Once upon a time, the Department of Justice (DOJ) adhered to an ethic and mandate of being impervious to political influence. No more. With the appointment of William Barr to the position of US Attorney General (and head of DOJ), the DOJ now does the bidding of the President. The AG has become the President’s legal enforcer and hit man.
This has become painfully evident in the wake of the President’s acquittal by the Senate in the impeachment “trial”, as the retributive blood-letting (and other shady maneuvers) begin: House impeachment investigation witnesses Lt. Colonel Vindman and Ambassador Sondland being fired, with the President threatening to criminally indict Vindman. But most recent and most egregious is the hand grenade thrown by the AG into the case of Roger Stone. Roger Stone, the absurd fop friend of the President, who awaits sentencing for seven counts of lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstruction of justice, in the proceedings of the Mueller investigation. The DOJ has ordered that the sentencing guidelines for his crimes be thrown out, to be replaced by something much more lenient. This unprecedented intervention led, first, to the four prosecutors involved quitting the case, with one resigning from the Department, and, second, over 2000 former DOJ employees calling for Barr’s resignation.
Did the Founding Fathers not envision this circumstance – that an AG could and would become the enforcer of the President’s political agenda? Let’s review. What/who, exactly, is the the Attorney General?
“The United States Attorney General (AG) is the head of the United States Department of Justice, a member of the Cabinet of the United States; as directed by the President of the United States, and the chief lawyer of the federal government of the United States.
Under the Appointments Clause of the United States Constitution, the officeholder is nominated by the President of the United States and appointed with the advice and consent of the United States Senate. The Attorney General is supported by the Office of the Attorney General, which includes executive staff and several deputies.
So, to answer the above question, the Constitutional requirement of the “advice and consent” of the Senate appears to be the only safeguard put into place by the Founders against the appointment of an AG who might not administer impartial justice. Note also that: “The Attorney General is not a President’s personal lawyer.”
The Senate confirmation of William Barr was closely watched, because he was suspected of being a person who “might not administer impartial justice”. He of course lied through his teeth at that hearing, got confirmed by the Senate (which Senate is controlled by the President’s party) … and has turned out to be exactly what was feared.
We have entered a new phase of Trump’s Presidency. He and his henchmen are now newly emboldened, and will, every day, find additional ways to tear down our democracy and cheat in his bid for a second term. And beyond that, what? As he has suggested more than once, he believes himself entitled to more years in office than the law allows. But what does he really want? Nothing less than President-for Life.