06:23 GMT14 August 2020
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    William Barr, the US attorney general, is facing a strong backlash from numerous former Department of Justice (DOJ) officials, who are calling upon his resignation, after the DOJ leadership announced that the amount of prison time for former Trump adviser Roger Stone would be lowered, despite the prosecutors’ initial sentencing recommendations.

    One of the organisers of an open letter urging US Attorney General William Barr to resign is “Protect Democracy”, a nonprofit legal group that has been a longtime critic of the policies of the Donald Trump administration, including accusations that the US president provided false information to justify his anti-foreign terrorist entry executive order, commonly known as Travel Ban.

    The group and its affiliated organisations, Protect Democracy Project (PDP) and United to Protect Democracy, are operated by former Barack Obama staffers who have never concealed the “urgent” purpose of their creation back in 2017, which was “to hold the President and the Executive Branch accountable”, or simply to “oppose” the policies of Donald Trump, as the Influence Watch website asserts.

    Protect Democracy has been gathering signatures from former DOJ employees both from the Democratic and Republican parties, condemning Barr’s alleged interference in Roger Stone’s case and the Department’s “unprecedented move to give preferential treatment to a close associate of the President”, calling it “an assault on the rule of law and American values”. More than 1000 of ex-DOJ’s employees, mostly from the Democratic party, have signed the letter so far.

    Not Happy With Barr, Again?

    It is not the first time, however, when Protect Democracy has been critical of Barr for allegedly failing to highlight the potential misconduct of the US president and his associates. The organisation was also behind another public letter claiming that Robert Mueller’s report on Russia’s alleged interference in the US 2016 presidential election had actually gathered enough evidence to incriminate Donald Trump with obstruction of justice, despite William Barr having concluded the opposite.

    Attorney General William Barr arrives to testify during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 1, 2019, on the Mueller Report.
    © AP Photo / Andrew Harnik
    Attorney General William Barr arrives to testify during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 1, 2019, on the Mueller Report.

    The public campaign by Protect Democracy and its supporters to get rid of Barr even provoked some speculations that it could have been related not to Stone's case, but rather to attempts to prevent the release of John Durham's upcoming report, which is set to shed some light on alleged misconduct by the agencies during intelligence gathering on Donald Trump and his team, which some dubbed as an "anti-Mueller" report.

    The report by Robert Mueller, a special counsel for the US Department of Justice, stated after two years of investigation, that there was not sufficient evidence to prove that the Trump campaign had coordinated with Russian officials to influence the results of the 2016 presidential election. John Durham, instead, was assigned by William Barr to review the origins of the FBI's investigation into Moscow's alleged interference.

    What's Protect Democracy and Who Supports the Organisation?

    Protect Democracy was founded in 2017 by former White House and DOJ officials and is headed by Ian Bassin, the ex-Associate White House Counsel under the Obama administration, as well as Justin Florence as its legal director. Florence had served as Senior Counsel to the Democratic wind of the US Senate Judiciary Committee before 2013 and then moved to the White House's Associate Counsel position for one year.

    The group vows "to prevent American Democracy from declining into a more authoritarian form of government", according to its website, and has been consulting with a group of "the world's leading experts" on the matter of decline of global democracies, some of whom included Robert Raben, the former Assistant Attorney General at DOJ under Bill Clinton, and Thomas Perrelli, the ex-Associate Attorney General during the administration of Barack Obama, both affiliated with the Democratic party.

    Upon the Protect Democracy and its associated groups' creation, Politico asserted that the organisations created by former Obama lawyers and his ex-administration officials were set to act as close watchers over Donald Trump staffers and their compliance to "ethics norms" and would be ready to "fight back" if any alleged misconduct was reported.

    John Durham, US Department of Justice, William Barr, Robert Mueller, Donald Trump, Barack Obama, United States
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