice, and look at what we got for it. If the roles were reversed, we’d get Benghazi all the time for months (like Lindsey’s teeing up Hunter Biden and Mueller to do.).

      • Hika says:

        John Yoo needs to be charged with aiding and abetting torture.
        That happenstance might upset his tenured position.

        • Rugger9 says:

          I would concur on philosophical grounds, but the RWNM has managed to make clear-cut violations of the Geneva Conventions (which we are Constitutionally bound to uphold by treaty) into an “interpretation” issue largely due to John Yoo’s memos. Instead of a criminal charge we have it now framed as something similar to a First Amendment debate over obscenity (“I know it when I see it”). As long as that fiction can be maintained there is no grounds by the UC Regents (remember they’re not liberals, either) to rein in John Yoo or his opinions.

          It doesn’t excuse it, this merely explains how Yoo can do this when the USA executed Japanese and others for waterboarding as war criminals.

    • vicks says:

      Bull poop.
      Bill Barr is working for no one but himself, Barr saw what a tool Trump was, wrote a memo and got himself a seat at the big table.
      These ass-h*les are all about power, the more someone can do for you the more shameless things they will do, say and defend to build an alliance with you.
      Trump can do a lot, he knows it, and uses it as leverage to keep his price high.
      The “soldiers of Christ” are simply mediocre white men who use the bible and “god” to keep out the competition.
      They pull every trick in the book to keep the female competition barefoot and pregnant and away from the workplace and continue to use their power and cruel tendencies to keep those they perceived as “others” as close to second class citizens as they can get away with.
      Slave owners used their whips, Barr uses the law, yahoos wave the confederate flag, and “Karens” use their cell phones, it’s all posturing and intimidation designed to convince those they need to control in order to have any power, that they have the right to do so.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        If you mean bullshit or asshole, just say so. Remember whose site you’re on. I believe you’re describing the elite white male hierarchy, which has been ruling America since its inception. (Rayne might add cis-het to that description.) Like any team, individuals change, and exceptions are admitted, mostly at the margins, but the group remains intact.

        I agree that Bill Barr probably doesn’t much care for Donald Trump, as many didn’t care for Ronald Reagan or GW Bush and their limitations. He does care a lot about the office he holds and that working for Trump allows him to pursue his own agenda with little oversight or restraint, so long as he keeps Trump in office. Like the Confederacy, Barr’s agenda encompasses his own, his peers, and their group’s causes. The rest of us are just visiting, on a day pass whose time is running out.

  5. BobCon says:

    I fear Stone’s freedom has a lot to do with his ability to connect with violent right wingers.

    I was just reading John Lewis’s account of his involvement in a lunch counter sit in. The police were the muscle for on-the-books activities, and when the time came, they’d pull out and let the racist thugs roll in to attack the protestors, then eventually come back to arrest the beaten.

    I would not be surprised if Barr and Stone have a similar dynamic in the works. (One thing to note is that the segregationists lost in Nashville as the protests sweĺled after the first wave of arrests.)

  6. John Lehman says:

    Reposting from Rayne’s thread.

    Does anyone else suspect that this whole Portland situation is a “Potemkin Village of violence” staged by political skull drudgery? Seems obvious here on the ground. Wouldn’t photos and videos of oversized military vehicles cruising Portland make the world think what a huge rebellion these “Portland Moms” are fomenting.

    Look who Digby mentions as joining the schemings. “Good old John Yoo.”

    • vicks says:

      Trump has been running the trailer for this since he declared ANTIFA a terrorist group.
      I forgot what he claimed he was going to save Mt Rushmore from but it was equally bad ass.
      I think people are focusing too much on the Bible pic when in reality the image of our strong man parting a vicious mob of Trump haters with rubber bullets and (non chemical) tear gas makes for much better propaganda.
      I guess what I am trying to say is that yes, it appears this is contrived, the entertainers on fox “news” have been stirring it up for a couple of weeks and the parrots on my area neighborhood app are out there spreading the word like good little soldiers by using the damage done at our state capitol to express thier “outrage” and calling it state sponsored violence by our democratic leaders.
      My concern is that it’s not just a distraction, but a campaign strategy and at some point they may decide that desperate times call for desperate measures and they may set up an event in an attempt to make a hero out of Trump that we can’t recover from.
      I think it’s already been decided we have to be prepared for anything, so god bless the leakers, the whistle blowers and anyone in intelligence still working for the good guys.

      • P J Evans says:

        And guaranteed to make a lot of people who weren’t already Dems vote against him. They’re not as violent as he claims.
        As for the claim that under Biden, 911 calls wouldn’t get a response – around here, you only call if there’s bleeding/gunshots. Because that’s about the only thing that will get the cops to show up in less than two hours, if at all.

        • Ginevra diBenci says:

          On Joy Reid’s show last night Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot explained that a wingnut Fraternal Order of Police head has invited Trump’s forces into the city–not something he has legal authority to do, but he did it in writing on letterhead, FOP stationery, so that will probably suffice. I remember 1968, which I experienced from a few miles north of Mayor Daley’s welcoming party. On TV it seemed just as surreal as the film from Viet Nam; going outside into the wreckage showed me how helpless we civilians were then–no cameras that would fit in a pocket, put power on notice and most of all testify to the abuses our little voices weren’t strong enough to render truth. I was a child, yes, but having escaped segregated North Carolina I still had a dream. Not so much, after that week.

        • vvv says:

          That FOP guy is a real piece of work. The letter he sent to trump, on union letterhead, referenced his ridiculous habit of wearing “his Trump 45 gear” and further stated, “‘These politicians are failing the good men and women of this city and the police department.'”

          I have to imagine there are more than a few officers that are very uncomfortable with that.

          It does look like Lightfoot got the administration to promise the feds are only going to be here (starting tomorrow?) to “fight gun crime”, as opposed to warring on protesters.

        • Rugger9 says:

          I’m sure some are, but how many would dare to stick their necks out after undoubtedly being reminded that the next time they’re in a squeeze, help might get “delayed”. It’s how dissenters are kept in line.

          Combine that with the rules most unions operate under regarding complaints (seriously, any defense attorney would never lose again) and the impetus to play ball is very strong. Here in Silicon Valley (and another librul hotbed, Portland OR) many of the departments are under clouds for abuse, including San Jose, Palo Alto and others.

  7. Arthur M. says:

    I would have guessed that an apparently lifelong pudding lover like Bill Barr would already know it, but more and more, it seems like he may need to learn this the hard way. — “If you don’t eat yer meat, you can’t have any pudding…”

  8. BobCon says:

    I think one key thing that has swung support toward the Black Lives Matter movement has been the ability to highlight it as an anti-police movement, and not just a general civil rights movement.

    I don’t think Trump and the GOP establishment gets, in large part because of their tight alliance with police unions, how many non-black Americans have also had bad experiences with the police. Bad first hand experiences that stick permanently in people’s memories.

    There are the slow responses you talk about, where police show up late and have to be pushed to do anything. There are the unfair speed traps and traffic enforcement, the sexual harassment of women, and the demeaning power trips. Whites may or may not accept the truth that African Americans face far more wrongful police action, but it is definitely sinking in that the police in many places are a problem.

    And this is why Trump’s moves on “law and order” are driving a drop in the polls. Increasing numbers of people don’t see him as the candidate of order, they see him as creating chaos which will end with a Biden victory.

    I suspect the move to restart the COVID briefings may be a signal that it is seeping through to some extent that this is a losing issue, but I also think he gets a visceral kick out of the Fox coverage, and I also think he doesn’t have much else to go with. Maybe Ron Johnson and the Russians can manufacture something for Ken Vogel and Dean Baquet to dump on the front page.

    • P J Evans says:

      Years ago, I think before Obama became president, I heard from the woman running the train-station coffee place about a homeless man beating someone up, then sitting down at the bus stop. The injured man went into the bagel shop that was the only open business at that hour – before 6am – and the guy there called 911, only to be told there were no cops available, because they had to go downtown to man the parade that day for the Lakers. Which mean they needed to be there before 10am, but surely they had people out in the various divisions for emergencies.
      And this is why we tend to not call the cops for less than bleeding/shooting.

    • Rugger9 says:

      The problem with police and the current goon squads (when does Wolf’s term expire, since he’s not Senate confirmed?) is that while they love the military power, they reject the military obligations. I’ve harped on this before that even in a weapons-free hot zone Geneva still applies and we have prosecuted our own officers for not following that obligation…until Abu Ghraib which should have taken down every officer and NCO in the chain of command either for doing illegal things or not knowing the illegal things were being done (dereliction). One is never completely “off duty” while an officer. Since then we also have the example of SEAL Chief Gallagher and others pardoned by DJT to reinforce the GOP message that Geneva obligations are “quaint” and can be ignored. The lack of accountability is the problem and that means we see the infamous Stanford study in action. The police unions resist any accountability and refuse to perform it themselves. They’ll stage sickouts to get their way and put their populations at risk but demand “thin blue line” adulation and kowtowing. I don’t know the USN vet in Portland, but he’s from my time and by golly he’s a champ.

      • Rugger9 says:

        And to prove my point the police unions are bypassing their chain of command to talk to Acting DHS Secretary Wolf in Portland and Chicago (at least) which is probably why Wolf is going into those cities. He knows the unions will have his back.

  9. Savage Librarian says:

    Well, this can’t be good for DT’s campaign. Looks like his BFFs might have to take extended vacation:

    “Lawsuit accuses former Fox News anchor Ed Henry of rape and current top talent of sexual harassment” – Roger Sollenberger, 7/20/20

    “Salon can report Fox knew of the harassment allegations days before Tucker Carlson announced his vacation last week”
    …”sexual harassment claims against Henry, as well as Hannity, Carlson and the “Media Buzz” host Howard Kurtz. The four men have also been sued in their individual capacities.”


    • Rugger9 says:

      Hannity is an interesting name to pop up here, noting that he announced his divorce earlier this year but not delving into why. While personal lives should be respected, Hannity was also quick to point fingers at others while extolling his own moral rectitude so maybe this is why the missus left.

      As for the rest of Faux News, is anyone really surprised given how Ailes ran things?

  10. OldTulsaDude says:

    Bill Barr no doubt is using Trump; however, that does not explain everyone else. Trump’s limitless corruption entices those who would otherwise refrain to entertain their basest selves. In a way, Trump and his loyalists remind me of the description of Dick and Perry, the killers of the Clutter family in the movie In Cold Blood: “….neither one of them would have ever done the crime alone, but together, they formed a third personality, which is the one that did it.”

  11. BayStateLibrul says:

    Question: Can Barr “destroy” evidence before leaving office if Dems win?

    Being the sleazy lawyer he is… I would say he is working on that issue right now.

    Question: What are the chances Michael Cohen wins his “I’ve got a book to sell” suit?

    Breaking from the wires…

    “President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer sued Attorney General William Barr and the Bureau of Prisons director Monday, saying he’s being unjustly held behind bars to stop him from finishing a book that criticizes Trump.

    The lawsuit on behalf of Michael Cohen was filed late Monday in Manhattan federal court, alleging his First Amendment rights were violated when he was returned to the Federal Correctional Institution in Otisville, New York, on July 9.

    A message for comment was left with the Justice Department.”

  12. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The press is agog that Donald Trump might be deploying unnamed, unmarked, and armed federal employees to Democratic cities as an election tool – rather than to fight real threats. The emerging theme: elicit violence, give yourself a reason to quash it; own the libs for allegedly being weak and unable to police their own cities; suppress the vote. How rude, something should be done, will Nancy or Chuck do it?

    I don’t think there’s any doubt that that’s part of what Trump is doing, although the press is restricted by its own rules from saying it. These dictate that criticism must be attributed to Trump’s critics. There are no objective facts, you know: there’s only what one side says about the other.

    I would argue that seldom is there a single reason for such conduct, and that more is at work. In Trump’s case, one thing to consider is that he’s always in trouble; he always fails. But he survives by making chaos of the environment, in the way a blind person might turn off the lights in a fight against the sighted. The bigger trouble he is in, the more chaos and dumpster fires he needs to distract, threaten, and win. Trump has never remotely been in this much trouble. Another thing is that any mistake or rejection, no matter how small, must be denied and retribution exacted. For Trump, Joe Biden winning in a landslide would justify any amount of retribution.


    • gmoke says:


      I’ve taken to reminding people that the election won’t save us, no matter how big the “blue wave.” Lame duck Trmp and McConnell and Barr will have from November to January to wreak havoc. And you know if, heaven forfend, there’s a Supreme Court vacancy they will rush to fill it before the Inauguration.

    • Chris.EL says:

      Fondly remembering the days when I could DRIVE into the parking area under the PDX Federal building and have a simple, reasonably-priced burger from their cafeteria [while a non-federal employee to boot].

      Strikes me that deployment of PARAMILITARY TROOPS TO STATED “DEMOCRATIC” STRONGHOLDS can only be precursor to “seizing” power post election when T-Rump has most likely been pushed down the slide to oblivion by the American people, as one, together.

  13. John K says:

    “But he survives by making chaos of the environment, in the way a blind person might turn off the lights in a fight against the sighted.”

    This is a perfect description of the man and his methods. He is blind to every aspect of compassion and decency.

    • Chris.EL says:

      … furthermore … with troops in generic camo, no badges, IDs, names, driving soccer-mom vans, how hard is it to swap in Putin’s own special forces stationed strategically around the United States???

      I’m a native Californian but I’m struck by centuries-long embedded nomenclature such as “Sebastopol” [Sevastopol, (Ukraine or Crimea) IIRC] and the Russian River. Russia has coveted this glorious west coast of North America for many, many years.

      Now there is a president of the United States willing to hand them the keys in exchange for perpetual power. Not joking here. Seems consistent with Trump’s thought processes. Only he matters.

      • P J Evans says:

        “centuries-long embedded nomenclature such as “Sebastopol” [Sevastopol, (Ukraine or Crimea) IIRC] and the Russian River. Russia has coveted this glorious west coast of North America for many, many years.”
        They *owned* Alaska for many years. They did fur trapping and trading all along the coast – south to SF, at least – and had an official office in SF. It’s the Russian River and Fort Ross because they were here. (If you haven’t been to Fort Ross, you should visit when you can.)

      • Rugger9 says:

        Russian interest in the region (and Drake’s voyage) spurred the extension of missions into Baja and Alta California by New Spain. It was something of an afterthought before then.

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