William Barr: is his defence of Trump paving the ‘road to tyranny’?

The attorney general stands accused of acting as the presidents personal lawyer rather than a guardian of the constitution

Moments before a highly anticipated congressional hearing at which the star witness, the attorney general William Barr, was no longer expected to appear, Representative Steve Cohen placed a porcelain chicken on the dais.


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It was 9am and Barr was officially a no-show.

Hes here, Cohen said, gesturing toward the decorative fowl. Chicken Barr.

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The gag added a rare drop of humor to a situation that was described by the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, as deadly serious and which other leading Democrats have warned threatens democratic norms and even paves a road to tyranny.

In the weeks since special counsel Robert Mueller concluded his nearly two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, Barr has become a lightning rod for criticism from Democrats furious with his handling of the report. The House judiciary committee chairman, Jerry Nadler, cast Barrs absence on Thursday as part of the administrations growing attack on American democracy.

Warring between the two branches of government escalated further on Friday when Nadler set a 9am deadline on Monday for Barr to comply with a subpoena to turn over an unredacted version of Muellers report and the underlying evidence. If he refuses, Nadler said his committee would initiate proceedings to hold the attorney general in contempt of Congress.

Pelosi, too, intensified her rhetoric this week, as pressure mounts on the Democratic leadership to initiate impeachment proceedings against Trump in light of the administrations refusal to cooperate with any congressional investigations.

At a press conference on Thursday, she said Barr was acting as Trumps enabler and accused the attorney general of committing a crime by lying to Congress.

Republican lawmakers, decrying political theater, insist Democrats are simply unwilling to accept the findings of Muellers investigation, which found insufficient evidence to conclude that Trumps campaign conspired with Russia.

Theyve read the report. They dont like what is in it, said the Republican congressman Doug Collins, the ranking member on the House judiciary committee.


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The White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, dismissed calls for Barr to resign and suggested that pathetic Nadler should step down instead.

Barr defended his handling of the release of the Mueller report during an appearance before the Senate judiciary committee on Wednesday that did little to convince critics that he was acting as the nations chief law enforcement officer and not as the presidents legal counsel.

Mueller did not reach a conclusion on whether the president obstructed justice, but he laid out episodes involving the president that appeared to meet the bar. In the report, Mueller explained that investigators did not determine whether Trump committed a crime because the justice department had previously said sitting presidents cannot be indicted.

In Barrs initial summary to Congress, before the public release of Muellers report, he did not provide this context and wrote simply that the special counsel had not reached a conclusion and therefore left it to the attorney general to decide that there was no evidence to support obstruction.

When asked whether Muellers team had concerns about his portrayal of the special counsels work, Barr told back-to-back congressional panels last month that he was unaware of any. This appears to contradict a letter from Mueller to Barr that surfaced this week, in which he raised concerns that the attorney generals initial summary did not fully capture the context, nature and substance of his investigation.

Congressman Steve Cohen places a ceramic chicken at the empty witness seat for the attorney general, William Barr at a House Judiciary Committee meeting. Photograph: Tom Brenner/EPA

Barrs robust defense of a presidents executive authority to end an investigation into himself if he believed the inquiry was based on false allegations, alarmed critics of both parties.

The president does not have to sit there constitutionally and allow it to run its course, Barr told senators. The president could terminate that proceeding and it would not be corrupt intent because he was being falsely accused.

Hillary Clinton warned that Barrs theory puts the country on a road to tyranny.

In the Washington Examiner, the conservative columnist Quin Hillyer agreed, argued: No man, not even the president, should be allowed to adjudge his own case. Otherwise, hes a tyrant.

Ben Wittes, the editor in chief of Lawfare and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, in a piece published in the Atlantic, said he had reserved criticism of Barr after his summary and in the wake of a news conference in which he invoked Trumps language and declared no collusion. But he called his performance before the Senate catastrophic.

Not in my memory has a sitting attorney general more diminished the credibility of his department on any subject, Wittes wrote.


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Yet Republican lawmakers and conservatives mostly rose to Barrs defense. The editorial board of the conservative National Review said Barrs conduct had become an obsession for Democrats and the press and the focus of endless conspiracy theories and called the furor over his four-page summary incredibly dumb.

At a press conference after Barr failed to appear before the House judiciary committee, Democrats fumed.

The California congressman Ted Lieu called Barr one of the most dangerous men in Washington DC and said: All options are on the table, including fines and a criminal referral.

The New York congressman Hakeem Jeffries, a member of the Democratic leadership, attacked Barr as a disgrace and a minion who chose to serve as the personal fixer for Donald Trump.

Pelosi, in an appearance on Capitol Hill later that day, said she had lost sleep contemplating Barrs testimony before the Senate judiciary committee.

I kept thinking, what could possibly be motivating the attorney general of the United States to disrespect the constitution of the United States, the separation of powers, the right of Congress to know? she said at a press conference on Capitol Hill this week.

The former FBI director James Comey, whose firing by Trump prompted the appointment of a special counsel, offered one theory.

Amoral leaders have a way of revealing the character of those around them, he wrote.

Trump, Comey added, eats your soul in small bites.

Original Article : HERE ; This post was curated & posted using : RealSpecific

This post was curated & Posted using : RealSpecific

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