During a speech at Hillsdale College, Attorney General William Barr publicly criticized hundreds of his federal prosecutors who work for the Justice Department. He gave me the impression that he thought that they were being too tough on criminals. Not your everyday offenders — I don’t think Barr cares about them — but those who that happen to be friends with his boss.
While he protects the friends of Donald Trump, even those who have pleaded guilty (see Michael Flynn), he is determined to investigate his own employees. Specifically, he is investigating Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Last week, one of the long-term Justice Department employees, Nora Dannehy, who was working on Barr’s investigation, resigned. According to The New York Times, sources from Justice and friends of Dannehy said she resigned because Barr had politicized the Justice Department, especially the investigation of Mueller’s probe, in order to help Trump’s reelection.
It’s not too often that an attorney general orders an investigation into his own employees. But when his staff in the Justice Department and the FBI found (and continue to find) that Russia tried to help Trump get elected and reelected, Barr seems determined to discredit them. As Neal Katyal and Joshua Geltzer, professors of law at Georgetown University, write in The New York Times, Barr wants to “try to vindicate Mr. Trump’s narrative that he was targeted in 2016 by the deep state.”
The U.S. Senate, led by a majority of Republicans, has already looked at this story and came to the same conclusion about Russia helping Trump in 2016. Not satisfied, Barr launched his own investigation and everyone expects him to release a critical report of the Mueller investigation before the election.
This follows the resignation of Brian Murphy, a senior Department of Homeland Security official. Before his resignation, Murphy filed a whistle-blower complaint stating that White House and Homeland Security officials told him to “cease providing intelligence assessments on the threat of Russian interference in the United States.” Murphy said he was told, it “made the president look bad.” He was told to instead “start reporting on interference activities by China and Iran.” Once again, the Trump administration gives Russia a pass. I wonder why?
As outlined by Katyal and Geltzer, there is a long list of federal prosecutors who have resigned from the Justice Department in response to Barr’s special treatment of the president’s friends. Michael Flynn and Roger Stone are two examples. No one can offer any other reason for their exceptional treatment except for their relationship with the president and the information they may have on his ties to Russia.
In his Hillsdale speech, Barr also compared the COVID-19 lockdowns ordered by state governors to “house arrest.” He went on to say, “Other than slavery … this is the greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history.” Only an old white guy provided with the privileges of the world could make such a stunningly ignorant comparison. How insulting to those who endured a lifetime of enslavement for the enrichment of people like Barr.
By the way, many of us can think of a few things since slavery that has seriously violated the “civil liberties” of Americana significantly more than asking Americans to stay in the comfort of our homes whenever possible. How about the incarceration of innocent Japanese Americans during World War II? How about the lynching of thousands of African Americans, frequently with the protection of the local police? How about the Jim Crow days when people of color were prevented from voting or buying a home? How about the institutionalization and sterilization of thousands of Americans with disabilities? How about the horrible treatment of Jews in America during World War II?
More recently, as outlined by Jennifer Rubin in The Washington Post, how about “dragging people off the street of Portland without probable cause” or “the serial murders of Black men and women by police?”
Perhaps Barr needs a civil rights history lesson.
Also, the idea that asking people to stay home and watch Netflix or to wear a mask, is an intrusion of their basic civil liberties is interesting from a man who ordered the violent clearing of peaceful protesters from church property near the White House so his boss could have a photo opportunity holding a Bible.
“Any patina of professionalism, hint of decency, and respect for nonpartisan law enforcement are gone” adds Rubin about Barr. Americans long for a return of decency and the fair application of the rule of law. Jan. 20 can’t get here soon enough.
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Tom Zirpoli is the program coordinator of the Human Services Management graduate program at McDaniel College. He writes from Westminster. His column appears Wednesdays. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.