D.Onald Trump is amazing suggestion In an election rally last weekend that the US president will field government attorneys to try to curb the ballot count on election night he relies on the complicity of a federal official more than any other.
That official is Attorney General, William Barr, who, as head of the Justice Department, heads the government̵
Conveniently for Trump’s stated plan, Barr not only appears ready to accept, but appears eager to sue, having laid the groundwork for contesting the election with weeks of misleading statements about the integrity of the mail-order vote.
To some observers, the Attorney General also appears to have set the stage for an alarming further step, which would answer the question of what action the Trump administration is ready to take if a disputed election in November results in major new protests.
For Trump to steal the election and then crack down on the mass demonstrations, as that is the nature of the nightmare scenario now ready for open discussion between current and former officials, academics, thinktankers and many other people – Trump must be able to manipulate both the levers of the law and its physical application.
In Barr, Trump not only achieves all of this, critics say, but he also enjoys the cooperation of a man whose sense of biblical stakes around the election imbues him with a deep sense of mission regarding Trump’s re-election.
In a break with the relative reticence of his first 18 months in office, Barr has exposed his thoughts with a series of recent speeches, interviews and internal discussions. Barr’s routine critics were also impressed by the Barr who has now revealed himself.
The mild-mannered former Washington lawyer has launched attacks on electoral integrity and hostility to street protests while describing, in explicitly religious terms, an epochal showdown between the forces of “moral discipline and virtue” – which he believes to represent – and rapacity ”which manifests itself as social chaos, embodied among others by leftist protesters.
“His abuses only escalated as we got closer and closer to the election and as the president felt increasingly politically vulnerable,” said Donald K Sherman, deputy director of the Citizens’ Watch for Accountability and Ethics at Washington, which demanded Barr’s impeachment.
“I can’t say it more clearly than this: the Attorney General is a threat to American citizens who have free and fair access to the vote, and he is a threat to Americans who have their votes counted.”
In recent weeks, Barr allegedly asked prosecutors to weigh the protesters’ charges under sedition laws, intended to punish conspiracies to overthrow the government, and to weigh criminal charges against the Seattle mayor for allowing residents to establish a small “police-free” protest zone. He has designated New York City, Portland and Seattle as zones of “anarchy” which, he says, “have refused to take reasonable steps to thwart criminal activity,” threatening federal funding.
Such designations clearly fuel Trump’s re-election narrative about threatened public safety. They also reflect a constitutionally questionable and normally non-conservative desire on Barr’s part to join the federal government arm in local law enforcement.
Barr has already demonstrated this trend. In June, as Attorney General, he took the extremely unusual step of personally ordering federal officers to use crowd suppression tactics to expel peaceful protesters from Lafayette Square near the White House.
Barr later denied giving direct orders, but the White House categorically stated, “It was AG Barr who made the decision.”
Meanwhile Barr has competed with Trump to erode faith in upcoming elections, peddle unsubstantiated conspiracy theories about foreign nations printing counterfeit ballots, spreading tales of mass mail-order election fraud – in a lie that was later withdrawn by the Justice Department. – and expressing frustration that the United States uses postal voting and multi-day voting, which are common measures to accommodate voters that go back decades.
“We’re losing the whole idea of what elections are,” Barr complained in an appearance earlier this month at Hillsdale College in Michigan.
Neil Kinkopf, a Georgia State law professor who worked in the Office of Legal Counsel under Bill Clinton, said Barr’s concern for Trump’s political well-being is historic.
“I think this attorney general is demonstrably more committed to the president’s political success and the president’s political agenda than any other attorney general in history he can think of,” Kinkopf said.
What drives Barr? For political observers familiar with Barr’s long career in Washington, which included a previous stint as Attorney General under George HW Bush, the idea that it could help bring American democracy off the cliff could cause some cognitive dissonance. Like other powerful Republicans and everyday voters who have enabled Trump, Barr appears not to be motivated by personal loyalty to Trump per se, but by a sense of Trump’s role in a larger plan.
Prior to his appointment by Trump, many insiders saw Barr as a committed institutionalist who would protect the justice department’s independence from Trump’s most damaging tendencies, although Barr clearly believed in a beefy presidency.
But others saw Barr arrive. They include Kinkopf, who testified against Barr before the Senate at Barr’s confirmation hearing in January 2019. In his testimony, Kinkopf warned of Barr’s subscription to the so-called unitary executive theory, which outlines an “alarming” and “dangerously dangerous” view. wrong “of” breathtaking executive power, subject to negligible limitations, “Kinkopf said.
The Attorney General clearly sees himself as fighting cultural wars that are moral and religious to him
“It appears that, if confirmed, William Barr will set precedents that adopt an enduring view of presidential power; one that in the future administrations can be used to justify the exercise of power for very different purposes, ”Kinkopf warned at the time.
But today even Kinkopf says he is “deeply surprised” by the extent to which Barr overcame that warning.
“When I testified against him, I recognized how dangerous the unitary executive theory is,” Kinkopf said. “But what I didn’t like, and I don’t think anyone appreciated, was how he would fully implement that theory in advance not on the values of the rule of law, but in order to both promote the president’s political agenda,” and I think more deeply about Barr, about his social and religious commitments “.
These commitments, in turn, are public knowledge, even in a speech given by Barr at Notre Dame University about a year ago. In the speech, Barr described a political philosophy driven by the need to counter an “individual rapacity” in humans that rapidly produces “licentiousness” and the destruction of “healthy community life” if not contained. The only possible brake, according to Barr, are “moral values [that] they must rest on an authority independent of the will of men – they must flow from a transcendent Supreme Being. “
In short, Barr argued, as he has elsewhere, that the inevitable result of secularism is moral decay and social chaos.
It appears that this is precisely what Barr sees in the current street protests led by the anti-racism movement Black Lives Matter. He denounced the protesters in his Michigan speech titled “These so-called Black Lives Matters” and arguing that “they were not interested in the lives of blacks. [using] props – a small number of blacks killed by the police … to achieve a much broader political agenda. “
While Barr gives an incredibly brief emphasis on the motives of protesters haunted by the recurring specter of police killing of black people, he takes his own motives very seriously.
Barr seems to find himself locked in a historic struggle against literal evil, and seems to see the upcoming elections as the culminating battle. A loss of Trump, Barr recently told a Chicago Tribune columnist, would mean the United States was “irrevocably committed to the socialist path.” He called the election “a clear crossroads”.
“The attorney general clearly sees himself as fighting cultural wars that are moral and religious to him,” Kinkopf said. “And those are deeper commitments for him than the commitment to federalism. And so, to the extent that the balance of federal and state power hinders the achievement of what it wants to achieve in culture wars, it is willing to put it aside.
“So if there wasn’t a cultural war corner, I think it would take the position that states and local governments should be left to guard their own communities, and the federal government should keep its nose out. But since it sees something at stake in the current protests that undermine what it feels to be the right order of society, is not concerned with using federal power to prosecute what it considers to be the right results. “