Imagine that you live in a town that has been taken over by gangsters. The mayor is a crook and so are the district attorney and police chief. You can’t fight city hall. But at least you know you can turn for help to the state or federal government. Now imagine that it’s not a city or state that has been taken over by criminals — it’s the federal government. Where do you turn for help? That is not a theoretical concern. After the release of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report, it’s our grim reality.
Even before Mueller’s probe ended, federal prosecutors in New York had implicated President Trump in ordering his lawyer, Michael Cohen, to violate federal campaign finance laws. Mueller then documented at least six ironclad incidents of obstruction of justice by Trump along with numerous instances of misconduct that, while not criminal, are definitely impeachable. The New York Review of Books reported that two prosecutors working for Mueller said that if Trump weren’t president, he would have been indicted.
Now the administration is obstructing attempts to bring the president to justice for obstruction of justice. William P. Barr isn’t the attorney general; he is, as David Rothkopf said, the obstructor general. We now know that Mueller wrote (in Barr’s description) a “snitty” letterobjecting that Barr’s deceptive summary of his work, designed to falsely exonerate Trump, “threatens to undermine … public confidence in the outcome of the investigations.”
Yet when Barr testified to Congress after receiving the Mueller letter but before releasing the Mueller report, he claimed not to know whether Mueller disagreed with his conclusions. “He lied to Congress,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) charged. But even if it could be proved that Barr committed perjury (no sure thing), who would prosecute him? Is he (or his deputy) going to appoint a special counsel to investigate himself? Unlikely. And if he did appoint a special counsel, would he heed the counsel’s conclusions? Also unlikely.
Barr’s jaw-dropping performance before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday dispelled any lingering confidence in the impartial administration of justice — the bedrock of our republic. He actually testified that if the president feels an investigation is unfounded, he “does not have to sit there constitutionally and allow it to run its course. The president could terminate the proceeding and it would not be a corrupt intent because he was being falsely accused.” Given that no president has ever felt justly accused of any misconduct, this means that the president is above the law. Barr is endorsing the Nixon doctrine: “Well, when the president does it, that means it’s not illegal.”
The administration makes clear that this is precisely its intent with its scandalous stonewalling of Congress. Barr himself refused to appear before the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday. Trump is suing to prevent his accountants and financial institutions from sharing his business records with Congress, while his treasury secretary is refusing to comply with a lawful demand for his tax returns. Trump is also blocking….Finish here: Opinion | This nation is at the mercy of a criminal administration