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The Meaning of the Battle Over the Mueller Report, and One Good Way to Wage It

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I write this piece without knowing yet how suspicious, or not, Barr’s redactions appear to be. (Though I’ve been making efforts to find out from the news reports.)

My expectation is that William Barr did not do an honest job. Nothing else about him has been honest since the Mueller Report came to him almost a month ago.

So while suspecting the worst, I write not knowing whether Barr has finally gotten himself out of the way or whether he is a continuing impediment to the fulfillment of the purpose of the Mueller Report.

But whatever the evidence of this day, it is hard to imagine that Trump world will ever stop trying to defeat the law. And assuming that they will continue to wage battle by obstructing, most of what I’m about to say should still have some relevance. And also some strategic usefulness for those of us who see Trump as a clear threat to the nation who needs to be removed from office.

The overriding question that the saga of the Mueller Report represents is, Will Donald Trump be held accountable by the forces of the rule of law, or will Trump defeat those forces, and successfully place himself above the law, like the autocrat he’d clearly like to be.

Which is a particular manifestation of what might be the fundamental issue of governance: does law control the ruler or does the ruler control the law. Trump clearly hankers for the latter. America was founded to establish the former.

We should conceive the struggle over the Mueller Report as a battle over the rule of law in America. Which amounts to a battle over whether our founders’ achievement will be destroyed by the lawless, or protected and preserved by the defenders of our constitutional order.

Trump is the one who chose to make it a battle. Trump’s side has done everything it could to defeat all that is represented in this Mueller Report. His assaults on the rule of law have taken a great many forms by now.

Among those assaults, the Barr obstruction has lately been front and center. And it’s a particularly galling one, because — and at a crucial juncture for which we’d all be eagerly waiting– this Attorney General of the United States has so far enjoyed some success from his abusing his position in order to protect a lawless President, in violation of the oath he took.

If Barr has gotten himself out of the way, now, then we might as well leave the Barr issue behind and focus on the what the Report says about what the evidence shows relevant to the question, “Should the President be charged with obstruction of justice?”

But if Barr continues to stand in the way of the Mueller Report being delivered rightfully to the Congress and the American people, press the battle against Barr’s obstruction.

Since the lawless win more the more time that passes, time-consuming approaches like negotiation or litigation are not adequate. Something quicker is needed. 

Let me propose a possible way to join the battle: Impeachment.

Not impeachment of the President but impeachment of his accomplices in obstruction like Barr, if he continues to obstruct the proper delivery of the Mueller Report, and like whichever official — head of the IRS, Secretary of the Treasury — is refusing to do what the law clearly requires them to do and hand over Trump’s tax returns that Congress has legitimately demanded.

(It’s not only the President who can be impeached. The Constitution says:

SECTION 4. The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

The Great Potential of Public Impeachment Hearings of Accomplices in Obstruction

Such public impeachment hearings would be means to show the American people the obstruction of justice — perhaps overall contempt for the law — that infuses Trump World. The obstruction in each case forms part of that larger pattern of Trumpian obstruction that Mueller probably laid out pretty well, and that will constitute major grounds for impeaching the President.

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A final note:

Taking a look beyond the legal framework in which that battle gets fought, and looking more broadly at the vital interests of the nation, the question of this President’s removal arise in other ways as well.

Beyond impeachable offenses, this President is pretty destructive across the board. He unerringly chooses to do and say things that make things worse, ruled as he is by such a strong brew of arrogance and ignorance, recklessness and love of conflict, and by his cruelty, his delusions, his indifference to the well-being of the American people and of the planet.

It would be sufficient reason to impeach Trump because of that part of his conduct that warrants impeachment. But we have more reason than that, and so we should welcome his having given us a basis for impeaching a President whose impact on the nation is consistently destructive.