Two days ago Attorney General William Barr’s criticized his own Justice Department and former FBI director James Comey responded with this tweet:
It isn’t the first time Comey has thrown punches at the Trump Administration, but it seems to reflect a rising tide of concern among Republicans that Barr is dishonest and working for Trump instead of the American public.
Then yesterday, the first Republican member of the House of Representatives voiced support for impeachment of Trump after reading the full Mueller report, along with calling Barr a liar. Justin Amash, Republican from Michigan, made his case in a long series of Tweets compiled here:
Here are my principal conclusions:
- Attorney General Barr has deliberately misrepresented Mueller’s report.
- President Trump has engaged in impeachable conduct.
- Partisanship has eroded our system of checks and balances.
- Few members of Congress have read the report.
I offer these conclusions only after having read Mueller’s redacted report carefully and completely, having read or watched pertinent statements and testimony, and having discussed this matter with my staff, who thoroughly reviewed materials and provided me with further analysis. In comparing Barr’s principal conclusions, congressional testimony, and other statements to Mueller’s report, it is clear that Barr intended to mislead the public about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s analysis and findings. Barr’s misrepresentations are significant but often subtle, frequently taking the form of sleight-of-hand qualifications or logical fallacies, which he hopes people will not notice. Under our Constitution, the president “shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” While “high Crimes and Misdemeanors” is not defined, the context implies conduct that violates the public trust. Contrary to Barr’s portrayal, Mueller’s report reveals that President Trump engaged in specific actions and a pattern of behavior that meet the threshold for impeachment. In fact, Mueller’s report identifies multiple examples of conduct satisfying all the elements of obstruction of justice, and undoubtedly any person who is not the president of the United States would be indicted based on such evidence. Impeachment, which is a special form of indictment, does not even require probable cause that a crime (e.g., obstruction of justice) has been committed; it simply requires a finding that an official has engaged in careless, abusive, corrupt, or otherwise dishonorable conduct. While impeachment should be undertaken only in extraordinary circumstances, the risk we face in an environment of extreme partisanship is not that Congress will employ it as a remedy too often but rather that Congress will employ it so rarely that it cannot deter misconduct. Our system of checks and balances relies on each branch’s jealously guarding its powers and upholding its duties under our Constitution. When loyalty to a political party or to an individual trumps loyalty to the Constitution, the Rule of Law—the foundation of liberty—crumbles. We’ve witnessed members of Congress from both parties shift their views 180 degrees—on the importance of character, on the principles of obstruction of justice—depending on whether they’re discussing Bill Clinton or Donald Trump. Few members of Congress even read Mueller’s report; their minds were made up based on partisan affiliation—and it showed, with representatives and senators from both parties issuing definitive statements on the 448-page report’s conclusions within just hours of its release. America’s institutions depend on officials to uphold both the rules and spirit of our constitutional system even when to do so is personally inconvenient or yields a politically unfavorable outcome. Our Constitution is brilliant and awesome; it deserves a government to match it.
Perhaps the most interesting line here is “the risk we face in an environment of extreme partisanship is not that Congress will employ it as a remedy too often but rather that Congress will employ it so rarely that it cannot deter misconduct.” In the case of a profoundly corrupt president like Trump, the more he gets away with, the more corrupt he becomes. So it’s incumbent upon Congress to use their unique powers to enforce the laws and standards lest they become an impotent branch of government. It seems clear that lawmakers who read the full Mueller report and look at the evidence are left with a strong conviction that Trump committed the crime of obstruction more than once.
The Amash statement could be a signal moment for the Trump presidency. It’s too early to tell. But for a House Republican to essentially call Barr a liar and break out of the Trump/Fox distortion bubble is significant. Given the abysmal approval rating of Trump and the endless series of scandals and gaffes and lies that spout from his administration, we may be reaching the point where Republican incumbents looking toward 2020 start to feel Trump dragging them down. The minute they conclude that their support of Trump will hurt them more than help, they’ll turn on him. Perhaps Rep Amash is the first domino to fall.
Keep resisting and keep working to “vote his ass out of office.”