In the aftermath of the Mueller report, Attorney General Bill Barr has been accused by the Democrats of being biased in favor of President Donald Trump. They felt he had a partisan interpretation of the report to exonerate the president of collusion and obstruction of justice. His critics are partially correct: Barr is indeed biased. It’s called the presumption of innocence.
It’s called the presumption of innocence.
In our everyday life, we tend not to think about the fact that our system of justice is deliberately designed to be biased in favor of the accused. Yet this is, perhaps, the crowning achievement of our civilization. A bromide that captures its essence is that “it is better to let ten guilty people free than to convict an innocent man.”
This legal standard dates to the second-century Roman empire. It is also a recognition of the fact that proving a negative is often impossible and unreasonable. That is why the court only reaches the verdicts “guilty” or “not guilty.” Not guilty does not mean innocent.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller did not honor two thousand years of Western legal tradition when he declared:
“If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment.”
The standard Mueller seems to have applied for exoneration was proof the president was innocent.
What is, perhaps, even more disturbing is that Barr went along with this standard when evaluating the evidence. Still, he concluded that there was no basis for a charge of obstruction of justice. The absence of probable cause, much less evidence beyond a reasonable doubt means no charges could be brought legally or ethically against any defendant, much less the president.
The Democrats, however, accused Barr of being biased, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) thought that there was enough evidence for impeachment proceedings. This gives us a unique insight into the mindset of Democrats: They have seemingly accepted Mueller’s exoneration standard and will adapt it to their political needs to slow-roast the president over the impeachment coals.
The fact that this burden-shifting happened in the Kavanaugh hearings as well, shows this is not a fluke, but a calculated attempt to hold people to a standard they will never be able to meet, precisely because we can’t prove a negative. Witnesses should be prepared to refute such demands with demands of their own for a fair process, and President Trump should use his bully pulpit to advocate and inform on the issue as well.
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