Trump's attorney general pick faces Senate with a lot to answer for


William Barr has gotten off to a disgraceful start.

There's an outside chance that Trump's nominee for attorney general, William Barr, was picked just because he seems like a shoo-in. Barr already held the job once, during the George H. W. Bush administration, and went on to have a long career as a lawyer for big corporations and at a white shoe firm.

However, it's clear that Barr got the nod from Trump for other reasons, including his enthusiasm for pardoning high-level political operatives and his belief that it is "very destructive to personal liberty" if political appointees don't perform "political supervision" of nonpartisan Department of Justice (DOJ) employees and their cases.

Barr isn't just abstractly worrisome. He's already injected himself into the Mueller investigation in impermissible ways. In 2018, he sent an entirely unsolicited 20-page memo to the DOJ criticizing the Russia investigation. Perhaps he felt warranted in doing so because Trump had already tried to hire him as his personal attorney for the Mueller investigation. He thinks Hillary Clinton, not Trump, should be investigated.

With all of that baggage, it's tough to believe Barr when he says that Mueller will be allowed to finish his report. Even in that statement, there is still some hemming and hawing. Barr says that the public should "be informed of the results of the special counsel's work."

That's not the same as saying the report should be public and gives Barr some wiggle room to provide only a stripped-down version of what Mueller concludes. Additionally, given that Barr supported Bush's decision to pardon high-level people who lied to the American public during the Iran-Contra affair, there's no reason to believe Barr wouldn't support the same sort of action by Trump.

Just as frightening, Barr is also a strong proponent of executive privilege — the idea that a president can do whatever they want. During his time serving under George H.W. Bush, Barr opined that Bush didn't need Congressional permission to invade Iraq and that the FBI could arrest people abroad whether that country consented or not. Given that Trump is currently contemplating declaring a national emergency to build his border wall, the idea of an Attorney General who will back Trump's every whim is terrifying.

Though it is unlikely that GOP senators would listen to their constituents on this matter, recent polling makes very clear that the majority of voters want their senators to refuse to confirm Barr unless Barr commits to allowing Mueller to release his findings publicly. A substantial majority — 68% — of all voters surveyed don't think Trump should be allowed to handpick the person overseeing an investigation into Trump's administration. And 56% of all voters think Trump should be indicted and prosecuted if Mueller determines Trump committed a crime.

Regrettably, in the end, it's hard to genuinely believe that Trump would have nominated Barr had Barr not already assured him of both fealty and protection. At this point, Trump is only looking out for Trump.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.