This was born as a comment on Blue Virginia, and then was posted as a brief entry on Daily Kos.
“I am allowing myself to feel some optimism. Trump’s nominee for Attorney General — former Attorney General William H. Barr — has just released a statement that sounds very strong in its commitment 1) to allowing Mueller to complete his investigation, and 2) to making public — as fully as the law allows — the report Mueller hands in.
I don’t like everything about this guy by a long shot, but I really am tempted to believe that Barr is going to protect the rule of law and not intervene to protect the President who appointed him.
We shall see what the Senators elicit from him. And then we will see if he does have as much integrity as — given his whole history — I’m giving him credit for.
Here’s the article where I found Barr’s reassuring words.
That very brief piece elicited comments from Daily Kos readers, most of whom argued that my hope is misplaced, that Barr will basically do Trump’s bidding, as he said something of the sort himself. As one reader quoted from that same article:
“But Mr. Barr’s written statement also included a subtle caveat, limiting his assurances about the investigation to issues under his control: “I can assure you that, where judgments are to be made by me, I will make those judgments based solely on the law and will let no personal, political, or other improper interests influence my decision,” he wrote.
That qualification could be important because Mr. Barr has long advanced a philosophy of strong executive powers under which almost any executive branch decision is ultimately the president’s to make and the president is the nation’s top law-enforcement official, not the attorney general.
So, the readers concluded, Barr will go along with Trump and the Republicans.
I then responded to those readers by admitting
“You all may be right. I’ve seen Barr as Trump’s choice to do what Sessions wouldn’t and couldn’t. He could be Trump’s instrument.
It seems true that the President’s demands will carry a lot of weight with Barr. But he’s also saying that he will be true to the law.
Those two come into conflict if the target of an investigation seeks to use the powers of his office — as head of the executive branch — for the illegitimate and corrupt purpose of putting himself above the law.
I don’t see Barr choosing to subvert the rule of law on command from the target of an investigation.
Trump is the President, Barr will figure— but with respect to the Mueller Investigation what Trump ultimately is what the whole investigation is about.
So the question is, which role will predominate in Barr’s perception of the situation?
I’ll bet on the law— recognizing I could well be wrong.
I bet on the law because this is a man who has had a career that (despite some of the unattractively partisan things Barr did before as Attorney general, as pointed out by some of the comments) has left him a mostly respectable figure in the eyes of history.
Barr as been at least respectable enough that he would seriously hurt his image in history if he were to help the President of the United States to put himself above the law, the way it was unacceptable when Nixon tried to do it.
He’d dirty himself irredeemable — in view of the overwhelmingly powerful case that I anticipate Mueller making in his report.
I question whether a man of his sort, at this time in his life, will want to sully himself with Trump’s slime forever more.
(Question: Has Barr ever said anything endorsing or rejecting Eliot Richardson’s refusal to obey the President’s command to fire Archibald Cox?)
The article ends by reporting that reports that he has suggested that the President cannot commit obstruction of justice are “erroneous.”
While he doesn’t say explicitly that an order from Trump to neuter the Mueller investigation would could be a crime, he does make a point of claiming that he does not claim otherwise.
(Re the illustration: this is the image of William Barr as Attorney General that would be turned to crap if he did what Eliot Richardson has been applauded by history for doing.)