Terry Schwadron

Oct 26, 2019

4 min read

Now a Secret Inquiry from Republicans

Terry H. Schwadron

Oct. 26, 2019

It could be that the mark of the Trump years has been hypocrisy, even over all the weirdnesses of how Donald Trump views his king-like role, his disdain for Science and information, his insulting behaviors and his ignorance of the main drivers for his job.

Disclosure late Thursday that the Justice Department had turned its administrative “review” into a criminal proceeding without identifying what the crime might be — timed as all the president’s men are pitching a fit about opaqueness in the growing impeachment investigation was a cold slap.

For Republicans protesting about secrecy in bipartisan congressional committee questioning of witnesses now to step forward with what seems to be official endorsement of conspiracy theories about the Russia probes seems, well, nuts. This is not to say where any sense of truth lies, but it is to say that it is the height of hypocrisy to hold a pizza protest about a legit fact-collecting exercise by three congressional committees while simultaneously unveiling a criminal process based on — we don’t know.

It is also hypocritical that there are 47 Republican congress members in the “secret” Democratic room. It is also hypocrisy to think that Trump’s use of the Justice Department for political purposes could be a basis for additional impeachment counts.

The ultimate hypocrisy is that we will know everything said to those congressional committees within a couple of weeks. By contrast, we may never hear anything from a secret criminal investigation by Justice.

There are plenty of strange doings in all of this:

· It is strange enough that Atty. Gen. William P. Barr has involved himself in his international pursuit of anything that undercuts the start of the Russia investigation without recusing himself from whatever results. The latest this week was the Italian government, focus of some of the conspiracy theories for pushing information from an odd academic with information of varied truths, denying that it had anything to do with the process or the person.

· It is weird that after two years of very opaque investigation and a 450-page report by the Robert S. Mueller III, Barr is aiming a criminal process at his own department, at the FBI, the CIA and the NSA. It is the equivalent of pursuing crimes by police for making an arrest.

· It is nearing the bizarre that after multiple investigations that conclude that Russians interfered in our elections, and are probably doing so again, that this effort is aimed at undercutting the essential notion that Russia was to blame. How blaming Ukraine or some other country makes this any better is an open mystery.

· If declaration of a criminal is only procedural in nature — allowing U.S. Atty. John H. Durham to compel witnesses from the intelligence committee, for example — rather than substantive, then the American people are being hoodwinked by Barr and team in an effort to protect Donald Trump. Until now, witnesses have been allowed to avoid testimony to Durham.

We could go on, but the main conclusion from all these efforts is that Trump — and apparently, Barr — see it as totally reasonable to use the Justice Department towards political goals. Trump long has wanted to use Justice to go after his enemies, who are numerous and varied. They include dozens who were assigned to investigate the multiple contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives.

At the same time, Trump makes clear that he sees nothing wrong in any contact with a foreign government for strictly political purposes — the heart of the impeachment process, the Mueller Report and the very investigation he now is attacking.

One thing missing, and pending, is an actual review of the early days of the investigation that turned into the Mueller effort from Justice Department Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz, who is poring over what gave rise to the special FISA court approvals that allowed for the wiretaps of Trump associates including Carter Page. Those wiretaps proved useful in widening the Mueller investigation.

If Horowitz finds that some error occurred in those processes of using parts and pieces of information to add up to approval for wiretaps, it is possible that Barr and Durham now will use that as support for a criminal charge. If so, let it be. No one favors official law-breaking, if that’s what went on.

Of course, it is just as possible that there is no substantive reason for this change from administrative review to criminal probe, and that charges will never emerge. That possibility is what prompts Trump critics to see this as an effort to deflect public reaction away from impeachment proceedings.

It is Trump and Barr at their sparkling best, using verbal juggling to call day the night. Kudos to their creativity. But the hypocrisies here make for a most depressing look at what government is about and for — there is little here that makes the government actually function.