Monday, May 16, 2022

Political High Impact Actions From Sessions, Barr, and McConnell


Senator Jeff Sessions was a loyal supporter of Trump’s candidacy for president. Sessions served in the campaign and upon Trump’s election became Trump’s Attorney General (AG) over the Justice Department. Sessions was both an attorney and an experienced politician, giving some justification for Trump’s choice and Sessions’ confirmation as AG.
But two problems arose.
First, Sessions had spoken with a Russian diplomat after U.S. Intelligence had concluded Russians had been involved in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee. 
Second, an FBI investigation was announced into the Russian interference with the 2016 campaign. For any Attorney General these were very serious issues.
Since it was the Justice Department which would investigate Russian interference and the campaign, it was clearly a conflict of interest for Sessions to be a part of that. So in March 2017 he recused himself from having anything to do with the FBI Russian investigation. Sessions remained as Attorney General in other matters.
Judges, and lawyers remove themselves from a legal case (recuse, recusal, recused) or investigation when there is a conflict of interest which could be a source of bias, unfairness, or misjudgment. When Sessions recused himself, this made Trump quite angry for the reason that Trump wanted Sessions to protect him from negative effects of the Russian investigation. Were Sessions to function as Trump's personal attorney then Sessions' natural loyalty to Trump would bias Sessions' against the very Criminal Justice Department (of which Mueller was a part).
Robert Mueller, Special Prosecutor, then conducted a very thorough Russian campaign interference investigation. Trump publicly and regularly bad-mouthed the investigation; and this amounted to interference by Trump with a criminal investigation of Trump himself. Mueller, on the other hand, focused exclusively on getting the work of the investigation done properly according to standard criminal justice procedures. Mueller’s public comments were few and appropriate.
My opinion is that Sessions did an honorable thing by recusing himself. But Trump did a lot of public bad-mouthing about Sessions for his recusal. From Sessions’ comments which I’ve read, he continued being loyal to Trump but was not going to violate ethical standards for Trump
In contrast, it appears Trump is blind to issues of conflict of interest and brazenly acts like the principles of ethics don’t apply to him.
Sessions continued to serve in the Trump administration until November 2018 when he resigned and about the same time Trump rudely tweeted out Sessions’ dismissal (he didn't give Sessions a warning he'd be soon fired). Matthew Whitaker then served as Attorney General for a short period but then resigned or was let go.

Bill Barr, a former U.S. Justice Department Attorney General, wrote a letter expressing his support of Trump and stating that ”Mueller’s theory of obstruction was ‘fatally misconceived’ and should be rejected” (Honig, 2021). Subsequently, when the Mueller report was complete and Barr talked about it, I believe Barr violated the standards of the Justice Department by his misleading statements about the meaning of that report. Here, Barr was, loyal to Trump, downplayed the seriousness of Mueller's findings.

Elie Honig’s book, Hatchet Man, explains the importance of Bill Barr as defender of Donald Trump. It provides some of clearest and most readable insights into the constitutional crisis of Trump’s presidency. Honig is very well qualified for his analysis. He has been a state and federal prosecutor for fourteen years and successfully prosecuted hundreds of the most complex sorts of serious crimes. This is an essential book for understanding the danger of Trump’s autocratic, demagogue-like world view.

I intently watched Barr to hear what he’d say after the Mueller report came out. It was very hard not to become enraged at how he minimized the disturbing findings about Trump. It was even harder to hear his misleading interpretation that there was “no collusion.” He taught Trump to say those words repeatedly: “There was no collusion” and following up by saying he did nothing wrong. Of course, the issue wasn’t collusion—it was obstruction of justice.

So, I read every bit of the digital version of the Mueller Report, of which the full name is, Report On The Investigation Into Russian Interference In The 2016 Presidential Election. I read it for the following critically important reasons concerning pre-election Trump:
  • During the televised Republican Debates I found Trump to be insincere, arrogant, and not seriously debating. He was merely spouting off rudely, and he was effectively commanding the stage by interpersonal crudity. A spectacle.
  • He had an unusually powerful persona in the sense of performance--as opposed to a campaigning politician.
  • He was a well-dressed man, very unusual behavior, an extreme outlier in many regards. A candidate not expected to win! But he did win—in an election which by itself was not unusual (Klein, 2020).
  • Much of what he had to say was merely a reaction the other candidates, all of whom had understandable policies an insights. Trump had no substantive issues, but he was a spectacle spectacle.
  • I thought he would not get elected, but were he elected he would be some sort of political disaster. His lack of judgment was never more apparent than when in a campaign appearance he “invited Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails.”

I was impressed by the quality of the Mueller investigation. But what I found most significant was that many of Trump’s staff tried to rein him in to prevent him doing more damage to himself and his administration. But Trump didn’t care what anyone else thought and continued saying and doing whatever came into his mind. A lot of what this self-described “very stable genius” said was impulsive, disorganized, and insulting to those he had to work with.

On or about December 21, 2020, he minced no words when he told Trump, “You lost.” Barr on his final day as Attorney General publicly said there was no evidence of any significant election fraud and said Trump lost the election.
From the perspective of 2021-2022, Barr’s comment was and is incredibly brave and important to the welfare of American government. After all, 95% of Republican Party Congressmen and women performed loyally for Trump and supported him publicly. The best evidence of this is their not convicting him of his impeachment charges, not supporting the January 6th Insurrection Investigation, publicly campaigning against the work of that Investigation, resisting subpoenas, and condemning the work of their fellow Republican Liz Cheney, one of the co-chairs of the Investigation. 
I really don’t believe 95% of the Republican Party is delusional. I don’t believe they are in the throes of a conspiracy theory as such. No, as someone closely following the path of the GOP in the last several yeas, I believe their 95% all-in with the public Big-Lie position is a strategy for manipulating the minds of American citizens to believe what is grossly untrue in order to win elections. 
Is the Republican Party serving the people? I don't think so.

Mitch McConnell, a Republican, has been one of the most powerful members of Congress for many years. Upon Biden’s winning the election, McConnell congratulated Biden. Moreover, McConnell did not assert that there was any significant election fraud. And furthermore, I witnessed several times McConnell’s open-minded manner about the January 6th Investigation. I heard him say, in his usual low-key manner that, “Something interesting may come of it.”
I disagree with a lot of McConnell’s ultraconservative politics, but I greatly value the integrity he had in publicly endorsing the reality of Trump’s loss and at least being open-minded as to what the January 6th Investigation might turn up.
        For references see the relevant page on the website. 
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