attorney general

Lessons From a Senate Committee Hearing

The Merrick Garland confirmation hearing yielded a couple of unanticipated lessons, one of which we might have expected, but it arrived in a surprisingly moving and impactful way. The other was a fresh take on what happened on January 6.

Judge Garland responded to a question from Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) about why he wanted to be the United States Attorney General. Here’s what Judge Garland said – I watched it live – as reported in the Washington Post:

“I come from a family where my grandparents fled antisemitism and persecution,” Garland said. And then he stopped. He sat in silence for more than a few beats. And when he resumed, his voice cracked. “The country took us in and protected us. And I feel an obligation to the country, to pay back.”

“This is the highest, best use of my one set of skills,” Garland said. “And so I want very much to be the kind of attorney general you’re saying I could be.”

Does that work for you? Is that the kind of fiercely held attitude of service and integrity you want the chief enforcer of our laws to have? I think we can feel safe in entrusting our Constitution to this guy. And won’t that be refreshing?

One other thing was also prompted by Sen. Booker. He invoked the Bible, Micah 6:8: ”  .  .  .  to do justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with thy God.” Booker used that to frame a question for Judge Garland, but I got to thinking about those words and juxtaposing them with the cross carrying, Bible thumping, hate spewing, Jesus intoning violent people who attacked the Capitol Building and everyone in it or guarding it on January 6.

As these people ransacked the building, as they went hunting for Nancy Pelosi and Mike Pence in order to murder them in the name of their false patriotism, as they befouled the halls of Congress, what was their score in doing justly?

As they murdered several people, and injured 140 Capitol Police and DC cops, as they brutalized one cop trapped in a doorway and bludgeoned another with the staffs of American flags and baseball bats as he lay prone and defenseless on the steps of the Capitol, how were they doing in loving mercy?

Booker didn’t mention the walking humbly part, but did you see or hear any humility on the part of the hate-filled, raging insurrectionist mob that day?

It’s a most stark and shocking comparison between a humble man who longs to give back to the country that took in and protected his grandparents when they had nowhere else to go, and the hateful thugs who want to tear down every good thing this country stands for.

Every now and then Congressional hearings bring us something truly valuable. In these hearings we found a good man, this in a time when we dearly need good people.


Unavoidable Footnote

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-QAnon) used his five minutes in this hearing to make vacuous claims, like saying that the rioters carrying Trump flags and invoking his name were Antifa provocateurs and far left subversives. Claim after claim was not just false, but outrageously, cartoonishly false.

I believe Johnson to be reasonably intelligent, which eliminates his using ignorance as his excuse for saying such things. That leaves us only one other explanation: he lied. Now, why would he do that, especially in such a brazen and evil cartoon character manner?

I think it’s time for the Commissioner to shine the Bat Signal onto the clouds and summon Batman and Robin to clean up the pandering.



In the original posting of this essay Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) was identified as the invoker of the cartoon comments. It was Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin who made the cartoon comments, not Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio. This post has been updated to correct the error. Many thanks to sharp-eyed reader Chuck Tanner for the correction  and apologies to Sen. Portman.


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Your Lyin’ Eyes and Impeachment

Reading time – 3.47; Viewing time – 5:20  .  .  .

The Mueller Report is out and I haven’t had time to go through all 448 pages, although you can do that yourself by getting the PDF from the DOJ website here. Click on the 4th line beginning “Report on the Investigation” for the download. Or if you prefer you can get an indexed and searchable version here.

There is big stuff in that report, including that the lack of indictments of the president is due to the Justice Department guideline that a sitting president can’t be indicted. Also, because so many documents were destroyed by various perps.

Nevertheless, Mueller let us know that he was unable to declare that the President of the United States isn’t a criminal. Stunning! My more chilling takeaway, though, is about Attorney General William Barr.

Barr was promoted as a legal institutionalist, even after his unsolicited, 19-page job application that made it clear that he believed that, metaphorically speaking, a president really could get away with shooting someone on 5th Avenue. That view works for Trump and Barr got the attorney general post.

In each of his public appearances and writings as attorney general, Barr has gone out of his way to exonerate the president. His rhetoric vacillates between cherry-picked, out of context phrases to outright lies all in favor of President Trump. Did he think we wouldn’t notice? In listening to Barr I’m reminded of comedian Richard Pryor’s line, “Who you gonna believe: me or your lyin’ eyes?”

The scary part is that Barr sounds like the president’s defense counsel, instead of the attorney for the Constitution of the United States of America.

In his piece in New York Magazine entitled, “Congress Should Impeach William Barr,” Jonathan Chait wrote,

“The Justice Department is an awesome force that holds the power to enable the ruling party to commit crimes with impunity .  .  .”

We should have seen this coming.

From The Onion, of course. Click the pic

Barr is the former attorney general for President George H.W. Bush. Barr recommended to Bush that he pardon the convicted Iran-Contra felons. Click through the link and scroll down to the Indictments section and you’ll see that these guys did a lot of really bad things, including thwarting the explicit will of Congress. You need to appreciate how significant that is.

Doing that is an attack on Congress itself, and it encourages an imperial presidency. William Barr cemented that by recommending those pardons. And now he’s defending this power grabbing, dictator wanna-be president.

If Barr is an institutionalist, exactly what institution does he serve?

Read more about this here.

And another thing .  .  .

Now that most of the Mueller Report is released, the talk of impeachment is spiraling upward. I’ve long called for the removal of this cheating, lying, fraudulent, self-aggrandizing, democracy damaging president, but now I have significant doubt about that notion.

President Gerald Ford set a woeful precedent by granting, “.  .  .   a full, free and absolute pardon unto Richard Nixon for all offenses against the United States which he, Richard Nixon, has committed or may have committed or taken part in .  .  .” Nixon got a free pass for his criminal wrongdoing and wasn’t held accountable in any way.

That is the precedent that Mike Pence will inherit should he become President. That means that our criminal president will likely be pardoned for any and all crimes which he may have committed (think: conspiring with the Russians to disrupt our 2016 election, obstruction of justice; money laundering; and fraud).

Further, if Trump were to be impeached, whether convicted in the Senate or not, he and the Republicans will wail about him being a poor victim, suffering unfair discrimination by the evil Democrats and the Washington swamp. That could lead to another Republican in the White House in 2021 and a Congress controlled by the same spineless legislators who are enabling Trump right now.

The solution that makes the most sense to me is to Benghazi Trump: just keep his wrongdoing in the public eye through November 3, 2020 with ongoing Congressional hearings.

I often have difficulty rationalizing the impact of the bypassing of punishment for wrongdoing in favor of some greater good, but this one looks obvious enough even for me.

No impeachment.


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