OP-ED: Lawyers must stand up to Trump to protect our legal system

By Karl A. Racine
Attorney General for the District of Columbia
Op-ed originally appeared in The Washington Post


Regarding the Feb. 13 front-page article “President attacks judge who will sentence Stone”:

President Trump’s deceitful diatribe against respected U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson is his latest assault on the judiciary’s independence.

To influence the outcome of his friend Roger Stone’s sentencing and discredit Judge Jackson, he accused her of being prejudiced against Mr. Stone and lied about her judicial record. And though the Bureau of Prisons sets conditions of confinement, he dishonestly blamed Judge Jackson for sentencing Paul Manafort to solitary confinement.

Mr. Trump is jeopardizing the rule of law. Federal judges are rightly fighting back — and the whole legal community should follow their lead.

Chief U.S. District Court Judge Beryl A. Howell of Washington publicly defended Judge Jackson’s well-earned reputation for fairness. The 1,100-member Federal Judges Association scheduled an unprecedented emergency meeting to address the president’s blatant intrusion into criminal cases that involve his political allies. Judge Paul L. Friedman, another esteemed senior district judge on the federal court, recently observed, “We are in uncharted territory. This is not normal.”

Nor is it acceptable.

I urge all lawyers, including state attorneys general and local prosecutors, to honor their professional and ethical obligation to protect our legal system. We must be courageous and publicly demand that Mr. Trump immediately stop his attacks on the judiciary.

As the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. remarked about our country’s civil rights struggle, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”