Congress, while you’re cleaning out the White House don’t forget Bill Barr

He’s running the Justice Department like it’s the legal arm of the Trump Organization

By Terry H. Schwadron
Published October 14, 2019 6:29AM (EDT)

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When the smoke finally clears from the impeachment morass, we’ll still have the case of the Justice Department that Attorney General William P. Barr has turned into a personal law firm to protect Donald Trump.

There have been almost daily developments showing that Barr’s Justice Department has been extending its efforts to provide both justifiable and legally questionable efforts to shield Trump, to pursue investigations into the actions of critics of the president and to interpret anything in the legal area in the president’s favor.

In short, Barr has become more Trump’s lawyer than America’s chief criminal law enforcement officer.

Indeed, when Trump’s presidency eventually ends, a critical look back will be the destruction of an independent Justice Department.

Here are just a few of the most recent issues:

  • The Justice Department took the whistleblower report from inside the White House and determined that there was no violation of law involved after narrow decisions on whether campaign finance laws had been violated. The department declined to look at other possible crimes or the broader Constitutional issue of seeking dirt on a partisan political opponent from a foreign government. This week, it emerged that the top CIA lawyer had separately referred to the likelihood of a crime emerging from the Ukraine incidents to Justice, only to be rebuffed.
  • Barr decided that there was no reason for the whistleblower report to be forwarded to Congress. It was anyway—before it was ordered released by Trump’s White House.
  • Barr himself was a party cited by Trump in his phone calls with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as someone with whom Zelenskyy should be talking to investigate any wrongdoing by Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. Still, Barr has declined to recuse himself from further participation in subsequent impeachment proceedings.
  • Barr is going to other governments to seek cooperation in his self-driven investigation into the origins of the Mueller probe, essentially asking other countries for efforts to undercut the allegations that prompted the all-things-Russia inquiries altogether.
  • Barr ordered the Justice Department to move to block New York prosecutors using state law to demand Trump’s tax returns. Barr argues that the matter belongs in the federal courts, not the state, because Constitutional issues are involved. But it is a thin jurisdictional argument meant to protect Trump.

Put it all together, add in details like allowing the White House to park incriminating transcripts in a specialized safe for top secrets, lightly stir and you come up with a singular conclusion: Bill Barr is not enforcing criminal law, he is protecting the president.

Despite Trump’s endless public posturing owning up to the facts at the heart of this impeachment inquiry, Barr has silently remained in the background to legitimize and normalize the actions. This is not a surprise, since Barr has made clear over time that he believes in wide power for the presidency — almost without limit.

Trump has been less silent, proclaiming that as president he has “absolute authority” to do anything he wants.

Through the variety of efforts currently underway, Barr is going out of his way to enable the partisan nature of the White House.

From his pooh-poohing of the Mueller Report through to the diminishment of this whistleblower report, Barr is making himself a target for impeachment through non-action about criminal matters and leadership of partisan effort on behalf of Trump.

When House Democrats have voted impeachment of Trump, they should turn their attention to Barr.

Terry H. Schwadron

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