Barr: Justice and Campaign

June 8, 2020

It would have been one thing if Donald Trump had found his “Roy Cohn” in Atty. Gen. William P. Barr, but he also seems to have found a bulldozer to try to win his legal way to re-election even if, say, the voters don’t think that’s the outcome they want.

With each passing day, the campaign headquarters seems to have moved to the Justice Department, where Barr keeps turning out more in his greatest hits series of ways to advance the Life and Times of Donald J. Trump.

Some of it has been quite creative, in fact, but the bullying tactics, the undercutting of law and propriety, the attacks on the intelligence of the American public certainly is making a mark in the use of an allegedly independent Justice Department in out-and-out political cases.

Just to review, Trump’s complaint was that the office of attorney general was not functioning as a bulwark against legal challenge for any policy that he wanted — constitutional or not. He wanted his Roy Cohen, the ruthless lawyer for Joe McCarthy — and yes, for a time for Trump himself. When Barr was named, various would-be experts thought he would be a reasonably conservative upholder of law.

Instead, in a variety of ways, we’ve seen Barr undercut Special Counsel Robert Mueller Jr,, attack his own FBI and Justice officials, dropped charges against already twice-confessed liar Michael T. Flynn, fire the U.S. attorney in New York who was pressing issues involving criminal behavior by Trump and going out of his way to attack mythical, left-wing Antifa extremists. The beneficiary each time — Donald Trump alone.

It’s a long list of actions that have not advanced Justice, not sought systemic reform, not cooled racial tension or pursued reform of policing procedures. Barr just has helped Trump.

Imperilng the election

Joshua A. Geltzer, a former Justice Department and National Security Council lawyer and professor of law at Georgetown’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection, wrote recently that Barr is not only unraveling the government’s various attempts to bring Trump to oversight, but also actively blocking and tackling in ways that imperil the November Vote.

“A normal attorney general of the United States right now would be focused on protecting the integrity of the fast-approaching November elections. Instead, the attorney general we have — William P. Barr — is intent on doing the opposite,” Genzer wrote in a recent op-ed.

Each action that Barr takes regarding Congress gets Democrats talking about impeaching him too — though they never do it.

But watch Barr’s actions concerning the elections:

— Barr is working overtime to let anyone contributing to interference in the last election off the hook. At this point, we’d all be surprised if Roger Stone actually goes to prison instead of collecting a pardon or some Flynn-like legal juggling. It was Barr who essentially rewrote the Mueller findings about Russian interference, and has so muddied the waters that it is impossible to prosecute anything.

— If anything, now we await Barr turning the tables to prosecute those who investigated. As Barr tells it, the Mueller effort was wrong from the start, and it was legally wrong even to have asked the questions. Barr has worked hard to exonerate the president, while everyone working under the statutes governing the special counsel investigation were working to find out if Russians were trying to fix our election. That question doesn’t interest Barr.

— In helping Stone by rewriting sentencing recommendations and overruling his own prosecutors, Barr is making clear that those who help Trump will get special treatment from the Justice Department. Former Stone prosecutor Aaron Zelinsky told Congress last week that there was only one explanation he heard: Trump wanted an easy path for a buddy. The same was true in the abrupt dismissal of Geoffrey Berman as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, for reportedly investigating Rudy Giuliani’s role in recruiting information from Ukraine,

— Barr has been active in opposing mail ballots in the election as a pathway to widespread fraud and as part of the Trump attack on technology companies trying to label untrue Trump campaign allegations.

Worse Yet to Come?

It will all get worse if Trump continues to slide in the polls.

A cornered Trump will attack without restraint for truth and using all the tools of his incumbency. The dangerous part here is that he now has an attorney general who has pledged allegiance personally to Trump and reelection, not to the call of his job,

Barr himself has proved a source of disinformation, a manipulator of law and one who simply chooses not to see obvious violations of ethics or overstep by the White House into criminal actions by Justice.

Having laid the groundwork by attacking mail votes, Barr will be in the perfect position to advance Trump’s cause in a contested election result, and will invent law that will allow for a challenge to remain in the White House.

Taken together, Barr is freeing or hiding those who have committed crimes for Trump, is undermining confidence in the coming election, signaling that illegalities undertaken for Trump are not a problem so long as he wins.

Maybe the American people need a Roy Cohn.