Tag Archives: DOJ

AG Barr now must make good on pledge

U.S. Attorney General William Barr has the potential to emerge as one of the few grownups to serve in the presidential administration of Donald J. Trump.

The Senate confirmed him this week with a 54-45 vote, which I thought was much closer and more partisan than I expected. However, he’s now the head guy at the Justice Department.

AG Barr’s task now is to make good on the pledges he made to the Senate Judiciary Committee during his confirmation hearing.

Barr said he wouldn’t be bullied by the president of the United States; he said special counsel Robert Mueller will be allowed to finish his exhaustive probe into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian election attacks; he has expressed faith in Mueller’s integrity and professionalism.

I have faith that Barr will make good on his pledge. This isn’t his first DOJ rodeo. Barr served as attorney general from 1991 to 1992 during the George H.W. Bush administration. He is a top-notch lawyer. Yes, he’s a partisan, but we should expect that from any AG regardless of his or her party affiliation.

So, Mr. Attorney General, I implore you to be faithful to your sworn statements in front of the entire nation, if not the world.

‘Checks and balances’ principle gets new life

I do not believe it is an overstatement to presume that those of us who watched acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker’s skewering on Capitol Hill has provides us with a harbinger of what Donald Trump can expect for the next two years.

Whitaker spent most of the day today in front of the House Judiciary Committee, which was conducting an “oversight hearing” on the Department of Justice. He got pounded. He stonewalled the committee in return. It was an angry day of recrimination.

Whitaker is leaving the Justice Department soon. William Barr will be confirmed soon as the next attorney general. Whitaker was hardly an inspired choice to fill in for Jeff Sessions, who Trump fired a few weeks ago because the former AG recused himself from anything to do with “The Russia Thing.”

Now that Democrats control the House of Representatives, their caucus has assumed committee chairmanships. I believe that Democrats, who became fed up with Republican resistance to asking difficult questions of the Trump administration, are seeking to release some of that pent-up anger. We saw it on full display today as Whitaker appeared before the Judiciary Committee.

I also want to propose that this is not a bad thing. The U.S. Constitution grants Congress a measure of power that is equal to the presidency; throw in the federal courts and you have three equally powerful government branches.

Democrats challenged Whitaker; Republicans on the Judiciary panel challenged Democrats, who pushed back hard on the “points of order” that their GOP “friends” were asserting.

It wasn’t a pretty thing to watch today as Whitaker and Judiciary panel Democrats clashed openly. We might as well get used to it, though, ladies and gentlemen. Indeed, once the special counsel finishes his probe of alleged collusion between the Trump presidential campaign and the Russian government, there likely is going to be even more rhetorical grenades being tossed.

It won’t be pretty. Then again, representative democracy is a damn ugly form of government. However, as the great Winston Churchill noted, it’s far better than any other governmental system devised.

Whitaker is going out with a bang

I am wondering if this thought has occurred to those critics of the nation’s acting attorney general’s performance in front of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee.

Matthew Whitaker is a lame-duck acting AG. The president has nominated William Barr as the next permanent attorney general.

What, then, does Whitaker have to lose by stonewalling the questions from Judiciary Committee Democrats who pressed him on whether he spoke with Donald Trump about the Russia probe?

Whitaker is going to leave DOJ soon once Barr gets confirmed, which I expect the Senate to do in short order. I am wondering now if he decided to stick it in the Judiciary panel’s ear by refusing to answer simple, declarative questions.

I also am wondering if Donald Trump suggested — or perhaps ordered — Whitaker to dummy up.

Extra glad Whitaker is on his way out as AG

After watching a good bit of acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker’s testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, I came away with this major conclusion: I am doubly glad he is on his way out as head of the Department of Justice.

Committee members asked him — and pressed him — to answer a simple question: Do you believe special counsel Robert Mueller is engaged in a “witch hunt” of Donald Trump?

FBI Director Christopher Wray has said “no.” So has the AG-designate, William Barr. Both of those men stand firmly behind Mueller’s integrity and professionalism.

Whitaker’s answer? He didn’t want to comment on “an ongoing investigation.” He said it was “inappropriate.”

Hah! It wasn’t “inappropriate” for Wray to comment. Or for Barr. Whitaker, though, is hiding behind some kind of phony, bogus and dubious pretext that he cannot comment on an ongoing probe into whether Donald Trump’s campaign “colluded” with Russian operatives who attacked our electoral system in the 2016 presidential election.

None of the committee members asked him to comment on specifics of the probe. No one wanted him to give away any secrets. They asked a simple, declarative question that required a simple, declarative “yes” or “no” answer.

I happen to believe William Barr is a fine choice as attorney general. I trust him to be professional who will be beholden to the Constitution and not the president of the United States. This ain’t his first DOJ rodeo, given that he served as AG during Bush 41’s administration.

As for Matthew Whitaker, please go far away — as soon as possible.

Mueller probe causing some heartburn

Robert S. Mueller III is giving me a case of heartburn.

The length of this probe is giving me the willies about its future.

Mueller’s probe into The Russia Thing needs to conclude. I hope it happens soon. My fear is that the longer it goes the greater the chance that Donald J. Trump will do something so profoundly stupid that he will hurl the nation into the mother of constitutional crises.

What would the president do? He might order the Department of Justice to fire Mueller. Sure, he keeps pledging — sort of — to let Mueller finish his job. However, I trust the president only as far as I can throw a 239-pound individual.

My heartburn worsens when I consider that I also want Mueller to be as thorough as humanly possible before he wraps it up. He has obtained 37 indictments and guilty pleas already. Some of those indictments include the president’s closest campaign aides and key White House staffers. The latest indictment of Trump confidant Roger Stone is providing an sideshow that would make P.T. Barnum proud.

Yes, I want Mueller to pick through the evidence he has collected already into alleged “collusion” with Russians who attacked our electoral system. I want him to pore over every single bit of it.

Time, though, is not Mueller’s ally. A new attorney general, William Barr, is likely to be approved by the U.S. Senate. I hope that confirmation comes soon so that Barr — a former AG during the Bush 41 administration — can take command; he then can push the Trump sycophant, acting AG Matthew Whitaker, out of the way.

But on another level, I want this probe to end so we can move on to the next thing, which is to digest its findings, or at least those findings that Mueller deigns to release to the public. My strongest hope is that Mueller releases virtually all of it, keeping only that information that contains national security information away from public view.

I want it concluded. But not in a hurry-up fashion. I also want the president to keep his hands off of Mueller’s work and I also want Mueller to finish every little detail of this exhaustive work.

Pass the Pepto . . .

Mueller is a pro and he is doing his job well

Robert S. Mueller III doesn’t need a chump blogger such as me out here in the middle of Donald Trump Country to defend him.

I will do so anyway.

The president of the United States and his allies have squawked themselves hoarse — in a manner of speaking — while denigrating the work that Mueller has done in pursuing the truth related to “The Russia Thing.”

Trump calls Mueller’s probe a “witch hunt,” he calls it “rigged,” and asserts that Mueller has found zero evidence of “collusion” between the Trump 2016 presidential campaign and Russian operatives who attacked our electoral system.

I am forced to wonder aloud: How does someone pile up 37 indictments and guilty pleas while conducting a “witch hunt”?

Back when then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia probe, deputy AG Rod Rosenstein selected Mueller — a former FBI director and a crack prosecutor — to lead the investigation. Mueller’s appointment was greeted in the moment by partisans on both sides of the aisle with universal acclaim. Politicians called it an inspired choice and were delighted that Mueller accepted the challenge of getting to the root of the Russia matter.

Then he began sniffing out Donald Trump’s closest aides and campaign advisers. Suddenly Mueller’s name became mud in the eyes of Republicans. Donald Trump has been relentless in his haranguing of Mueller via Twitter.

I continue to believe that this decorated Vietnam War combat veteran, a former U.S. Marine, is the man who partisans hailed when the Justice Department named him special prosecutor.

Having said that, do I want this probe to end soon? Yes! I do! I want Mueller to wrap it up. However, I want him to finish his task without interference from the DOJ, or from William Barr, who’s been nominated by Trump to be the next AG to succeed Jeff Sessions. I have faith that Barr will honor his pledge to let Mueller finish his task under his own power and on his own terms.

I’ll just make one request — yet again — of the special counsel: Release as much as he possibly can of what he finds to the public. We are spending a lot of public money on this probe and the public deserves the chance to see if this money is worth the investment we have made in the pursuit of the truth.

Barr faces different Congress in a different era

William Pelham Barr surely knows that he is stepping onto political terrain that is a universe apart from where he once ventured.

President George H.W. Bush nominated him to be attorney general in 1991 and he sailed through confirmation, being approved unanimously by the Senate Judiciary Committee and by the full Senate.

Another president, named Donald Trump, has selected him for the top justice job once again. Will he sail effortlessly to confirmation? Nope. It won’t happen.

This is a different time. We have a different type of man in the Oval Office. The climate in Washington is far more toxic than it was when the AG-designate strode upon the national scene back in the old days.

The government is partially shut down. Questions are swirling all around the president. The previous attorney general, Jeff Sessions, got fired because he acted ethically by recusing himself from an investigation into a circumstance in which he was a principal player; he then incurred the president’s wrath for standing up for the rule of law and for DOJ ethics policies.

William Barr is facing tough questioning from Senate committee Democrats. He is handling himself well and I happen to believe he should be confirmed as attorney general, largely because he is now on record as committing himself to ensuring that a key investigation into Trump’s campaign is completed fully and without political pressure or interference.

Yes, there is plenty to concern Americans. I would prefer that Barr commit to letting the public view special counsel Robert Mueller’s report when he issues it. However, he has stated that Mueller — whom he has known for 30 years — is not engaging in a “witch hunt” and has expressed confidence in the integrity of his probe.

And . . . he has told senators that he won’t allow the president to bully him the way he did Jeff Sessions.

This confirmation process is going to be a lot tougher for William Barr than it was the first time. It’s merely a symptom of the era into which we entered upon the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States.

No way should Trump be allowed to ‘correct’ report

William Barr is saying the right things on his way confirmation as the next U.S. attorney general.

For instance, upon questioning from the Senate Judiciary Committee, Barr said there is no chance that Donald Trump’s legal team will get a first look at Robert Mueller’s report before it is released to the public and to Congress. Trump will not have the chance to “correct” it, Barr assured senators.

Let the report stand on its own

What is that report? Most of us hope it answers some key questions, such as whether the Trump presidential campaign colluded with Russians who attacked our electoral system in 2016. Barr said he believes the Russians interfered or sought to interfere. He also reaffirmed that he will allow special counsel Mueller to finish his job unimpeded by political pressure.

There you have it. Trump’s AG nominee is on record. I am going to trust him to be faithful to his word and that he won’t stand by if the president tries any Richard Nixon-like funny business in seeking to squash the findings that Mueller will produce in due course.

Surely the AG-designate knows the political consequences of any failure to keep faith with his pledge.

AG-designate Barr: Mueller must finish his task

William Barr is saying precisely the correct thing as it regards an investigation into the president of the United States.

The U.S. attorney general-designate has stated that it is “vitally important” that special counsel Robert Mueller be allowed to finish his exhaustive examination of Donald Trump’s conduct while running for the presidency and since he took office.

He will tell the Senate Judiciary Committee that very thing beginning on Tuesday when he sits before the panel that will decide whether to recommend him for confirmation by the full Senate.

Confirmation hearing on tap

What’s more, Barr has let it be known that it is “very important” that Mueller’s findings are released to Congress and to the public. There shouldn’t be any hiding of the facts from Americans who want to know the details of what Mueller’s legal team will have concluded.

At issue, of course, is this matter of “collusion” with Russian operatives who attacked our electoral system in 2016. Did the Trump campaign cooperate with the Russians? If so, to what end? If not, then we need to hear that, too.

Barr, who served as AG during the George H.W. Bush administration, is certainly no stranger to senatorial inquiries. Indeed, he is considered to be a fine lawyer with a stellar pedigree.

For the prospective attorney general to allay the fears of many who thought he might impede Mueller’s probe is welcome news.

I doubt seriously whether the statement that Barr issued today is going to prevent Judiciary Committee members from asking him directly whether he will guarantee that Mueller is allowed to finish his job.

Let them ask. Barr then will go on the record with his assurances.

Hoping new AG lets Mueller finish his task

I have hope that U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham has some deep inside knowledge that he’s now sharing with us.

The South Carolina Republican says that Attorney General-designate William Barr is going to let special counsel Robert Mueller finish the job he began more than a year ago. His task is to determine whether the allegations of “collusion” between the Donald Trump presidential campaign and Russian operatives who attacked our electoral system are true; he also is examining allegations of obstruction of justice, of conspiracy and perhaps all kinds of matters related to the 2016 election and beyond.

Trump selected Barr to succeed Jeff Sessions as AG, whom the president fired because he had the gall to recuse himself from the Russia probe. Sessions had the good sense to recognize potential conflicts of interest, given his role in the campaign and in the transition. He couldn’t investigate himself, so he handed it off to Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein, who then appointed Mueller as special counsel.

Mueller is getting down to brass tacks, or so we are being led to believe. He has extended the term of a grand jury another six months. Mueller reportedly will finish his probe in late February or in March.

He needs to conclude this investigation on his own terms, under his own power and without interference from the new AG, or the White House or the president himself.

Rosenstein reportedly is going to leave DOJ after Barr gets confirmed. Barr will testify next week before the Senate Judiciary Committee. I am quite sure senators will ask him directly whether he intends to let Mueller do his job. Sen. Graham says he will.

Don’t tease us, Sen. Graham.