No one should be above the law, Republican or Democrat. Nor should our elected leaders undermine equal justice under the law.
Okay, now that these obvious statements have been made, what should we make of the 1,100 signatures to a letter calling on Attorney General Barr to resign amid all the debate regarding the Department of Justice (DOJ)? As someone who served, albeit briefly, as a federal prosecutor, this question is of particular interest to me.
First, consider that the DOJ resides in the Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. Department of Justice Building. Bobby Kennedy was his brother’s closest political ally and advisor. Does the media suggest we should re-name the building or raise a fuss because the younger Kennedy was political?
Don’t believe it? Go back to February 1962, in U.S. News and World Report: “Bobby is forever putting out political brush fires. If something goes wrong somewhere, Bobby will take a look at his list of friends scattered through the Government. He will get someone on the phone, maybe a high official, and ask him to do a political job for him.”
More from the same article: “One day in January, more than a dozen young men trooped into Bobby’s office. Most of them were in their 30s. They came from the Defense Department, the State Department, from various agencies of the Government… Most of these men had worked closely with Bobby when he engineered his brother’s election campaign. They developed great loyalty and affection for the Attorney General, became his trusted lieutenants.”
Is this a problem? It depends. As Jack Kennedy quipped, he wanted his brother to “have a little legal experience before he goes out to practice law.”
What about an attorney general who politicizes the DOJ at the expense of adherence to the rule of law, packs the department with activists, is repeatedly struck down by the Supreme Court, and acts in direct conflict with well-accepted policies and procedures, then hides it? What if that attorney general is Eric Holder or Loretta Lynch?
Put aside the fact that Holder was held in contempt in the U.S. House—let’s chalk that up to politics and overlook the 17 Democrats who voted for contempt. Even a cursory review of the record shows that Holder, and his successor Lynch, abused power in the Department of Justice for a full eight years while carrying out hatchet work for President Obama.
After all, in an interview with Juan Williams, Holder proudly declared himself “an activist attorney general,” and acknowledged that he turned the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division into a political weapon, saying he was “proud of it.” How soon my leftist colleagues and media flacks forget they engaged in “community organizing” for left-wing activism at the highest levels of the Department of Justice. For just several major examples:
- Under Holder, the notorious “Fast and Furious” operation was carried out. In it, guns were run to Mexican drug cartels, resulting in the death of a U.S. Border Patrol agent. Holder refused to cooperate with House investigators to turn over information.
- Holder encouraged President Obama to use executive power to unconstitutionally and illegally give status and benefits to both children and parents illegally present in the United States after failing to pass legislation. In other words, the chief law enforcement officer encouraged an end-run of the Constitution and the law, one of which courts have already struck down, while the other is being litigated.
- Holder effectively dismissed the Lois Lerner Internal Revenue Service’s clear targeting of conservative groups and refused to carry out a true investigation into this corruption.
- Holder corrupted the Civil Rights Division, turning it into a radical political organization—led once by Tom Perez, who is now the head of the Democratic National Committee. DOJ’s own inspector general concluded in a report that the division was guilty of “deep ideological polarization” and a “disappointing lack of professionalism.”
- That same radical Holder-Perez Civil Rights Division was repeatedly smacked down by the courts for its egregious positions and overreach. For example, the division was rebuked in a Florida case where the DOJ abusively prosecuted peaceful abortion protesters. It argued that the First Amendment did not protect the hiring decisions of a church in the Hosanna-Tabor decision. There were similar decisions involving voter ID and immigration issues, among countless others.
- Holder used race as a political weapon. He declared voter ID a racially charged “poll tax,” and used immigration and cases like the tragic events in Ferguson and Sanford, Florida, as political events to whip up President Obama’s base while completely ignoring the constant terrible gang violence in Chicago, for example, all while leaving law enforcement (of all races) dangling in the wind.
- Holder used civil rights as a hammer to prevent states from trying school choice to help move children out of poverty.
- And books will long be written about the politicization of the DOJ, the FBI, and countless government officials in the Obama administration all through the 2016 elections involving Russia collusion and targeting Donald Trump and his campaign.
No matter what political party is in power, the DOJ should not be used to advance policy contrary to the Constitution, or to carry out policy contrary to law, or to undermine the core principles of equal justice under law, among other things. If there are allegations of true wrongdoing, as a member of the Oversight Committee—and, frankly, as a member of Congress—I certainly believe we should look into it.
I will be the first to admit that the president does, in fact, make Barr’s ability to do his job much more difficult by constantly tweeting about decisions in real time. Moreover, Roger Stone is hardly a sympathetic figure, making his own bed in this situation.
But is the attorney general correct to review a seven- to nine-year sentence recommendation for a first-time offender who admittedly engaged in witness tampering but in the context of a politically charged situation? With a jury foreperson with questionable objectivity? Of course he is, and a review up the chain of command about sentencing is not something that in and of itself should draw alarm, as these are legitimate questions. Also, lost in all the controversy is that this is just a recommendation that does not control! The final decision about Stone’s sentencing is still completely up to the judge on the case, not the DOJ.
So let’s keep a little perspective. Far from “whataboutism,” there are very clear differences here. With the current situation and no matter what has been tweeted, the conviction stands, the judge controls, this is just a recommendation, and there are reasonable questions that would lead to Barr or his team moving the recommendation downward.
We should not let the media and a bunch of left-wing activists drumming up former prosecutors to complain and obfuscate the facts, nor allow them to ignore the unbelievably rampant abuse at the DOJ under the most recent Democrat administration.