I always believed that Attorney General William Barr’s decision-making was biased toward Trump, but until Wednesday I never understood the utter contempt and lethality he has for the rule of law.
Barr has decidedly moved from serving “at the pleasure of the president” to serving the President’s pleasures.
Testifying before the House Judiciary Committee on Justice Department Oversight, Aaron Zelensky said “ ‘What I heard — repeatedly — was that Roger Stone was being treated differently from any other defendant because of his relationship to the president.’ He said Tim Shea, whom Attorney General William Barr appointed as acting U.S. attorney in Washington, ‘was receiving heavy pressure from the highest levels of Justice to cut Stone a break,’ ” NBC reported.
Zelensky said, “I have never seen political influence play a role in prosecutorial decision making, with one exception: United States v. Roger Stone.”
Zelensky wasn’t the only attorney from the Department to testify.
“John W. Elias, a senior career official in the antitrust division,” The New York Times writes (June 25), “charged that his supervisors improperly used their powers to investigate the marijuana industry and a deal between California and four major automakers at the behest of Mr. Barr. He likened their efforts to burdensome harassment meant to punish companies for decisions the attorney general and the president opposed.
“ ‘Personal dislike of the industry is not a valid basis upon which to ground an antitrust investigation,’ Mr. Elias said of the cannabis cases.
Testimony from both Elias and Zelensky, who continue to work at the Department, adds to a growing list of intrusions in the Justice process by Barr, including the firing of U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Geoffrey Berman last week.
Besides Michael Cohen, Berman and his team have been working on several cases involving Trump cronies, the most high-profile of which is Rudy Giuliani.
In Wednesday’s House committee hearing, former U.S. Deputy Attorney General Donald Ayer’s testimony was particularly damning.
“I was privileged to serve under two Republican and one Democratic President, and I am here because I believe William Barr poses the greatest threat in my lifetime to our rule of law.
“Since taking office, he has worked to advance his lifelong conviction that the President should hold autocratic powers, including immunity from nearly all checks and balances and being able to get special treatment for himself and friends. The system that he is working to tear down was put in place in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal, which involved extensive corruption and caused a loss of trust.
“William Barr’s service has been an attack … on the very idea that a person is above the law. Barr has sought to give the president unlimited powers by overwriting many independent processes that operate important checks on the Executive Branch.
“…He has worked to defeat any meaningful oversight, either by Congress or reviewing the courts, through litigation and his own speeches. He has refused to show up in response to requests to appear before Congress. He has worked to undermine Congress by litigating the President’s right to divert funds to pay for his border wall, which Congress refused to fund. He has regularly undermined the authority of independent decision-making processes and career professionals…
“He whitewashed the extensive findings on obstruction of justice [in the Mueller Report], and last December when he publicly contradicted key conclusions reached by Inspector General Horwitz’s election interference probe. …
“He has also enlisted various political cronies to review into reverse decisions of experienced attorneys or by simply replacing them and handling members maters of personal interest to the President. …
While Ayer’s statement is too detailed to print here, suffice it to say, that the list of egregious behavior by Barr demonstrates all too well that the attorney general is not only unfit for his office but is, in most respects, a co-conspirator with the President in intently tearing down the rule of law .
While I have not been a huge fan of Democratic Chairman Jerrold Nadler, his opening statement accurately sums up the attorney general’s actions.
“The cancer that we must root out is [Barr’s] decision to place the president’s interests above the interests of the American people.”
Sixty-five “law professors and faculty from George Washington University Law School, Attorney General William Barr’s alma mater, said in a letter Tuesday he has failed to fulfill his oath of office to ‘support and defend the Constitution of the United States.’ ”
What was the response from fast-talking Ohio Representative Jim Jordan?
“The politics was in the previous administration. Bill Barr is doing the Lord’s work trying to clean it up so that it doesn’t happen again,” The Times reported.
It should be noted that the Lord is not scheduled to testify, nor is He likely to regarding the abysmal work of committee members like Mr. Jordan. That judgment will come later.
Preet Bharara, the former head of New York’s Southern District, in an Op-Ed for The Times, makes clear that integrity in law enforcement is essential for the public’s trust.
“The importance of reputational independence isn’t codified in a rule or a statute, but it is rightly embedded in the DNA of any worthy law enforcement institution for a simple reason: That independence gives comfort to the public that decisions about life and liberty will not be influenced by politics or partisan interests, that those decisions will not depend on an individual’s identity, wealth, fame, power or closeness to a president — every judgment rendered without fear or favor, as the oath commands.”
With so many examples of Barr’s shameless actions on behalf of the President, he is the second most dangerous man in the country, and all the more reason that the November election is vital for the survival of the Republic that is the United States.