Perjury troop: A chuckling attorney general lies to Congress
Steven Calabresi is not what you'd call a "leftist." The co-founder of conservative legal group the Federalist Society worked for former Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and has only voted for Republican presidential candidates, including Donald Trump. Now a law professor, Calabresi adamantly opposed last year's impeachment of President Trump on constitutional grounds.
But with the president's call to delay the election, premised on the phony claim that it will be "fraudulent," because he expects to lose it, Calabresi has had enough. "I am frankly appalled by the president's recent tweet seeking to postpone the November election," Calabresi wrote in an op-ed last week. "Until recently I had taken as political hyperbole the Democrats' assertion that President Trump is a fascist. But this latest tweet is fascistic and is itself grounds for the president's immediate impeachment again by the House of Representatives and his removal from office by the Senate."
Calabresi's break with America's totalitarian wannabe has doubtless earned him a slew of hate mail. The more Trump channels the brownshirts of 1930s Germany, the more zealously his defenders circle the wagons, resembling nothing so much as a sort of Kool-Aid Brigade, drinking whatever anti-democracy poison he urges them to drink.
But it is a testament to Kool-Aid's appeal that the Brigade remains robust. Its size and volume encourage Trump loyalists like Attorney General William Barr to lie -- under oath, not under oath; in formal settings and casually -- because they have concluded they can do so without consequence. Last week's venue was the House Judiciary Committee, where Barr was sworn to tell the truth, a chore he regarded more as annoyance than obligation. By now Barr has destroyed any reputation he ever had for relative probity. In March, a federal judge found that he had demonstrated a "lack of candor" in his public representations about the content of special counsel Robert Mueller's report, which was provided to him before the public could read it for itself. Barr, the judge ruled, had "distorted the findings" in a "calculated attempt to influence public discourse" by conning the public into thinking the report had "exonerated" Trump when it actually published voluminous evidence of 10 separate acts of obstruction of justice by Trump.
So it was unsurprising that Barr seemed comfortable, even jaunty, lying to Congress. When Barr was asked about his firing of Geoffrey Berman, the Manhattan federal prosecutor who has the evidence about Trump supplied by former Trump fixer Michael Cohen and is reportedly investigating current Trump fixer Rudolph Giuliani, Barr insisted his risible letter announcing Berman was "stepping down" was accurate. "He may not have been aware of it, but he was stepping down," parried Barr with a self-satisfied grin. He later allowed that Berman, the respected Republican prosecutor who could not be trusted to protect the president, was "removed." Berman had "stepped down" the way Soviet dissidents under Josef Stalin "stepped down" from 14-story windows while being interrogated.
Having once admitted that it "would be a crime" for a president to reward someone who withheld evidence against him with a pardon, Barr denied that Trump's commutation of Roger Stone's prison sentence was even problematic. Stone was found guilty of lying to Congress when he falsely denied communicating with Trump's team about the emails hacked by Russia. But there was evidence that Stone spoke directly with Trump, among others, about them. Barr's own Justice Department asserted that Stone had lied to protect Trump -- who had himself lied to Mueller about the conversations.
To recap: Stone lies to Congress to protect Trump, who had lied to Mueller. Stone brags that he has protected Trump, who praises him for it and then commutes his sentence. Barr lies to Congress that this is not evidence of a crime, when he has already admitted that it is.
An honorable, inspiring bunch, the Trump White House. Good for Steven Calabresi for reminding us what telling the truth looks like. It's occasionally hard to remember.
Jeff Robbins, a former assistant United States attorney and United States delegate to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, was chief counsel for the minority of the United States Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. An attorney specializing in the First Amendment, he is a longtime columnist for the Boston Herald, writing on politics, national security, human rights and the Mideast.Copyright 2020 Creators Syndicate Inc.