Hunter Biden is convicted, but the GOP is still big mad

You might think that Republicans would be thrilled that there’s now a convicted felon in the Biden family, but it’s still not enough for them. From wanting to take down the rest of the “Biden crime family” to calling Hunter’s conviction a Justice Department ploy to make it look like there’s not a “two-tiered system of justice,” the GOP is still angry and thirsting for revenge for Donald Trump’s conviction on 34 felonies.

Rep. James Comer of Kentucky, who can’t stop hilariously failing to impeach President Joe Biden, kicks it off with a tweet:

🚨STATEMENT🚨 Hunter Biden’s sweetheart plea deal was smoked out after scrutiny by a federal judge. Today’s verdict is a step toward accountability but until the Department of Justice investigates everyone involved in the Bidens’ corrupt influence peddling schemes that generated…

— Rep. James Comer (@RepJamesComer) June 11, 2024

Comer’s commentary reflects the sentiments of the Trump campaign

“Crooked Joe Biden’s reign over the Biden Family Criminal Empire is all coming to an end on November 5th, and never again will a Biden sell government access for personal profit. As for Hunter, we wish him well in his recovery and legal affairs,” a Trump campaign spokesperson said in a statement

But it wasn’t long until the campaign retracted its statement and reissued it without the well wishes for Hunter.

The “Biden crime family” and demands for prosecutions are a major theme among the GOP. 

“Now, it’s time to bring Hunter and the Biden Crime Family to justice for the allegations of influence peddling,” Rep. Jeff Duncan of South Carolina tweeted.

“Hunter Biden’s firearm conviction is simply a smokescreen,” says Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana. “What I'm concerned about is how Joe, Hunter, and James Biden have been enriching themselves by trading away America's interests to our enemies.”

On the other hand, Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri is accusing the DOJ for not prosecuting Hunter hard enough. 

“Never forget DOJ tried to avoid this trial & verdict by giving Hunter a sweetheart plea deal. Until the judge exposed them,” he tweeted.

Then there’s the conspiracy theorists, like Stephen Miller, who accused the DOJ of “running election interference for Joe Biden.”

“That’s why DOJ did NOT charge Hunter with being an unregistered foreign agent (FARA) or any crime connected with foreign corruption. Why? Because all the evidence would lead back to JOE,” he tweeted.

Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, added to that, tweeting: “And yet Dems will now point to Hunter’s conviction as evidence that ‘there’s no lawfare.’” 

But Rep. Andrew Clyde of Georgia takes the cake for political paranoia: 

Hunter Biden’s guilty verdict is nothing more than the Left’s attempt to create the illusion of equal justice. Don’t fall for it.

— Rep. Andrew Clyde (@Rep_Clyde) June 11, 2024

There’s no small amount of cognitive dissonance about the rule of law in this crowd. Like Rep. Jason Smith of Missouri, who intoned that “today’s verdict is a step towards ensuring equal application of the law, regardless of one's last name.”

Except, of course, for the equal application of the law to someone named Trump. 

“The fix was in for this fake ‘trial’ - the George Soros-backed DA and a leftist judge worked to tilt the scales of justice against President Trump,” Smith tweeted

Then there’s the pathetic toadying for Trump from Freedom Caucus Chair Bob Good. 

“Hunter Biden is convicted of an actual crime. Donald Trump was railroaded by a political prosecutor and a biased judge,” Good tweeted

Trump has endorsed Good’s primary opponent. 

Yet no one in the GOP is complaining about a "rigged jury" or a “corrupt judge” in Hunter’s conviction. And neither are the Democrats.

“I've not heard a single Democrat anywhere in the country cry fraud, cry, fixed, cry, rigged, cry, kangaroo court or any of the many epithets that our colleagues have mobilized against the U.S. Department of Justice and our federal court system,” Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland said

Similarly, Biden has responded to the conviction with a dignified and loving statement in support of his son. 

"Jill and I love our son, and we are so proud of the man he is today,” Biden said. “So many families who have had loved ones battle addiction understand the feeling of pride seeing someone you love come out the other side and be so strong and resilient in recovery.”

As for the verdict? 

“I will accept the outcome of this case and will continue to respect the judicial process as Hunter considers an appeal,” Biden said.

Donald Trump was convicted on 34 counts of falsifying business records on May 30. What are potential voters saying about this historic news? And what is the Biden-Harris campaign doing now that the “teflon Don" is no more?

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House members urge federal intervention into Greg Abbott’s white nationalist declaration

Is Greg Abbott looking to the 2024 presidential race? Quite possibly, and groan, because after trouncing Beto O’Rourke in the 2022 election by nearly one million votes, the right-wing governor is continuing his string of nativist stunts, this week officially declaring supposed powers that he claims allow him to take “unprecedented measures” to defend Texas “against an invasion.”

No one’s being invaded, and Abbott knows that. He’s instead signaling to the white nationalists who like to use this language. But just as importantly, some of the supposed powers that Abbott claims he has, like returning migrants to the border, are strictly the job of the federal government. A number of lawmakers from Texas say it's incumbent on the government to intervene.

RELATED STORY: D.C. attorney general says he's probing whether migrants bused to capital were tricked by GOP

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“As members of Congress representing the great state of Texas, we are deeply disturbed with recent comments made by the Governor of Texas suggesting he has invoked invasion authorities under the U.S. Constitution to justify the use of state resources to further militarize our southern border,” lawmakers led by former Trump impeachment manager Sylvia Garcia tell the Biden administration in a letter obtained by The Hill. They not only object to Abbott’s supposed authority, they object to his reckless, flame-throwing rhetoric.

“Legal authority aside, there is simply not an invasion happening at the border,” they continued. “Many of the immigrants arriving at our border are exercising their right to claim asylum and other forms of humanitarian relief. They are not waging war against the United States or Texas.”

It is sad that even has to be said, but Abbott has a history of signaling to violent white supremacists through his rhetoric. He knows damn well that “invasion” wording was used by the racist mass gunman who murdered Texans at a Walmart in 2019, yet he’s continued to echo that rhetoric as recently as this past summer. Greg Abbott knows exactly what he’s doing. He’s further endangering lives—even as racist mass shooters since El Paso have echoed that wording.

“Declaring an invasion under the U.S. Constitution is an incendiary and divisive idea that will certainly lead to unnecessary litigation and will encourage dangerous anti-immigrant sentiments,” lawmakers continued in their letter. “Put simply, this type of reckless stunt will only continue to put Latino communities at risk of greater violence.”

The Hill also reports that Abbott’s actions are again pissing off Mexican officials, who said in a statement that “implementation of migratory laws, border control and the negotiation of international agreements are exclusive authorities of the federal government.” Abbott already faced ire from the Mexican government during his short-lived, massively expensive flop of a stunt forcing commercial vehicles to undergo redundant checks that actually didn’t do much of any checking. Facing international blowback and massive financial losses, Abbott quickly ended the disastrous policy.

Abbott has continued his busing stunt using migrants as human props, expanding his scheme to Pennsylvania. Among those he sent to Philadelphia was a 10-year-old girl who reportedly arrived so sick with fever and dehydration that she had to be immediately hospitalized. But Greg Abbott doesn’t care.

“The Governor of Texas is taking a white nationalist conspiracy theory that has inspired multiple domestic terrorist attacks and making it official state policy by declaring migrants to be a literal invading force,” said Zachary Mueller, Political Director at America’s Voice. “In 2019, a Texas man murdered 23 people in El Paso, Texas, in an act of domestic terrorism, which he believed would stop the ‘Hispanic invasion.’ After three years and another terrorist attack in Buffalo, New York, inspired by ‘invasion’ paranoia, Gov. Abbott is fully embracing this deadly racist lie and giving it a governmental imprimatur.”


Greg Abbott signals to violent white supremacist extremists in latest anti-immigrant order

Republicans are refusing to stop using racist mass killers' 'invasion' rhetoric

Sick child bused by Greg Abbott needed hospitalization after arriving in Philadelphia, reports say

House Judiciary Republicans release lie-packed, inflated ‘report.’ Will the media bite?

With four days to go before Election Day, the Republicans of the House Judiciary Committee have released a very serious report that is in no way a stunt. Now we get to see how much the media bites.

The report is supposedly about “FBI & DOJ politicization.” In translation: “The FBI and Department of Justice dared investigate Republicans, which can never be a legitimate thing to do.” For instance, it characterizes the FBI’s seizure of Rep. Scott Perry’s cell phone, which was backed by a court-authorized warrant, as the FBI having “stalked a Republican Congressman while on a family vacation to seize his cell phone.” Basically, if the FBI does its job and that is inconvenient for a Republican, it becomes evidence of politicization, according to the report from the Jim Jordan-led Republican committee members.

RELATED STORY: As DOJ reveals Trump concealing national security documents, GOP response is ... pathetic

The document also dedicates space to complaints about the Justice Department investigating threats against school board members (portrayed by Republicans as the Justice Department investigating parents simply for speaking in nonthreatening ways at school board meetings), accuses the FBI and Justice Department of “Artificially inflating statistics about domestic violent extremism” (while Republicans desperately need statistics about domestic violent extremism artificially deflated since it’s their people mostly committing this form of terrorism), and “Clearing the Bureau of employees who dissent from its woke, leftist agenda.” Haha, yes, the FBI is well known for its woke leftist agenda. Bunch of wild-eyed dope-smoking antifa hippies over there. (Fewer than 5% of FBI agents are Black, by the way.)

Here’s a measure of how seriously this report should be taken: The House Judiciary Republicans are promoting it as a “1,000 Page Report.”

1,000 of the 1,050 pages are copies of letters Rs have sent to the Biden administration — including 94 copies of the same five page letter to all US attorneys.

— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) November 4, 2022

That’s 470 pages of the same letter out of the 1,000 pages that Republicans are bragging about to make this sound like a detailed, meaty report.

They got their headline from Axios, which ran with “Scoop: House GOP to release 1,000-page road map for Biden FBI probe,” although they also got an Axios “reality check” noting that “Trump himself sought to exert pressure on his own Justice Department throughout his presidency, beginning with his demands for ‘loyalty’ from former FBI director James Comey and culminating in his attempts to use the agency to remain in power after the 2020 election” and quoting former U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman: “Throughout my tenure as U.S. attorney, Trump’s Justice Department kept demanding that I use my office to aid them politically, and I kept declining — in ways just tactful enough to keep me from being fired.”

But to House Republicans like Jordan, it’s justified and righteous if a Republican fires an FBI director for refusing to offer loyalty and politicized and corrupt if the FBI executes a search based on a court warrant on a Republican. Their position is really that simple.

Even given all the repetition, the document still contains a large number of falsehoods. Check this out:

The House Judiciary GOP's new report features a ... very charitable summary of Trump's level of cooperation in the MAL documents case

— Aaron Blake (@AaronBlake) November 4, 2022

In this account, the FBI and Justice Department’s efforts to get Donald Trump to give back the documents he stole become Trump graciously allowing them to try, and every so often coughing up a few more documents or adding security to the storage room where he was keeping the stolen documents.

This is the best part of that passage, though: “On September 13, a federal judge unsealed additional portions of the affidavit—although still largely redacted—that showed President Trump had returned even more documents to the Department than previously known.” So generous of him, right?

But! “Despite the publicly available level of cooperation, Attorney General Garland personally approved the decision to seek a warrant for excessive and unprecedented access to President Trump’s private residence. FBI agents spent approximately nine hours rummaging through President Trump’s personal belongings. They collected more than 11,000 documents, more than 1,600 press articles and printed materials, 19 items of clothing or gifts, and 33 books. They also collected about 100 documents with classification markings.”

I don’t know about you, but to me, following “Trump had returned even more documents to the Department than previously known” with a long list of the things he still had is not exculpatory. Sure, he had more than 11,000 government documents (because that’s a key word missing from their “more than 11,000 documents”—more than 11,000 government documents) in addition to the classified ones, but let’s give the man credit for having returned anything at all, eh? What this shows is that Trump took a damn lot of government documents. And about the “gifts” the FBI seized: Presidents and other government officials are not allowed to keep gifts they are given in their official capacity unless they buy them from the government. Otherwise, gifts are to go to the National Archives. It’s not like we’re talking about Valentine’s Day gifts from Melania and Ivanka.

This report is a political stunt intended to whip up the Republican base with days to go before the election. It’s more than that, though. If Republicans get control of the House and Jordan is the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, “This report is a road map of where [Jordan] will go,” a Republican staffer told Axios. It’s a message about how Republicans will govern—through inflated claims about things as basic as how many pages a report has, baseless accusations, and insistence that any attempt to put limits on Republican wrongdoing is illegitimate.


Jordan is pushing for Mayorkas impeachment based on ridiculous lie that 'we no longer have a border'

House Republicans sought to scapegoat Pelosi for Trump's coup. It was always absurd—even more so now

How should we be reading the 2022 polls, in light of shifting margins and past misses? In this episode of The Downballot, Public Policy Polling's Tom Jensen joins us to explain how his firm weights polls to reflect the likely electorate; why Democratic leads in most surveys this year should be treated as smaller than they appear because undecided voters lean heavily anti-Biden; and the surprisingly potent impact abortion has had on moving the needle with voters despite our deep polarization.

Kash Patel given ‘limited immunity’ after repeatedly using 5th Amendment to evade testimony

Kashyap Patel, former aide to Devin Nunes turned one of Donald Trump’s closest advisors, has been granted limited immunity to secure his testimony before the grand jury investigating the theft of classified documents and their illegal retention at Mar-a-Lago.

The Wall Street Journal reports that in an earlier appearance before the grand jury, Patel repeatedly invoked the Fifth Amendment, making it impossible to gain meaningful information. Attorneys for the Department of Justice attempted to get the presiding judge to force Patel to provide information relevant to the investigation, and argued that none of the questions they were asking were directed at surfacing any criminal action by Patel, but the judge ruled that Patel could not be made to testify without immunity on the basis of possible future action. Now Patel will get that immunity and will make a second appearance before the grand jury.

When headlines announce that someone will testify on a grant of immunity, it is generally taken to mean that some kind of deal has been reached. That is not the case here. Patel does not want to testify. He remains a hostile witness. He’s just not being given any choice. And the fact that the DOJ is willing to give him immunity to hear what he has to say shows that this investigation has just one real target.

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Patel is the only person who claims to be a witness to Trump declassifying the documents found at Mar-a-Lago. Speaking to Breitbart News, Patel said, “I was there with President Trump when he said, ‘We are declassifying this information.’”

It’s a fair bet that this unique claim was one of the first things that Patel was asked about when he was brought before the grand jury. And one of the first issues was he pulled out the Fifth Amendment. Now he will be facing that question again, and will have nowhere to hide. It’s a good bet that his answer will not match what he told Breitbart.

That is, if Patel chooses to answer at all. The fact that he declared he didn’t have to testify under the protection provided by the Fifth Amendment is interesting just in itself. Because it means that Patel did not try to slip testimony on the basis of executive privilege.

That could mean that the questions Patel was being asked all concerned issues that arose after Trump left office. Or it might mean that Patel was saving that executive privilege claim in his other pocket, for just this occasion.

Patel first gained the favor of Donald Trump by helping former congressman Nunes write a memo that put FBI sources and methods at risk in an effort to undercut the investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. Patel became a frequent visitor to the White House and joined Rudy Giuliani in Ukraine in attempting to find dirt on Hunter Biden. As his “Ukraine whisperer,” Trump made Patel an aide to the National Security Council. Trump considered Patel his Ukraine expert during the efforts to blackmail the Ukrainian government that led to Trump’s first impeachment.

Patel next helped get Sec. of Defense Mark Esper fired by declaring Esper’s refusal to send the army against Black Lives Matter protesters “disloyal” to Trump. Trump rewarded Patel’s own loyalty by making him chief of staff to the new Secretary of Defense. Patel was reportedly Trump’s pick to head the CIA—a sharp rise from a congressional aide in just three years—when a little matter of getting tossed from the office got in the way. 

During his time in Washington, Patel developed a well-earned reputation as a man who would cut any corner, and stab any back, to get closer to Trump. As a Pentagon official told The Washington Post last year, Patel was simply “a direct threat to lawful government.” 

He also wrote the “worst children’s book of all time,” in which he is the heroic defender of good king Donald.

More recently, Patel has been in the news as one of Trump’s chief spokesmen on the classified documents that the FBI removed from Mar-a-Lago following a warranted search. Unsurprisingly, Patel has been the leader of the “Trump declassified them all, so he did nothing wrong” choir.

However, no matter how many times Trump has made that claim in public, he hasn’t done so in court. He hasn’t done it, because he knows that it’s a lie. As a quick check of just one recent and relevant case shows… “declassification, even by the President, must follow established procedures.” Declassification of highly compartmentalized documents regarding the nuclear capacity of another nation must follow lengthy and detailed steps leading to declassification, none of which involves Trump “just thinking about it.” 

The immunity grant for Patel took effect on Wednesday, signaling that his testimony before the jury has either already happened, or will happen soon. As with all grand jury testimony, it’s unlikely that any of it will be made public. However, should that jury issue indictments, Patel is likely to be given the opportunity for an encore.

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Team Trump continues to fuel conspiracy theories about FBI search of Mar-a-Lago

According to a Fox Business correspondent’s “scoop” Wednesday afternoon, “Donald Trump and his legal team will likely seek a court order to force the @FBI and @TheJusticeDept to turn over a physical copy of the search warrant, the affidavit, and a complete inventory of what was taken in the Mar-a-Lago raid.” That news, however, came well after one of Trump’s attorneys told Dinesh D’Souza that the FBI had already given her a copy of the warrant, with an attachment detailing what they were looking for. Trump has the warrant. The fact that he hasn’t shown it to the public is his decision, and it’s probably in equal measures to hide what it reveals about him and to feed conspiracy theories. 

And those conspiracy theories continue to flourish, fueled in large part by Trump, his lawyers, and others in his inner circle. Trump is aggressively fundraising off the search of his property, which is no surprise since Trump aggressively fundraises off of everything that happens in his general vicinity. In this case, though, it’s not just about the money. It’s about spreading the message that he wants out there: This legal search approved by a federal judge was in fact a nefarious attack on freedom. And as usual, Trump has the entire Republican Party on board with his desired message.

RELATED STORY: Trump’s fanatical supporters ready to ‘lock and load’ for ‘civil war’ after Mar-a-Lago searched

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Appearing on CNN, Republican Sen. Tim Scott responded to questions about threats to the federal judge who signed the search warrant by “asking my friends on the other side, wait, don’t rush to judgment. This is, without question, a very daring and dangerous move on the Department of Justice’s side.” When CNN’s Dana Bash pressed him again on the threats coming from Republicans, Scott again blamed the Justice Department, saying, “every single member of our family, the American family, should be very concerned when you feel like there is a weaponization of the Department of Justice against any individual, much less the former president.”

There’s no acknowledgement here that there was a lawful process in which Trump was treated better than most people on whom search warrants are executed.

And Scott is more careful than many Republicans. His use of “weaponization,” though, was definitely use of an approved party talking point. Rep. Elise Stefanik, the third-ranking House Republican, similarly went with “weaponization” in a statement calling the search “a dark day in American history,” and calling for “an immediate investigation and accountability into Joe Biden and his Administration’s weaponizing this department against their political opponents—the likely 2024 Republican candidate for President of the United States.” As usual, Republicans accuse their opponents of what they’re already doing. Remember that Trump’s first impeachment was for attempting to use the power of the presidency to strong-arm Ukraine into smearing Joe Biden because Trump (correctly) saw him as a formidable challenger in 2020. Turning around and accusing Biden of mimicking Trump is to be expected, even though it was not Biden on a private phone call asking a world leader to “do us a favor” and withholding military aid to get that “favor.”

Like Stefanik, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is threatening an investigation—threats that Attorney General Merrick Garland, the entire Justice Department and FBI, and the judge who signed off on the warrant would absolutely have known were coming. 

Other Republicans have gone further.

“I’m concerned that they may have planted something,” Alina Habba, one of Trump’s attorneys, said on Fox News on Tuesday. “At this point, who knows? I don’t trust the government, and that’s a very frightening thing as an American. This is third world stuff. This is Cuba. This is not our country.”

No, this is you thinking the Biden administration operates the way Trump would like to.

Then there are the conspiracy theories about the date of the search—Aug. 8, the anniversary of Richard Nixon’s resignation. “There are no coincidences when it comes to the Deep State. They could have done this raid a couple of days before or tomorrow, but they chose August 8 for a reason,” former Trump Treasury Department official Monica Crowley said on the War Room podcast.

Trump could clear some of this up by releasing the warrant, which he has. (The affidavit, which would have more detail, is under seal and, according to former federal prosecutor Elie Honig, Trump wouldn’t get it “unless and until there's a charge.”) But Trump does not want to clear this up. He wants his party once again united around defending him, and his supporters buzzing with conspiracy theories and rage. It’s better for him that way, and it doesn’t matter to him that it’s worse for the concept of equal justice under the law.


Republicans are right: Trump should show America the search warrant delivered to his house

GOP lawmakers out of their minds over search on their leader by Trump-appointed FBI director

Some Democrats want to move past Trump. But ignoring his seditious acts threatens American democracy

New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries delivered a message Monday about the posture of House Democrats' leadership team regarding Donald Trump's relentless attempts to engineer a fascist takeover of the American republic. 

“We’re not looking backward," Jeffries told reporters during a press conference. "We’re looking forward to the inauguration of Joe Biden on January 20th.” 

That forward-looking vision came less than 24 hours after the Washington Post posted smoking-gun audio of an hour-long phone call in which Trump (aka Mafia Don) attempted to threaten and cajole Georgia's top election officials to "find" enough votes to overturn the state's election results. 

Nonetheless, Kate Bedingfield, an adviser to President-elect Joe Biden offered a similar take to Jeffries, saying, "The country is ready to move forward."

But the problem with simply rushing past Mafia Don's political grave is that ignoring his seditious acts is as much a threat to the future of American democracy as Trump's failed efforts were in the first place. In short—seditious, traitorous acts left unchecked beget seditious, traitorous acts. In fact, Senate Republicans with the twinkle of 2024 presidential bids in their eyes are already lining up in support of Trump's effort to tear down democracy in order to maintain his grip on power. Trump's final gambit is all but certain to fail on Wednesday during a joint session of Congress to certify the election results, but the major takeaway is that plenty of future GOP Trumps are waiting in the wings to trash representative democracy on the way to meeting their own political ends unless a price is exacted for doing so. And the lesson those Republicans have learned so far—just as Trump learned from his acquittal—is that there's no serious price to pay, political or otherwise, for betraying the country.

Both the incoming Biden administration and Congress have a role to play in safeguarding our democracy for generations to come. One is criminal and the other is a matter of governance. Biden must appoint smart, resolute leaders to the Justice Department and then simply get out of the way and let them do their jobs. Hamstringing justice in any way with regard to Trump's endless assault on the law and the Constitution would be disastrous for the country's future. But Biden can easily make those appointments to the Department of Justice and then rightfully send the message that his administration is focused on the task of righting the ship in regard to the pandemic and the faltering economy. 

House Democrats, however, cannot afford to simply move along, as if the threat to our democracy ends once Trump is summarily booted from the White House residence. That is a patently false contention given the upheaval we are already witnessing in the Republican party. Trump must be held to account. That can be done in several ways, a couple of which are already in process.

One way is by making a criminal referral to the FBI over Trump's attempted election crimes, an investigation that Reps. Ted Lieu of California and Kathleen Rice of New York are already urging FBI Director Chris Wray to undertake.

Another possibility is censuring Trump over his call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. Georgia Rep. Hank Johnson introduced a censure motion on Monday with the support of 90 of his colleagues. That number will likely grow in the coming days and weeks as Congress gets back to work—or at least, it should grow, since there are presently 222 Democratic members of the House.

Impeachment is another potential option, but to what end at this point? Trump is just over two weeks away from removal and, as we have already seen, the effort would surely be blocked by the GOP-controlled Senate. Heck, more than a quarter of the Senate Republican caucus has jumped aboard Team coup at this point. 

What does seem a worthy effort, however, is continued investigations of Trump and his minions. Not only do the facts need to come out, but if Democrats are to draft legislation to safeguard our democracy against future Trumps, they will need to know exactly what actions he and his enablers took in their extensive efforts to kneecap America's institutions and systems of governance. 

But none of those three options—a criminal referral, censure, and ongoing investigations—amount to simply "looking forward." What is past will haunt the nation and Democrats, in particular, if it is buried before an autopsy can be conducted and people held to account for their roles in assaulting and undermining America’s democracy. 

‘This is how democracies die’: House Democrats’ flagging urgency on Barr’s depravity is inexcusable

The rule of law is the very virtue that separates a democracy from a dictatorship. Though one’s ability to vote is a feature of democracy, elections are meaningless without a functional legal apparatus to safeguard them. People are allowed to cast votes in virtual dictatorships all the time, but their collective will is ultimately crushed by leaders who rig the outcomes. Without the rule of law America is doomed as a democracy, and the sanctity of the legal system is exactly what Donald Trump and his attorney general, William Barr, are working to dismantle in real time by turning the Department of Justice into a tool of the State.

Trump is reportedly seething after enduring three years of investigations for which he is constitutionally incapable of taking any responsibility. Sure, he called for Russia to find Hillary Clinton’s emails in 2016, and Russia followed suit almost immediately by hacking the Democratic National Committee. Sure, he asked the Ukrainian president to investigate his political rival Joe Biden and withheld desperately needed funding and political backing to pressure him into doing so. But Trump is never wrong, can never be questioned, and surely has never been held accountable in his life. And now that he will carry the stain of impeachment to his grave, there’s going to be hell to pay and the nation’s top law enforcement officer has proven eager to help wherever possible.

But this goes way beyond the interference Barr ran last year on public release of the Mueller report, which otherwise would have been devastating to Trump. Barr is now intervening in the administration of justice on multiple cases, weaponizing the Justice Department against Trump’s political enemies, and shielding Trump’s allies from the full force of the law.

The list of interventions is simply staggering. In brief, they include a relentless effort to find wrongdoing by the officials at the FBI and CIA involved with launching the Russia investigation in 2016, taking specific aim at former FBI Director James Comey and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe (who was already denied his pension benefits by Barr’s predecessor after decades of service at that bureau).

And on the leniency side, Barr has moved in recent weeks to lighten the punishment for two Trump loyalists and former campaign advisers, Mike Flynn and Roger Stone. In service of that goal, Barr removed the Senate-approved U.S. attorney in D.C. and replaced her in the interim with a close ally from his office, Timothy Shea, who has gladly done Barr’s bidding. Shea is the guy who earlier this week signed off on overruling the sentencing recommendations made by the four federal prosecutors on Stone’s case who have all since resigned in protest. While all these actions are indefensible, Barr’s interference with the sentencing recommendations of a Trump ally was so unprecedented that it has elicited an outcry from a groundswell of former federal prosecutors and Justice Department officials.

“I’ve never seen so many prosecutors, including those who aren’t political or those who haven’t been following this situation closely, go to red alert so quickly,” Joyce White Vance, a former U.S. Attorney in the Obama administration, told the Washington Post. “The reason is this: If a president can meddle in a criminal case to help a friend, then there’s nothing that keeps him from meddling to harm someone he thinks is his enemy. That means that a president is fully above the law in the most dangerous kind of way. This is how democracies die.”

Vance’s prognosis isn’t hyperbole. America is teetering on the edge and Republican lawmakers have proven to be nothing but a herd of sycophantic lemmings. Unfortunately, House Democrats, who do have some agency, haven’t exactly been robust in their response. Barr has agreed to appear before the House Judiciary Committee for a hearing but not until March 31. 

At her weekly press conference Thursday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Barr “a sad disappointment,” saying he had “deeply damaged the rule of law by withdrawing the Department of Justice sentencing recommendations” in the Stone case, among other things.

But frankly, Democrats should be jumping up and down about this in order to shine a public spotlight on the Justice Department’s turn toward becoming nothing short of an instrument of authoritarianism. How about a bicameral press conference? How about burying the Justice Department in subpoenas just to make a point? How about a speedier timeline for Barr’s hearing? Some actual outrage spiraling into public spectacle would be useful here. We need leadership to meet the moment so American voters will understand the stakes here and be fully operational when they hit the polls in November. 

Trump and Barr ramp up their abuses of power—and Senate Republicans are responsible for all of it

This is what a liberated post-acquittal Donald Trump looks like: not chastened, as some of the more dishonest Senate Republicans said they hoped he would be, but ever more brazen in his corruption and his destruction of democratic institutions. Tuesday was a nightmare for justice in the United States of America, with three top prosecutors either stepping down from the case or resigning entirely as Attorney General William Barr obeyed a Trump tweet and intervened in the sentencing recommendations for Trump buddy Roger Stone.

That came after the news that Barr is working with Rudy Giuliani to dig up and launder dirt on Trump’s political opponents, and after the firing of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and his brother from their White House jobs because he testified at the impeachment inquiry. Trump and Barr are committing the abuses, but every single Republican senator other than Mitt Romney gave them permission. Said “Go right ahead, we won’t do a thing about it.”

Every day that goes by and every new abuse that Trump commits shows why it's so important to retake the Senate. Please dig deep to defeat vulnerable Republicans in 2020.

I’m talking about Susan Collins, up for reelection in Maine. Cory Gardner, up for reelection in Colorado. Joni Ernst, in Iowa. Thom Tillis, in North Carolina. Kelly Loeffler, who will be facing Georgia voters for the first time after being appointed to replace former Sen. Johnny Isakson. David Perdue, also in Georgia, meaning there are two Senate seats at stake in one state. Martha McSally, who lost a Senate election in Arizona in 2018 and was appointed to a Senate seat anyway—she needs to lose for a second time in a row. 

Every single one of these people voted to let Trump continue his lawlessness. They voted that way when any halfway sensible person knew that he would take the vote as permission to do more and worse. These senators intended to give him that permission—and do more and worse he has. He has been publicly vindictive against Vindman for daring to testify to what Trump did on Ukraine. His attorney general is systematically perverting the administration of justice to cater to Trump’s personal desires, to protect his friends and persecute his opponents, making a mockery of the Justice Department's mission statement to “ensure fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans.” 

Every Republican senator but Mitt Romney voted to tell Trump that he is above the law. In 2020, voters can make some of them pay for that. Give now to send the opposite message—that no one is above the law—by defeating these Republicans in 2020.

Barr tightens grip on FBI, saying any 2020 candidate investigations must first get AG approval

There won't be any investigations of Donald Trump this campaign season. Attorney General William Barr sent a memo Wednesday to the FBI and U.S. attorneys across the nation instructing them to get his approval before opening any new inquiries during the 2020 election cycle, according to The New York Times.

Barr used the backdrop of 2016 and the inspector general's report criticizing some aspects of the FBI's investigation into Trump's campaign as justification for his new decree. The department, he wrote, had a responsibility to safeguard against "improper activity or influences" in the election. “In certain cases, the existence of a federal criminal or counterintelligence investigation, if it becomes known to the public, may have unintended effects on our elections,” Barr wrote.

In other words, Trump is still really pissy about the Russia probe—even though it was never public—and wants to ensure that none of the other corrupt activities he is surely engaged in will interfere in his election, not to mention get investigated at all.

Barr, a man who skewed the rollout of the Mueller report in Trump's favor and declined to investigate Trump Ukraine call for criminal violations, advised, "we also must be sensitive to safeguarding the department’s reputation for fairness, neutrality and nonpartisanship.” Whatever reputation the Justice Department had for delivering fairness is already long gone under Barr's leadership.

In the big picture, this is just one more move by Barr to consolidate power. During the Senate impeachment trial, Barr also installed a loyalist as the new U.S. attorney in D.C., the largest U.S. attorney’s office in the country that also happens to handle many of the most politically sensitive cases in Washington. In another recent development, the Justice Department, which had recently sought six months of jail time for former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, is now saying probation time would be acceptable. 

In ways both obvious and cunning, Barr continues to prove his commitment to doing Trump’s bidding, no matter the task.