William Barr Is Orchestrating a Slow-Rolling Coup Against the Constitutional Order
Legally, given an unbiased court, Barr and the White House he serves don't have legs to waddle on. (Photo: Win McNameeGetty Images)

William Barr Is Orchestrating a Slow-Rolling Coup Against the Constitutional Order

Jerry Nadler threw down the gauntlet after the attorney general flouted congressional subpoenas, but he's dead wrong about what the future might hold

So, the Attorney General of the United States, having presumably reassembled his gizzard after Senator Kamala Harris took it apart for him on live television, spit in the eye of the constitutional order by refusing to honor a pair of subpoenas from the House Judiciary Committee--one for an unredacted copy of Robert Mueller's report on the Russian ratfcking of the 2016 election, and one for his own sorry ass to sit in another chair in another committee room. This was a remarkable moment, and one that none of us ever should forget. This is a tiny, slow-rolling coup against the constitutional design.

As HJC chairman Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York, put it:

Every member of this Committee--Democrat and Republican alike--should understand the consequences when the executive branch tells us that they will simply ignore a lawful subpoena. If left unchecked, this act of obstruction will make it that much harder for us to hold the Executive Branch accountable for waste, fraud, and abuse, or to enact legislation to curb that kind of misconduct--no matter which party holds this chamber or the White House at a given moment. The challenge we face is also bigger than the Mueller report.

If all we knew about President Trump were contained in the four corners of that report, there would be good reason to question his fitness for office. But the report is not where the story ends. In the days since the Department of Justice released a redacted version of the report, President Trump has told Congress that he plans to fight all of our subpoenas. The average person is not free to ignore a congressional subpoena--and neither is the President. His promise to obstruct our work extends far beyond his contacts with the Russian government and allegations of obstruction of justice. The President has also prevented us from obtaining information about voting rights, ACA litigation, and his cruel family separation policy, among other matters.

The challenge we face is also not limited to this Committee. In recent weeks, Administration witnesses have simply failed to show for properly noticed depositions. The Secretary of the Treasury continues to ignore his clear statutory obligation to produce the President's tax returns. The President's private attorneys sued Chairman Cummings in his personal capacity in an attempt to block the release of certain financial documents.

Ladies and gentlemen, the challenge we face is that the President of the United States wants desperately to prevent Congress--a coequal branch of government--from providing any check whatsoever to even his most reckless decisions. The challenge we face is that if we don't stand up to him together, today, then we risk forever losing the power to stand up to any President in the future.

Nadler is correct in his assessment of the current situation, and he is certainly right on the law. Legally, given an unbiased court, Barr and the White House he serves don't have legs to waddle on. However, and alas, he's dead wrong on what the future may hold.

Let us assume, for the moment, that one of the Democrats wins the presidency in 2020, but that the Republicans retain their hold on the Senate and, somehow, regain their majority in the House. You just watch how fast that Congress recaptures its ability to "stand up" to President Biden, or President Warren. You just watch those subpoenas fly. There will be leaks and hearings and grand juries until hell won't have them. No precedent based on their absurd truckling to a criminal president will be deemed valid. In fact, they will turn it back on the Democrats. Look, they will say. Look at how y'all tormented poor El Caudillo del Mar-a-Lago. All of this will have the full weight of the wingnut media apparatus behind it, and there will be more than a few respectable journalists and onetime Never Trumpers who will chime in to blame the Democrats for "overreaching."

Watch it happen. Call me Kreskin.

So, I'm not that exercised when Nadler says he's going to make "one more good faith attempt" to get Barr to do what he is constitutionally required to do. This is all going to wind up in court anyway, and the more good faith attempts that Nadler can demonstrate to a judge that were made, the better. In the meantime, we'll always have Congressman Steve Cohen and his chicken. Nothing says we can't have a little fun with this.

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