Trump A.G. Pick William Barr: Obstructing Justice Just Part Of President's Job, Man

Donald Trump may be a shitty criminal president, but he does have a talent for surrounding himself with people who come up with high-minded excuses for his shitty criminal presidenting. That explains why he picked Meatball McPeenerToilet as his acting attorney general, and it's probably why he chose William Barr to be the permanent replacement for Jeff Sessions. The Wall Street Journal reported that Barr sent Deputy A.G. Rod Rosenstein an unsolicited 19-page memo in June explaining why the Mueller investigation is bad and illegal and a "fatally misconceived" adventure in witch-hunting that could have "potentially disastrous implications" for the Executive Branch and all future presidents.

So yeah, Trump once again picked a guy who's gone on the record to call Mueller's investigation a WITCH HUNT. Heck of a thing!

We can guarantee this much: Donald Trump certainly hasn't read Barr's memo because, while it makes the case that Trump can't be accused of obstruction of justice -- or even investigated -- for firing James Comey and pressuring him to leave poor Michael Flynn alone, that argument uses a bunch of big lawyer words and refers to legal cases, and there are no pictures at all. So we guess someone must have let Trump know it was a good memo and Barr is a good guy who recognizes that this Rusher thing is all fake news. It's apparently not uncommon for former officials to send such memos on the issues of the day, because they just love to share.

Barr's argument is basically that, as the chief law enforcement officer of the USA, the president has the power to fire an FBI director at will. Therefore, Mueller is just plain not allowed to question the motives for firing Comey, even if that particular "president" went on the teevee news and said it was because he wanted the Russia investigation to go away. No, not even if he said as much to a bunch of actual Russians in the Oval Office, because that is not the point.

Also, the Comey firing can't be obstruction because it didn't involve destruction of physical evidence, so it's totally different from the obstruction of justice charges in the articles of impeachment Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. Those guys obstructed justice by lying and suborning perjury and directing a coverup and stuff, Barr says, but were not accused of obstruction simply for exercising their presidential powers. (Yr Wonkette is no legal historian, but wouldn't the Saturday Night Massacre have been part of what Congress considered an act of obstruction, not merely a human resources decision?)

If Trump were to be prosecuted over actions he took as the lawful head of the executive branch, then woe betide presidents of the future, who might find themselves under criminal investigation for every single act they take as part of presidenting!

If embraced by the department, this theory would have potentially disastrous implications, not just for the presidency, but for the executive branch as a whole and for the department in particular [...] All that is needed is a claim that a supervisor is acting with an improper purpose and any act arguably constraining a case — such as removing a U.S. attorney — could be cast as a crime of obstruction.

Trump's suggestion that Comey go easy on Flynn is also just fine, Barr argues, because as the head law enforcer, a president is constitutionally empowered to direct all parts of law enforcement. And yes, that includes the power to tell law enforcers how to handle a case in which the president is actually implicated, because after all, federal conflict of interest laws specifically do not apply to the president. Barr's argument for the scope of presidential law-doing power is really pretty darn sweeping:

He yam the law, and that's all there is to it. Elsewhere, Barr refers to the "disastrous experimentation with an 'independent' counsel statute" and notes that both parties "agreed to purge" such horrors from our legal system, which certainly would have impressed Trump if he was told about it. If a president is bad, well then elect another one or impeach the bad president if needed, Barr argues. As for investigations into presidents' behavior, that's mostly just a matter of being nice, not the law:

If Donald Trump wants to be imprudent in how he uses his legal authority, the Constitution says he can be very, very imprudent without breaking any laws.

It's not yet clear whether the discovery of this memo will make any difference once Barr is actually nominated and faces confirmation in the Senate; he may well benefit from the sacred legal principle of "any Republican will do." It certainly should make for some interesting questions from Democrats, at least.

Dianne Feinstein said the memo suggests Barr believes "the president is above the law" (no, no, he IS the law!), and Mark Warner, top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, called on Trump to withdraw the nomination, telling CNN the memo disqualified Barr and that Donald Trump's main goal in choosing AG candidates appears to be whether they've criticized Mueller. But is that fair? We bet Trump has just always thought of Barr as one of the sharpest legal minds out there.

Oh, yes, and here's our favorite paragraph in the whole WSJ piece:

After Mr. Trump offered him the job, Mr. Barr briefly told the president that he had written a memo about aspects of the Russia probe that could spur questions during his confirmation hearing, according to a person familiar with the process. It wasn't immediately clear how Mr. Trump responded, but a second person familiar with the matter said the memo played no role in his decision to choose Mr. Barr.

You betcha that's the case! It's nice and convenient, at least. A senior legal analyst consulted by Wonkette, Yr Five Dollar Feminist, offered the opinion that "Trump is an idiot and wouldn't know a conflict of interest if it bit him on his orange ass," and we concur.

But in Trump's America, where the GOP is a wholly owned subsidiary of Trump Org., Barr is likely to sail through confirmation with no problem at all. The Journal reports that DOJ's ethics officials see no issue with the memo -- they have been very busy ethics officials! As spokeswoman Kerri Kupec explained, "Mr. Barr has stated that, if confirmed, he will make any decisions based on the actual facts and circumstances of any particular matter." Nope, no preconceived notions here! Why, he even made clear in his memo that he was only going on the basis of press reports and his experience as a former AG, so we bet he'll be objective as fuck.

Just don't ask him to say the word "recuse." It is a cursed word, fit only for scum and traitors.

[WSJ / NYT / LawFare (PDF of Barr memo)]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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