Our Constitution is under attack by Attorney General William Barr
On Constitution Day this week, we contemplated 233 years since the signing of our national charter. I write with profound concern that our Constitution is under attack by Attorney General William Barr. His politically motivated assaults on the rule of law, the norms of procedural due process and our election systems undermine our system of government and threaten our basic liberties. Nothing is more sacred for our nation than the Constitution. My oath as a member of Congress, to support and defend the Constitution, compels me to confront this corruption. That is why I have attempted to address these concerns by introducing H. Res. 1032, calling for an inquiry into whether Barr should be impeached. Some people counsel patience but I’m reminded of what wise men have always known: If we do not stand up to injustice, our silent indifference will condemn us.
The facts are beyond dispute. His politicization of the Justice Department is a danger to us all. Barr’s ordering the Justice Department to intervene in the prosecution of the Michael Flynn case — and attempting to dismiss the charges to which Flynn had already pleaded guilty, and over the objections of career prosecutors — is beyond unacceptable. He ordered the reduction of the proposed sentence for President Trump’s friend and advisor convicted felon Roger Stone, again against recommendations of prosecutors. He ordered the dismissal of the U.S. Attorney in New York who was known to be investigating those close to Donald Trump. When the pandemic prompted prisons to release offenders on humanitarian grounds, Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, got home release. But his former lawyer Michael Cohen was released and then thrown back into solitary confinement when he refused to give up his First Amendment right to publish his Trump memoir, Disloyal, and wasn’t released until a federal judge found his treatment had been retaliatory and unlawful. Barr’s actions suggest that the laws which govern criminal conduct in our country are for the rest of us, not for the friends and family of the president. The Constitution guarantees equal justice under the law and due process. The harm he has done to the professional pride of those in the Department, and his evident contempt for their institutional memory, devotion to justice and judgment (calling them “preschoolers”), will be difficult memories to erase.
Barr’s hyperbolic and exaggerated claims invite ridicule of his high office. For example, his recent comments comparing public health quarantines to slavery shows an almost incomprehensible and stomach-churning insensitivity, particularly since the victims of the coronavirus pandemic are disproportionately African American.
Eighty percent of the faculty of George Washington University Law School, which granted Barr his J.D. in 1977 and conferred upon him an honorary degree in 1992, recently condemned his actions as Trump’s attorney general. Their letter said he has “undermined the rule of law, damaged public confidence that the law applies equally and fairly to all persons and demonstrated contempt for basic Constitutional rights.”
It then concluded that he has “failed to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.” I believe the situation is worse. Barr is actively weakening and attacking the core of our democracy.
Barr was present and reportedly ordered the unleashing of federal police on peaceful protestors exercising their First Amendment rights, clearing Lafayette Square so the president could have his picture taken with a Bible outside the historic St. John’s Church. He later termed those exercising their right to protest “seditious.”
What’s more, as the nation’s top law enforcement official, Barr now eschews norms, established for centuries, that keep the attorney general above the partisan fray. In fact, he is actively using his office to weaken our elections for the purpose of strengthening Donald Trump’s candidacy. He deliberately misled the public on the substance and significance of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on (“systematic and sweeping”) Russian meddling in the 2016 election and has now appointed federal prosecutors to muddy both its legitimacy and procedures. And rather than follow precedent in matters bearing on the outcome of imminent elections, he as much as admits he plans to announce what are sure to be partisan and misleading allegations as an October Surprise in aid of his benefactor.
Recently, Barr has sought to question the fairness of mail-in voting on national television. Having no evidence to support his claims of rampant fraud or counterfeit ballots, Barr turned to inuendo and distortions, then claimed “logic” justified his concern. I have demanded he make a correction of his misleading statements, but he has so far failed to do so. In our system, the Tenth Amendment dictates that the election laws are administered by the states and Barr’s purposeful spread of misinformation is both inappropriate and harmful.
Our Constitution was written to withstand the bluster of tyrants and the zeal of those whose ambitions tear at its fabric. It is resilient because the American people are committed to its principles. Barr is a unique case: sworn to support and defend the Constitution, he declines. We are a nation of laws, not people. We need an attorney general committed to our highest law, and that’s why Barr must go.
Congressman Cohen, the chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, represents Tennessee’s 9th District.
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