One of the most important legal precedents in American political history is the United States v. John N. Mitchell. In the aftermath of Watergate, our 67th Attorney General was charged, tried, and found guilty of perjury, conspiracy and obstruction of justice. He was sentenced to a maximum of eight years imprisonment, which was reduced by half on appeal. He served 19 months.
John Mitchell’s fate (which included lifetime disbarment) serves as a stark warning to all future attorneys general: The top cop is not above the law.
It’s painfully clear that our current AG, William Barr, disregards this warning, and we can only hope he does so at his peril. Barr’s conduct throughout the snail-paced Mueller Report cycle has been an object lesson in how an Attorney General ought not behave. From his continuing spin of Mueller’s findings (which included that bizarre Trump laudatory masquerading as a press conference), to the gauntlet he threw today in the form of his defiance of Congressional oversight, Bill Barr is actively engaged in the destruction of his own credibility and reputation, and of the dignity and authority of his office.
But it’s worse than that. We now know that on March 27th, Special Counsel Robert Mueller took the extraordinary step of committing to writing his objection to how Barr was characterizing the investigation and its findings. Yet two weeks later, testifying before the Senate, Barr denied being aware of any dissent within the Special Counsel’s office as to the summary findings Barr had issued.
That’s perjury. There’s no other word for it.
It’s unclear, unfortunately, whether or when Barr will face any consequences for lying to the Senate. The GOP majority of that body made clear yesterday, upon Barr’s return to the Hill, that they have his back. Judiciary chairman Lindsey Graham led the effort, by accusing Dem members of his panel of “slandering this man.”
The White House, meanwhile, is said to be cheering on Barr’s defiance. During and after his Senate testimony, Trump was apparently on a conference call with aides and supporters, celebrating Barr’s “loyalty.” (Here’s an important note to Bill Barr and everyone on that call: in Trump’s world, ‘loyalty’ means serving and taking fire for Trump. It’s a one-way street. He won’t do the same for you.)
And the saga continues today. The AG has skipped a scheduled hearing in the House, reportedly in objection to the prospect of being questioned by committee lawyers. His supporters in Congress and in the Executive are, once again, over the moon. Never mind the fact that open defiance of a supposedly co-equal branch of government amounts to, pretty much by definition, a constitutional crisis.
Don’t underestimate, however, the penchant of the Democratic party to drag itself just as deep into the mud. Instead of treating the ongoing morass with the gravity and sincerity it requires, they instead opted for the cheap political points and the photo op.
So yes, we got an empty chair, a Barr placemarker, and a figurine of a chicken. Too subtle for you? Then the Dems drove the point home with a bucket of KFC. We get it, but…
We are not amused.
The government is in freefall, the republic is run by fools and thieves, and if ever we needed patriots—or at least functioning adults—it’s now.
Instead we have these clowns.
The two-party system, ladies and gents, in all its glory. May the nation survive despite it.