It was inevitable that Democrats would object to whoever President Donald Trump nominated to replace Jeff Sessions as attorney general. William Barr will be that nominee and, if confirmed by the Senate, would be assuming the position at the head of the Department of Justice for a second time. Barr served as President George H.W. Bush’s attorney general from 1991 to 1993.
Obviously, then, Barr is unquestionably qualified to lead the DOJ but congressional Democrats are now all in on their quest to usurp the power of the executive branch, and that includes the authority to dictate to the president who he may – and may not – hire and fire.
Faced with a nominee who has already been attorney general – previously confirmed unanimously by a Democrat-controlled Senate – the resisters had to come up with another excuse to fight Trump’s pick. That excuse is, of course, Barr’s previous comments about the ongoing special counsel investigation.
Like the president himself, Barr has expressed concern that Robert Mueller built his special counsel team around a group of prosecutors with ties to the Democratic Party. Almost all of them were Democrat donors. “In my view,” Barr told The Washington Post in 2017, “prosecutors who make political contributions are identifying fairly strongly with a political party.” To suggest that these attorneys might have a bias against the president is ridiculous, however, according to congressional Democrats.
Selective Definition of Bias
Trump’s political opponents seem to have an extremely selective perception of what constitutes preconceived bias and conflict. Former FBI agent Peter Strzok led the Bureau’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email use and was instrumental in launching the investigation into alleged collusion between Trump’s 2016 campaign team and the Russian government. When it was revealed, via text messages uncovered by the DOJ’s inspector general, that Strzok harbored considerable animus toward Trump, Republicans voiced concerns that the agent’s personal opinions may have influenced the way he conducted either, or both, investigations. Democrats were indignant that such a thing could even be suggested.
As the Strzok saga unfolded, the evidence of bias against then-candidate Trump piled up – talk of an “insurance policy” against the Republican candidate winning the election and even a vow by Strzok that “we’ll stop him.” According to Democrats, though, all of this was completely irrelevant and, further, it was nothing less than insulting to suggest that federal officials would allow their personal opinions to interfere with their work.
Apparently, however, such trust in the integrity of DOJ officials cannot be extended to anyone nominated by the president. Jeff Sessions did not deserve that trust and, once confirmed as attorney general, was pressured to recuse himself from oversight of the Mueller investigation. Matthew Whitaker, the current acting attorney general, did not deserve that trust either. Since he had previously speculated that the special counsel could be deprived of funding, the Democrats howled in anger when Trump named him Sessions’ interim replacement. Barr cannot be trusted either, it seems. A few skeptical comments about the special counsel are all the proof Democrats need that Barr will shut down Mueller’s operation.
The Coming Coup Attempt
There is much more to this than the Democrats’ double standard, though: This is really about an all-out attempt to deny the president the constitutional powers of his office. The opposition party – as it prepares to assume majority control of the House of Representatives – has already lined up a staggering series of investigations into just about every action Trump has taken as president. Quite simply, Democrats have trashed the Constitution and proclaimed themselves rulers of the country, conferring upon themselves the authority to limit the power of the executive branch as and when they see fit.
As an extension of what is, in effect, an attempted soft coup, the leaders of the Democratic Party are positioning the special counsel as a virtual fourth branch of the federal government, free of oversight, free of budget constraints and with its head, Robert Mueller, answerable to no-one and beyond anyone’s power to fire. As it becomes ever more apparent that Mueller has no evidence of collusion and no crime sufficient to bring down the president, the Democrats plan to ensure that Mueller and his team will merely continue to investigate whatever they choose and will do so at least until the 2020 election.
Clinton In the Crosshairs
There is one more issue that scares the Democrats: William Barr has made it clear that he believes the DOJ should be investigating Hillary Clinton’s role in the Uranium One scandal. “To the extent, it is not pursuing these matters,” Barr has previously told The New York Times, “the department is abdicating its responsibility.” Regardless of what congressional Democrats choose to investigate, they are powerless to prevent the DOJ from conducting its own investigations, even though they will surely try and, with Barr at the helm, Clinton’s conduct as Secretary of State will likely be the subject of vigorous scrutiny.
Jeff Sessions was never up to this coming confrontation.
The Democrats intend to wield their new congressional power like a cudgel, beating Trump into the position of a powerless figurehead and universal scapegoat, to be then quickly disposed of – or so they hope. Jeff Sessions was never up to this coming confrontation, but William Barr certainly is. He is one of those who takes a dim view of the ongoing trend toward ever more power shifting from the executive to the legislative branch and, as attorney general, he will be a formidable opponent of the Democrats’ efforts to accelerate that trend.
Over the past two years, there has been much talk of a constitutional crisis. Most of that talk came from Democrats, and almost all of it was entirely without merit. Come January 2019, Americans will witness a real constitutional crisis: a power struggle between the president and the House of Representatives. The legislative process itself will all but grind to a halt as House Democrats focus their efforts on litigating every action of the executive branch. The questions left to be answered: Which side will prevail? In what condition will the nation – and the federal government – find itself, come the summer of 2020? No matter how many investigations take place between now and then, the Democrats would do well to remember that the one verdict most consequential for them will be the one delivered by the electorate in November of that year.