|DREW ANGERER / GETTY IMAGES|
Now that Donald Trump has been whacked with two articles of impeachment, it is time to begin impeachment proceedings against his latter-day enabler, collaborator and partner in crime, Attorney General William Barr.
There have been bad attorneys general in the past. Edwin Meese and John Ashcroft come to mind, while an argument can be made that Janet Reno wasn't so hot. But no matter the era or the president, even the worst AGs took seriously their role as the nation's chief law enforcement officer. But Barr is so corrupt -- consistently siding with the president over his own staff and the FBI -- that Trump has used the cover he has provided him as permission to cheat at elections.
Barr's latest expedition into the dark side of servility is a whopper.
On Monday, the Department of Justice inspector general, Michael Horowitz, released the findings of his inquiry into the origins of the FBI's investigation into Trump's collusion with Russian to undermine the 2016 election, which eventually grew into the two-year investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. The Horowitz investigation had been demanded by congressional Republicans who bought into Trump's claims that he has been the victim of a "deep state" conspiracy to smear him with lies, which is kind of rich since he is being impeached for abusing the power of his office to try to smear a Democratic candidate with lies. (The other article of impeachment is contempt of Congress.)
Anyhow, Horowitz found absolutely no evidence of a conspiracy. There were some procedural issues with the Carter Page FISA warrant and such, but the IG concluded that the FBI acted properly in looking into Trump and his campaign.
Trump reacted to the Horowitz report by throwing one of his patented fits. And lying some more. He claimed the report shows that the investigation into him was "concocted" and that it "was an overthrow of government, this was an attempted overthrow -- and a lot of people were in on it."
These claims are, of course, literally the opposite of what the IG found, but he was backed up by Barr, who further fed Trump's autocratic delusions by throwing his own FBI employees under the bus in statements on Monday and Tuesday in falsely accusing them of starting the investigation "on the thinnest of suspicions" and then bizarrely claiming, in taking a page from his master's playbook, that "the evidence produced by the [Mueller] investigation was consistently exculpatory," which is to say Trump and his campaign did no wrong.
"I think our nation was turned on its head for three years based on a completely bogus narrative that was largely fanned and hyped by a completely irresponsible press," Barr told NBC News. "I think there were gross abuses . . . and inexplicable behavior that is intolerable in the FBI."
In other words, Barr is absolving Trump of all blame although 34 people were indicted, seven pleaded guilty and five others were convicted. Mueller, who stopped short of calling for conspiracy charges to be filed against Trump after he leaves office, did find 10 instances were he obstructed of justice. And it's a safe bet that if Trump weren't protected by that invisible shield of executive privilege, he might already have joined his former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, his campaign manager Paul Manafort and his longest of longtime advisers Roger Stone, in prison.
Barr said the final and more thoroughly considered word would be that of John Durham, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, whom he hand-picked to perform a separate, criminal investigation into the origins of the Russia probe.
The AG told NBC News that Durham's review could reach an "important watershed" in the late spring or early summer, just as the presidential campaigns are intensifying.
Donald B. Ayer, who preceded Barr as deputy attorney general in the George H.W. Bush administration, warned that Barr "is bringing to bear, in all of his conduct here, a perspective on the law that the president is all-powerful and should be able to do pretty much whatever he wants. And I think we're not done yet. It seems likely that Barr will do some pretty bad things with whatever facts Durham finds, by viewing them through the lens of his twisted concept of executive power."
This is not mere partisan hackery.
Barr, in publicly accusing his own staff of screwing up while buying into sinister conspiracy theories, is sending the message that our right to free and fair elections has been abrogated. Which it has, but to hear the attorney general infer as much is an outrage, and all the more so because Trump's congressional allies have largely given up disputing the facts Barr continues trying to subvert.
There is only one way to hold Barr accountable even as Trump lays the groundwork for slithering off the impeachment hook after a Senate trial stemming from his efforts to fix the 2020 election. That would be articles of impeachment charging the attorney general with obstruction of justice and abuse of power.
Yeah, everybody's exhausted by all this shit. But Barr has to be stopped.