Tag Archives: DOJ

Is there any sense of propriety in the White House?

This is rich beyond belief.

The president of the United States apparently sees nothing wrong with the attorney general of the United States booking a spendy family party at a hotel the president owns.

Donald Trump and William Barr appeared made for each other.

The AG booked a party for Dec. 8 that will cost about $30,000 at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. Barr will pay for the party out of his own pocket.

But, my goodness, this appears to violate that knotty issue called the Emoluments Clause in the U.S. Constitution. The president is not supposed to profit financially while in office. Yet the attorney general is going to have a big family party at a Trump property, giving the president a healthy chunk of change.

There are ethics concerns about the wazoo, man.

According to FoxNews.com: “Career ethics officials were consulted and they determined that ethics rules did not prohibit him from hosting his annual party at the Trump hotel,” the DOJ official told The Post.

Of course the Justice Department wouldn’t see anything wrong it! Barr runs the department; Trump nominated Barr to become the nation’s top law enforcement official. Barr has been acting as Trump’s personal lawyer more than the nation’s top legal eagle.

Others do see a problem … as if it matters one damn bit to the attorney general, let alone the president.

How about an independent probe into Epstein death?

Jeffrey Epstein was under the “watchful eye” of the U.S. Department of Justice. He was being held in a Manhattan jail cell. He was arguably the most notorious criminal in federal custody, a guy who needed the DOJ’s relentless and unblinking attention.

Then he hangs himself. The DOJ is denied the opportunity to put a known pedophile on trial for allegations of sex trafficking underage girls.

The multimillionaire also had two high-profile relationships, with Bill Clinton and Donald Trump … a former and current president of the United States.

Now we hear from Attorney General William Barr blasting to smithereens the security detail at the Manhattan jail. He has called Epstein’s death a monumental failure.

Really, Mr. AG? Well, who is responsible for that failure? I contend that the AG himself is to blame. This happened on Barr’s watch.

The medical examiner has reportedly determined Epstein’s cause of death. There appears to be no evidence of “foul play,” or so we’re led to believe. I won’t join conspiracy theorists who have ideas and notions aplenty about what happened to Epstein.

However, does the DOJ investigate itself? Does the Justice Department look deeply into this a**hole’s death?

I don’t know how the DOJ does that. Nor do I accept that the department can peel away all the layers to expose the truth behind what happened to this guy.

Epstein was put on suicide watch in late July after he was found unconscious in his cell; he reportedly had ligature marks on his neck, suggesting an attempt at hanging himself. Then they removed the suicide watch. Then we hear that the security staff was overworked and didn’t keep an eye on this bastard at all times, allowing him to string himself up inside the jail cell.

That sounds like incompetence. I believe the incompetence goes far beyond the walls of that correctional facility.

Attorney General Barr needs to step aside. He needs to find an independent investigator to take over and determine how such a high-value, high-profile and infamous prisoner can kill himself while he’s in the hands of a federal agency charged with keeping him alive while his notorious case works its way toward adjudication.

Does capital punishment deter capital crime?

So, the federal government is restoring the death penalty for federal crimes. The Justice Department is bringing back this form of punishment that’s been on the shelf for two decades, through presidential administrations of both parties.

I have to ask: What crime will it deter? Where is the deterrence that this punishment is supposed to create? Do criminals really think of the punishment when they commit these heinous acts?

Capital punishment gives me considerable heartburn as I grapple with how I feel about it. I have declared my opposition to the death penalty as a punishment handed out by states and, now, the federal government.

We kill criminals at a break-neck pace in Texas, although the pace has slowed considerably in recent years. There once was a time when we were executing ’em with stunning regularity. There were tacky, crass jokes about setting up a “drive-through window” at the state’s execution chamber in Livingston.

Did the frequency of those executions stem the crime tide? Did it prevent killers from doing what they did to deserve the ultimate punishment? I fear not.

Which makes the DOJ’s decision to return the death penalty so problematic for me.

I don’t want to “coddle” these individuals. They should serve hard time. I do not oppose “administrative segregation,” which is a euphemism for “solitary confinement.” If they’re going to spend the rest of their lives in prison, make them pay deeply for the crime that put them behind bars.

I am acutely aware that life sentences don’t deter criminals, either.

The notion of deterring criminal acts requires a lot more thought and nuance than just killing the individuals who commit them.

Worst mistake? Hiring someone who follows the law? Wow!

That was an instructive interview that Donald J. Trump agreed to this past weekend … wouldn’t you say?

“Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd asked the president to reveal his major regret since taking office. Trump said it was a “personnel” matter, specifically his decision to appoint Jeff Sessions to be attorney general.

My jaw dropped.

Todd asked, “Why?” Trump said it was because Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation into alleged collusion with Russian operatives who attacked our electoral system.

Now, let’s ponder this for a moment.

Trump said his biggest mistake was hiring an AG who followed the law by recusing himself from a probe into an activity in which he — the AG — was involved. There was no way Sessions could investigate himself. So, he followed Justice Department policy by pulling away from the investigation, given that he was a key player in the campaign and in the transition to the presidency.

Sessions followed the law. Meanwhile, Trump appears to have no trouble with other Cabinet officials who were forced to resign because of ethical violations. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price quit because of travel violations; Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke resigned over similar accusations; same thing for Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt.

All that’s OK with Trump. Meanwhile, senior adviser Kellyanne Conway is accused of violating the Hatch Act by using her position as an executive branch official to launch partisan attacks against Trump opponents. That’s OK, too!

The president surrounds himself with scumbags and hangers-on and becomes enraged at a Cabinet officer who actually followed the law.

Good grief!

Jeff Sessions was a lousy choice to be AG for a lot of reasons. His decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation, though, was not one of them. He merely revealed an understanding of the law and ethics that Donald Trump does not get. 

Immigration debate produces another villain

I already have called into question whether immigrant detainees are being held in “concentration camps,” as alleged by U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other progressives.

But then a Justice Department lawyer told a federal appeals court judge that children being held in these detention centers don’t necessarily need toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap and blankets to be “safe and sanitary.”

The government sought to argue before a three-judge panel — part of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals — that it shouldn’t be required to provide those necessities to children who are kept in these centers along the southern border.

The idiocy came from DOJ lawyer Sarah Fabian. Her comments drew a sharp rebuke from Judge A. Wallace Tashima, who said, “To me it’s more like it’s within everybody’s common understanding: If you don’t have a toothbrush, if you don’t have soap, if you don’t have a blanket, it’s not safe and sanitary.”

The government is in court appealing a 2017 ruling that declared that migrants were being kept in unsanitary and unsafe conditions along the border.

And this is the defense that the Department of Justice sought to mount, that these essential personal hygiene elements aren’t part of maintaining “safe and sanitary” conditions?

Unbelievable.

I stand by my questioning of the “concentration camp” description. I also want to condemn in the strongest terms possible the idiotic notion put forth that these migrants do not need to be clean while they are being held in these detention centers.

We are talking here about children, for God’s sake!

AG proving to be a major disappointment

Oh, how I wanted William Barr to be the right remedy for a Justice Department under siege from the president of the United States.

The attorney general took office after a contentious confirmation hearing. It is the AG’s second tour of duty at DOJ. He’s an experienced hand and reportedly a fine lawyer with a steel-trap legal mind.

He has been a disappointment to me. Yes, I am a fervent critic of the guy who nominated William Barr to lead the Justice Department. Donald Trump had savaged Barr’s predecessor as attorney general. Why? Because Jeff Sessions did the right thing by recusing himself from the Russia probe.

Barr stepped in and has — according to his critics — acted more like Trump’s lawyer than the nation’s top law enforcement official.

Now we hear from former FBI director James Comey, another damn good lawyer, who has weighed in with scorching criticism of Barr.

Comey said Barr is “echoing conspiracy theories” about the origins of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s exhaustive investigation into alleged collusion with the Russians. Barr, according to Comey, needs to present facts along with his assertions. “This is what Justice is about,” Comey said via Twitter.

Barr also has been critical of Mueller for declining to conclude whether Donald Trump obstructed justice. But … why? Mueller reiterated this week what he wrote in his lengthy report that he couldn’t indict Trump because of Justice Department policy that prohibits charging a president with a crime. So, he said his team couldn’t exonerate Trump, which to my way of thinking is the same thing as saying that the president committed a crime. That sounds as though Mueller drew a conclusion.

I truly wanted William Barr to step up, to steady the DOJ ship and guide the Justice Department into carrying its role as an impartial administrator of justice.

That doesn’t appear to be happening. Thus, the chaos continues in a federal agency that demands calm, firm and steady leadership.

POTUS can stop declaring ‘no obstruction’

Well, that was a remarkable non-event.

Former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III called a brief press event today to tell the world a few things.

He is closing up his shop and going back to becoming a private citizen. Mueller said he will not talk to Congress, as he has said all he is going to say about the 22-month investigation into whether Donald Trump’s presidential campaign colluded with the Russians who attacked our electoral system in 2016.

Oh, and he said that he did not clear the president of obstruction of justice, leaving the door wide open — still! — for Congress to do whatever it deems necessary to correct whatever ills it deems need correcting.

I want to join the millions of Americans who grateful for the work turned in by the former FBI director. He is, as one of Trump’s lawyers called him, “an American hero.” He is a patriot and a man of impeccable integrity and character.

As for his decision to forgo any congressional testimony, I have ruminated a bit about that and I accept his decision to call it good. The 448-page report he filed at the end of his probe ought to serve as the defining document of what he concluded.

Mueller and his team did not find sufficient evidence that Trump and his campaign conspired to collude with the Russians. He also said that despite evidence of obstruction of justice that he would follow Department of Justice policy and decline to indict a sitting president.

I accept those findings, too.

He also did not “exonerate” the president of obstruction of justice. Do I believe Donald Trump’s hysterical claims of “no collusion, no obstruction”? Or do I accept the more studied and serious analysis from Mueller that had there been grounds for exoneration he would have said so? I’ll go with Mueller. Trump, meanwhile, can yammer, stammer and blather all he wants about there being “no obstruction.”

Mueller has left it clear that the issue of obstruction now rests in the laps of 100 U.S. senators and 435 U.S. House members.

They have more work to do.

As for Mueller’s work, it’s over.

Thank you again, Mr. Special Counsel. You have performed a marvelous public service.

Barr has become a big disappointment … dang it!

William Barr came into office as U.S. attorney general bringing a glimmer of hope — even among some of the nation’s most vigorous foes of Donald Trump, the man who nominated him to be the AG.

I was one of those who had hope that Barr would be a grownup, that he would conduct himself with professional impartiality, taking seriously the oath to which he swore to be our attorney general, not be an a**-coverer for the president of the United States.

The AG has let me down.

Hard, man!

His testimony this week before the Senate Judiciary Committee was an exercise in obfuscation and evasion. Then he did something even worse: He refused to appear before the House Judiciary Committee and answer questions from that panel’s team of legal eagles.

I don’t know what I was thinking, now that I look back on what happened prior to Barr’s nomination.

Trump fired Jeff Sessions as AG because Sessions refused to act as a Trump sycophant; that’s why he recused himself from the Russia investigation. He couldn’t under Justice Department rules take part in an investigation into an activity in which he was a principal player. Sessions served on Trump’s campaign team, then on his transition team, which the DOJ was probing with regard to allegations of collusion and other potential misdeeds.

So he walked away, handed the matter over to his No. 2 at DOJ, Rod Rosenstein, who then appointed Robert S. Mueller III as special counsel. All of that enraged Trump, as we have since learned.

Now he has installed his “boy” at DOJ, William Barr.

Barr’s record as attorney general near the end of President George H.W. Bush’s term suggested to me that he would be the right man for the country, not necessarily for the president.

Silly me. It turns out he is the right man for Trump and he is wrong for the country.

I wanted to feel good about Barr. Sadly, he has let me down.

Dammit, anyway!

Let the power struggle commence … and play out

A power struggle between the legislative and the executive branches of the federal government is now in full swing.

I am going to side — no surprise here — with the legislative branch in its fight with the other guys.

Attorney General William Barr — quite likely with the full blessing of the president of the United States — has decided to be a no-show at today’s House Judiciary Committee hearing. The committee, controlled by Democrats, wants to know more about Barr’s receipt of the report filed in March by special counsel Robert Mueller III on the matter involving “collusion” and “obstruction of justice” with regard to the Trump campaign’s involvement with Russians.

Barr has the answers. He is not giving the House committee any of them.

The struggle involves whether the House controls the parameters of these hearings or whether the White House gets to choose which rules it will follow and which of them it will ignore.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler says the House is in charge. He says the White House cannot dictate how Congress does its job. He points out correctly that Article I of the U.S. Constitution lays out Congress’s exclusive power and declares that the legislative and executive branches are “co-equal,” meaning that neither branch is more powerful than the other.

Barr stayed away because he didn’t want to be quizzed by committee lawyers. Cry me a river, Mr. Attorney General.

The way I see it, that’s just too damn bad.

The House gets to call the shots here. Not the AG. Not the POTUS.

Barr’s appearance Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary panel raised many questions that House members want to flesh out, as if they didn’t have a full plate of questions already. One of those questions might be why Barr didn’t read the supporting evidence that Mueller provided in his full report before issuing his four-page summary of its findings.

We won’t hear from the AG, at least not yet. Nadler says he is considering whether to file a contempt of Congress citation against the attorney general.

He is allowed to do that, too. The Constitution gives the chairman that power.

The struggle is on.

Mueller breaks with his ‘friend’ Barr

It might be that William Barr and Robert Mueller aren’t as close as they once were thought to be.

The attorney general reportedly received a letter from the special counsel that challenges the AG’s public interpretation of the report that the special counsel filed regarding the conduct of Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

What do you know about that?

I had thought initially that we needed to hear from Mueller about what he thought of Barr’s four-page summary of the report Mueller filed with the Justice Department. Now we have. His reaction is a doozy.

Mueller wrote Barr a letter that suggests that Barr’s summary injects “confusion” into what Mueller’s team concluded about Trump’s alleged “collusion” with Russians who attacked our electoral system. Mueller’s reaction came immediately after Barr released his summary of what he said was Mueller’s conclusion.

Mueller seems to suggest that Barr sought to give the president cover from what Mueller found out.

I won’t go so far as to suggest that Barr should be resign or be impeached, as some have said should happen. I mean, he did release a redacted report to the public and it has exposed a number of questions about what Mueller determined happened during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Politico reports that Mueller’s letter has revealed a “widening rift” between the men who have been friends for decades. Politico also reports that the letter suggests that Mueller’s team is “angry” over the way Barr characterized its findings about Trump’s behavior.

I kind of expected this reaction from Mueller once Barr’s summary was released. I am surprised it took so many weeks to make it known to the public.

Mueller wrote, in part, to his (possibly soon-to-be former) friend Barr: “This threatens to undermine a central purpose for which the Department appointed the Special Counsel: to assure full confidence in the outcome of the investigations.”

The nation needs some answers from the attorney general. He is supposed to testify Thursday before the House Judiciary Committee.

My sincere hope is that he shows up, takes the oath, and answers this question truthfully: Mr. Attorney General, did you write your summary intending to cover up for the president of the United States?