Should Congress impeach William Barr? | The Tylt
After appearing before the Senate, Attorney General William Barr refused to show up for a scheduled hearing before the House Judiciary Committee. Barr has also refused to release the unredacted Mueller Report to lawmakers. In response, the House Judiciary Committee voted to hold the AG in contempt. Some Democrats, though, are saying Barr has so betrayed the public's trust that it is time to move even further and begin impeachment proceedings. Others say he has done nothing wrong and this is a political vendetta. What do you think?
Should Congress impeach William Barr?
Barr and his camp have remained steadfast in their belief that the attorney general has done nothing inappropriate. Buzzfeed News reports that the AG's office has claimed he is being prosecuted on a purely political basis, specifically by Representative Jerrold Nadler and his Judiciary Committee colleagues.
In a statement after Wednesday's contempt vote, Justice Department spokesperson Kerri Kupec said it was "deeply disappointing that elected representatives of the American people have chosen to engage in such inappropriate political theatrics."
"Regrettably, Chairman Nadler’s actions have prematurely terminated the accommodation process and forced the President to assert executive privilege to preserve the status quo. No one, including Chairman Nadler and his Committee, will force the Department of Justice to break the law," Kupec said.
David French, a senior writer for the conservative National Review, argues that Democrats are frustrated with Barr's actions because they were hoping Mueller's report would provide them with a clear-cut case for impeaching the president. However, French points out, Congress can impeach the president whether or not Mueller's report showed he committed a crime.
[L]et's not forget that Barr's determination is meaningless to Congress. It can choose to impeach the president regardless of the attorney general’s legal opinion. Indeed, it can impeach Trump even if he’s entirely innocent of any illegal activity. Impeachment is a political remedy for abuse of power, not a legal finding of criminal guilt.
Moreover, it is not the attorney general’s job to make impeachment politically easier for Democrats. If he believed in good faith that Trump did not obstruct justice, then he was amply justified in saying so. We now know that hundreds of former federal prosecutors disagree and believe Trump would have been charged if he wasn’t president. Their disagreement opens room for an important and necessary political debate. In fact, if Trump loses in 2020, a different attorney general could reach a different conclusion and direct his prosecution once he leaves office. As of this moment, no means of holding the president accountable have been foreclosed. The Democrats can still impeach. If Trump loses, a U.S. attorney can still indict.
Therefore, French argues, impeaching Barr is largely a symbolic gesture that would ultimately be meaningless.
Some Democrats, however, feel that impeaching Barr would be a wise political move for exactly that reason—they don't currently have a clear-cut path to impeach the president. Many in the more liberal wing of the Democratic party have been claiming the party is derelict in their duty to protect the Constitution by refusing to impeach the president. Vanity Fair reports some in the party believe impeaching Barr would help placate this group while not enraging the public at large.
Impeaching the attorney general, on the other hand, could be a creative way for Democratic leadership to placate the progressive and activist wings of the party. Because Barr is a lower-value target, Democrats argue, impeaching him would come with fewer risks. Still, Israel cautioned, Democrats must tread carefully to avoid being labeled the “the impeachment party.” “What’s revealed at [a Barr] impeachment trial may actually increase the pressure to go higher,” he said. “For some, he could be the appetizer to the main course. Which is why impeachment as a political strategy instead of a constitutional imperative is a bad idea.”
Moreover, many feel Barr has acted in a way that has brought the country perilously close to a Constitutional crisis and must be removed from office. Barr has refused to comply with subpoenas issued by Congress and is supporting the president in asserting executive privilege to withhold the full Mueller Report. Jennifer Rubin writes for the Washington Post that Barr's actions could have ramifications throughout the nation's law enforcement departments, and he should be stopped.
Refusing to comply with a valid subpoena (and, worse, instructing a U.S. attorney not to pursue criminal enforcement) would be an act of brazen lawlessness entirely at odds with Barr’s duties as attorney general and his oath of office.
...[T]his is downright embarrassing for the nation’s top law enforcement officer, whose department compels testimony from all sorts of witnesses in all kinds of proceedings every day around the country. Barr’s conduct will inspire untold number of witnesses to refuse to appear at grand jury hearings, trials and other proceedings. In the meantime, he looks defensive and hapless.