Nadler mulling impeaching Barr as he lets one more deadline for holding Barr accountable slide

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler is inching toward holding Attorney General William Barr accountable for his vast lawlessness, but it's a case of one inch forward, two inches back. Nader is now saying he "may very well" pursue impeachment of Barr after ruling it out in a weekend interview as a "waste of time." Now he says: "I think the weight of the evidence and of what's happened leads to that conclusion."

"What's happened" being the blatantly political removal of U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman, who was conducting investigations into Trump cronies in the Southern District of New York. This follows Nadler's threat to subpoena Barr issued earlier this week for a hearing on July 2. Yeah, about that July 2 date—Barr has now "accepted an invitation to appear before the House Judiciary Committee for a general oversight hearing on July 28th," the Justice Department said Wednesday. July 28. Not July 2. Sound vaguely familiar? It should, because Nadler has been playing this game with Barr since early February.

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Back on Feb. 12, Nadler announced Barr would testify on March 31, 2020 about all the things, from what Rudy Giuliani was doing working with Justice Department people to exactly what Barr was doing to interfere in the prosecutions of Roger Stone, Rick Gate, and Michael Flynn. The coronavirus stopped that testimony from happening, but later on in February Nadler wrote a sternly worded letter to Barr demanding information about what Barr has done to intervene in the Roger Stone case and the Michael Flynn case, with a March 13 deadline. And that was after another sternly worded letter on Feb. 10 demanding answers about what the hell Rudy was doing in Ukraine, and why there was an "intake process" in the DOJ for information from Giuliani.

What we haven't seen from Barr is any goddamned answers to any of these questions from Nadler. For all these months. What we have seen is Barr creating his very own armed force of cops to bash Black Lives Matter protesters heads in as he assumed control over a hodgepodge of security forces in Washington for days from a command center he set up. Barr "was effectively the general overseeing the operation that allowed the president his photo op" in front of St. John's Church. A general conducting war on Americans.

So, yeah. July 28. Barr is surely going to voluntarily show up this time. Nadler should start impeachment proceedings immediately, if only to force Barr to finally show up—if he would even bother in those circumstances. It's clear that Barr doesn't take Nadler or his threats seriously, and that Barr believes he himself is as much above the law as he thinks Trump is.

House Judiciary committee hearing confronts Barr’s politicization of the DOJ

On Tuesday, Capitol Hill was dominated by a hearing with health experts, where the biggest news was that Trump hadn’t spoken to Dr. Anthony Fauci or any of his team on the subject of the pandemic in over two weeks. On Wednesday, the focus of the day shifts to the Department of Justice and how Attorney General William Barr has blown up the barriers that are supposed to exist between that agency and the White House.

The most critical testimony of the day is likely to come from attorney Aaron Zelinsky, who was formerly assigned as a prosecutor in the case against Trump campaign adviser, Roger Stone. Zelenski’s opening statement makes it clear that there was an unprecedented degree of political influence exerted on prosecutors. That included giving Stone unmatched leniency, including reducing the sentencing recommendation without cause, and bringing in a new attorney at Barr’s direction to give Stone kid-glove treatment. With Barr’s dismissal of the U. S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York fresh off the headlines, and multiple voices from within the DOJ speaking up against the politicization of the department, the hearing can be expected to be contentious.

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In his opening statement, Zelinsky is expected to say that, "What I saw was the Department of Justice exerting significant pressure on the line prosecutors in the case to obscure the correct Sentencing Guidelines calculation to which Roger Stone was subject—and to water down and in some cases outright distort the events that transpired in his trial and the criminal conduct that gave rise to his conviction.” 

Since the release of Zelnsky’s statement, Barr has issued a reply which clarifies the situation, by making it worse. The statement shows that Barr personally intervened in Stone’s case, ordering the removal of sentencing guidelines. Laughably, Barr also maintains that stepping into this one case specifically to deal with Trump’s long-time friend and campaign adviser, was keeping the department “away from politics.”

Barr’s handling of the Justice Department may be unprecedented, but so is the Republican reaction. Republicans in both the House and Senate have been protective of Barr and Trump’s ability to turn the DOJ into an extension of Trump’s personal legal team and to overlook its use as a political tool—just as they’ve defended Trump’s right to use pardons to reward friends with protection from absolutely justified convictions. 

The special treatment for Stone came after Barr fired U.S. Attorney Jessie Liu and replaced her with an acting attorney who was under “heavy pressure from the highest levels of the Department of Justice to cut Stone a break.” The way in which Liu was removed to clear the way for making things easy for Stone is a mirror of the legal musical chairs that has seen Barr replace the legal team handing charges against Michael Flynn. And it’s exactly why the removal of U. S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman in the midst of investigations of Rudy Giuliani and other Trump associates rang (and continues to ring) so many alarm bells. In all of these instances, Barr has removed experienced prosecutors taking a standard, apolitical approach to cases involving serious crimes, and replaced them with second-tier toadies who get their marching orders via Twitter. And in the case of both Stone and Flynn, Barr has used his personal authority to the benefit of Trump’s associates.

Barr has bent the law beyond the breaking point to protect Stone, and Flynn, and most of all Trump. What has happened with both Stone and Flynn, as the DOJ has revised and reduced sentencing proposals, isn’t just unprecedented or extraordinary, it’s corrupt. Republicans who defend these actions aren’t just protecting this corruption, they are rolling in it. Five months is not too short a time to conduct an impeachment.  

The Judiciary Committee hearing on prosecutorial independence will begin at 12 PM ET.

Judiciary Chair Nadler needs to do his job, he needs to impeach Barr

House Judiciary Committee Jerry Nadler said Sunday that while Attorney General William Barr deserves to be impeached, doing so would be a "waste of time." He told CNN's Jake Tapper on "State of the Union," that instead the House would punish Barr by withholding $50 million in Justice Department funding.

"I don't think calls for his impeachment are premature any more than calls for the President's impeachment were premature, but they are a waste of time at this point," Nadler said, following Barr's firing of Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Berman has been investigating Rudy Giuliani and others in the Trump circle, as well as whether Deutsche Bank, with all its ties to both Trump and Jared Kushner and his family, has been laundering money. That's on top of everything else Barr has done, encapsulated in this Twitter thread to show he will do anything to cover up for and protect Trump. Yes, he deserves to be impeached. No, Senate Republicans should not be allowed off the hook, they should be forced to reckon with the walking mound of corruption that is Bill Barr.

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Nadler said as much Sunday. "We've seen a pattern of […] Barr corruptly impeding all these investigations, so this is just more of the same," he told Tapper, noting that Berman's office had numerous cases involving Trump associates. Nadler also said that the Republican Senate is "corrupt" and that was demonstrated when it blew off Trump's impeachment this winter. But, he said, that would just happen again with Barr, so it's not worth the effort. Which is totally not how to demonstrate to the American voting public that the Senate Republicans are corrupt. A functioning House Judiciary Committee would have the impeachment hearings against Barr, calling in Berman and all the other casualties of Barr's corruption, and force the Senate to deal with it. That's what protecting the rule of law is supposed to be all about, which is Nadler's ultimate job, since he's the one holding that Judiciary Committee gavel.

The weekend's events just punctuated how important it is right now to shine a very bright light on Barr's corruption on behalf of Trump. In case you missed the bizarre episode over the weekend, Barr fired Berman in favor of his personal friend Jay Clayton, a corporate lawyer who's been Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission who has never once prosecuted a case, could get the job. The exchanges leading up to Berman's actual capitulation were bizarre, to say the least, with Barr initially stating on Friday evening that Berman was stepping down, which Berman emphatically denied. Then Barr said okay, he's not stepping down so Trump is firing him, to which Trump said nope, not him, this was all Barr's idea. In the end, Berman, a loyal Republican who had even donated $5,400 to Trump's 2016 campaign, capitulated.

Barr has proven again and again that he considers his job to be Trump's personal lawyer and protector, with a big dollop of racism authoritarianism on top. Barr was even responsible for that horrific Trump Bible photo op, "essentially assuming battlefield control over a hodgepodge of security forces in Washington for days from a command center he set up" to violently clear protesters from Lafayette Square for the publicity stunt. The man is dangerous. He must be held accountable, and the Senate Republicans have to be forced to decide whether they'll do it.

Trump’s attempt to block release of John Bolton’s book denied by federal judge

Judge Royce Lamberth has denied Donald Trump’s attempt to block the release of John Bolton’s book. In the ruling, Lamberth says that the presentation from William Barr’s DOJ team failed to “established that an injunction is an appropriate remedy.”

During the presentation on Friday, Lamberth repeatedly pointed out that the book was, in fact, already published, printed, in the hands of reviewers, and stacked up in both warehouses and bookstores. Digital versions have also been produced, along with audiobooks. He asked the DOJ “what do you want me to do about it?” and got back a fumbling response about possibly blocking the release in ways that seemed about as well thought out as most things emerging from this White House. In his ruling, Lamberth makes it clear that he was unimpressed: “For reasons that hardly need to be stated, the Court will not order a nationwide seizure and destruction of a political memoir.”

None of this makes Bolton’s book worth buying. The former National Security Advisor’s demonstrated cowardice and greed in refusing to testify before the House impeachment proceedings showed clearly enough that he placed potential profits infinitely above the good of the nation. 

Over the next few days, as the embargo is released, all the “good parts” of Bolton’s book will be made public in any case—including information this morning that makes it clear that Donald Trump was mad at the U. S. attorney who Barr is trying to kick out in part because that attorney screwed up a scheme between Trump and a Turkish bank. And no one really wants to read John Bolton’s opinion on anything. Ever.

Lamberth’s ruling makes it clear that Bolton may have violated national security and that he, “stands to lose his profits from the book deal, exposes himself to criminal liability, and imperils national security.” However, none of that means that this last second maneuver can stop the release of the book.

So Trump loses. Barr loses. And Bolton also loses. That’s a good ruling.

The ruling from judge Lamberth just establishes—again—how willing Bill Barr is to use the Justice Department as if it is Trump’s private law firm. And how amazingly incompetent Barr is in just about every instance. But it also shows that Bolton’s cowardly action is unlikely to net him a dime. You have to like that.

How Trump’s willing Republican collaborators make excuses to justify their treachery

In Dante’s Inferno, the ninth, most terrible circle of hell is reserved for the worst type of traitors. Dante specifically includes Judas, who betrayed Christ, and Cassius and Brutus, who betrayed and slew Julius Caesar, as the only named persons who inhabit the fourth and final round of this circle. Each is condemned to be gnawed within the three mouths of Satan for all eternity. Judas is being chewed on head first, his legs forever dangling out of Satan’s mouth.

The revulsion felt towards treachery—and particularly treachery against one’s country—is well established. Children in the U.S. learn about Benedict Arnold’s treachery in middle school. Students of World War II learn about the treachery of Vidkun Quisling. Their names (along with that of Judas) have gained such notoriety that they have become epithets describing traitors in general. From a political standpoint, there is not much if any practical distinction between outright treachery and “collaboration.” The Petain government of Vichy France collaborated with the Nazis, as did Quisling’s Norwegian government. Both Petain and Quisling are now universally viewed as traitors, with each possessing a unique litany of justifications for his actions—justifications that are now viewed as shabby excuses for complicity with evil.

With an embattled and unstable Donald Trump making alarming noises about unleashing the military on American citizens and his attempts to delegitimize an election that looks increasingly likely to go against him, there seems to be no better time to examine the motivations of those in the Republican Party who have collaborated with him and are allowing him to be in a position to make these threats. As Anne Applebaum—a renowned historian of the Soviet Union and the former Communist bloc—demonstrates in a tour de force just published in The Atlantic, it’s not as if Republicans looked at their reflections in the bathroom mirror one morning and decided they would betray their country for the interests of Donald Trump. There was self-reflection involved, a weighing of self-interest, costs and benefits—all leading to the conclusion that fealty to Trump outweighed their sworn oaths to defend the Constitution.

The oh-so-telling title of Applebaum’s essay is “History Will Judge The Complicit.” In it, she cites several examples of collaborators throughout 20th Century history—most significantly those who supported totalitarian Soviet puppet regimes in Eastern Europe—and analogizes how the rationales and excuses each used to try to justify their actions mesh perfectly with the behavior of today’s Republican Party in their nearly-collective decision to pay meek obeisance to Donald Trump.

Applebaum explains just what a “collaborator” is.

In English, the word collaborator has a double meaning. A colleague can be described as a collaborator in a neutral or positive sense. But the other definition of collaborator, relevant here, is different: someone who works with the enemy, with the occupying power, with the dictatorial regime. In this negative sense, collaborator is closely related to another set of words: collusion, complicity, connivance. This negative meaning gained currency during the Second World War, when it was widely used to describe Europeans who cooperated with Nazi occupiers. At base, the ugly meaning of collaborator carries an implication of treason: betrayal of one’s nation, of one’s ideology, of one’s morality, of one’s values.

Applebaum notes there can be two types of political collaborators: voluntary and involuntary. People forced at gunpoint to cooperate with a regime out of necessity or a duty to preserve other people’s lives are among the involuntary class of collaborator. Voluntary collaboration, on the other hand, implies either a willingness to collaborate for the sake of “ the national interest,” or an enthusiastic embrace of the enemy borne of outright admiration or alignment with one’s ideology. Describing the latter variety, Applebaum cites Harvard scholar Stanley Hoffman, who in 2007 “observed that many of those who became ideological collaborators were landowners and aristocrats, ‘the cream of the top of the civil service, of the armed forces, of the business community,’ people who perceived themselves as part of a natural ruling class that had been unfairly deprived of power under the left-wing governments.”

But curiously, as she notes, just as “equally motivated” to willingly collaborate were the country’s “losers,” the “social misfits” and political deviants who also saw an opportunity to raise their own standards of living by joining forces with an occupying enemy.

If this is beginning to ring some bells, it should.

Applebaum also cites the work of Czesław Miłosz, a Nobel-prize winning poet who wrote about the mindset of collaboration based on his experiences in working for the Polish government after WWII. In The Captive Mind, Milosz uses a series of biographical portraits to depict the various justifications that collaborators use to justify the betrayal of their principles. As Applebaum points out, these are all transferable to the behavior of the modern Republican Party in selling out their principles, and even selling out their oath to serve the American people, to a demagogue like Donald Trump. In fact the near-total abdication of their souls to Trump—even in the face of his blatantly apparent cruelty, crudeness, self-interest, and lack of any commitment to democratic principles—is closer to the historical reality of collaboration than are those voices that dissent or object. That is because collaboration is a way of ensuring conformity, and conformity is more pleasurable, more rewarding, and ultimately safer than nonconformity.

Using Lindsey Graham and Mitt Romney as examples, Applebaum illustrates how two men, both claiming to have some semblance of principles, behaved once they fell under the presidential orbit of Donald Trump. Noting that both had vehemently criticized Trump prior to his election, she shows how Graham ultimately showed his so-called principles about “patriotism, duty and honor” (which he had attributed to his military experience in the JAG corps) to be nonexistent, turning himself into one of Trump’s fiercest supporters beyond all logic, despite the amorality, corruption, and self-absorption of Trump himself:

It was Graham who made excuses for Trump’s abuse of power. It was Graham—a JAG Corps lawyer—who downplayed the evidence that the president had attempted to manipulate foreign courts and blackmail a foreign leader into launching a phony investigation into a political rival. It was Graham who abandoned his own stated support for bipartisanship and instead pushed for a hyperpartisan Senate Judiciary Committee investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden’s son. It was Graham who played golf with Trump, who made excuses for him on television, who supported the president even as he slowly destroyed the American alliances—with Europeans, with the Kurds—that Graham had defended all his life. By contrast, it was Romney who, in February, became the only Republican senator to break ranks with his colleagues, voting to impeach the president.

Graham’s surrender to Trump was shocking, but Applebaum thinks she understands it. His behavior, and most importantly his rationale, mirrored the same justifications that officials in the Nazi-collaborating Vichy French government employed. The Republican Party is displaying exactly the same rationalizations for their behavior that collaborators in the Vichy regime—as well as collaborators in Sovietized Eastern Europe—exhibited. As Applebaum observes: “These are experiences of people who are forced to accept an alien ideology or a set of values that are in sharp conflict with their own.”  

And that, according to Applebaum, is exactly what Trump has done from the outset to the Republican Party: He imposed an alien ideology, by claiming to possess different values from “traditional” Republicans. Examples cited by Applebaum include Trump’s campaigning as a “populist” and his phony promises to “drain the swamp,” and above all, attacking fact-based reality at every turn.

This began with his patent lying about size of his inauguration crowds, a seemingly trivial matter that gradually cascaded into a habitual and relentless refashioning of “reality” to be whatever he said it was. The number of absolute lies (over 19,000 at last count) delivered by Trump, the wholesale corruption of our federal agencies with political supporters lacking any experience in government or even their agency’s subject matter, and the insistence on his own infallibility were, according to Applebaum, not intended to convince thinking Americans of their truth but instead to convince his supporters in the Republican Party that he could simply lie and lie again with impunity and get away with it; that he could corrupt an entire branch of government and get away with it; and now, that he can grossly mishandle a national public health crisis and still get away with it. As Applebaum states: “Sometimes the point isn’t to make people believe a lie—it’s to make people fear the liar.”

As Applebaum states, corruption to a large body of people does not happen suddenly—it happens gradually, like a “slippery slope,” as people (here, Republicans) “abandon their existing value systems” through a process where such corruption is normalized. Republicans have normalized Trump’s lies and learned to reflexively blink at his corruption. In doing so, and by allowing their own sense of competence and “patriotism” to be co-opted by Trump, they have abandoned whatever responsibility they once felt towards the American people.

Meanwhile, with this kind of sycophantic following Trump has done whatever he wants, which is to fulfill his own interests and create what is certainly the most corrupt administration in American history while using racism and xenophobia when necessary to achieve those ends. His antipathy towards any legal or Constitutional restraints on his power are established; his sneering dismissal of science, the military, and our intelligence services are all matters of record; his complete abandonment of our strategic alliances is probably irreparable. As Applebaum puts it: “He meets his own psychological needs first; he thinks about the country last. The true nature of the ideology that Trump brought to Washington was not ‘America First,’ but rather ‘Trump First.’”

By now the disaster of the Trump presidency is laid bare. We are experiencing an economic calamity even as people are dying from a grossly mishandled public health crisis. Our streets are literally on fire with people protesting chronic racial injustice, and the rest of the world looks on, aghast at what this country has become. Why then do Republicans continue to act as collaborators with such a regime?

Applebaum says that the same justifications are those set forth in Milosz’ work, The Captive Mind, noted above. They are the same tortured excuses collaborators have told themselves throughout history to justify their betrayal of the people they are supposed to represent. Applebaum distills some of them for us.

 “We can use this moment to achieve great things.”

“We can protect the country from the president.“

“I, personally, will benefit.”

“I must remain close to power.”

“My side might be flawed, but the political opposition is much worse.”

“I am afraid to speak out.”

Applebaum deftly shows how each one of these excuses/rationales has been trotted out or otherwise displayed by Republicans to justify their collaboration with this lawless and amoral regime. From the dubious “bravery” of Anonymous, who you may recall piqued the nation with their “inside account” of the administration’s foibles while claiming to be part of the Resistance, to unnamed officials who decide to ignore the massive onslaught of corruption as long as they get their own pet projects to work on. From people like John Kelly and Jim Mattis, who said they believed they could act as a “failsafe” to prevent the country from imploding but proceeded to quit and fade out of the public view, to cowards like John Bolton and Paul Ryan, who left the administration and their party, respectively, because of Trump and Trumpism yet were too afraid or too opportunistic, even afterwards, to call him out. Of course, there’s also the blatantly self-interested—the Sonny Perdues, the Scott Pruitts, and any of those who view a plum administration position as a mere stepping stone to lucrative careers on K Street. All of these collaborators have exhibited one classic excuse or another.

It is Applebaum’s analysis of the true sycophants—such as Mike Pompeo, William Barr, and Mike Pence, whose collaboration with Trump is not based on excuses but dogmatic religious fanaticism—that is most horrifying.  

The three most important members of Trump’s Cabinet—Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Attorney General William Barr—are all profoundly shaped by Vichyite apocalyptic thinking. All three are clever enough to understand what Trumpism really means, that it has nothing to do with God or faith, that it is self-serving, greedy, and unpatriotic. Nevertheless, a former member of the administration (one of the few who did decide to resign) told me that both Pence and Pompeo “have convinced themselves that they are in a biblical moment.” All of the things they care about—outlawing abortion and same-sex marriage, and (though this is never said out loud) maintaining a white majority in America—are under threat. Time is growing short. They believe that “we are approaching the Rapture, and this is a moment of deep religious significance.”

The fact that collaborators in the Trump administration tell themselves comforting stories to justify their actions is bad enough, but when the collaborators are motivated solely by a desire to impose their religious nuttery on the American population and are given the power to do just that, we are in truly perilous territory. This is particularly the case with Barr, whose role as attorney general and head of the Justice Department gives him nearly limitless power to impose his delusional worldview on the most vulnerable in our society. Our country was specifically designed to prevent the imposition of an official “religion” for this very reason.

But the consequences of collaboration probably reached their apotheosis in the conduct of Republicans during the impeachment saga. The GOP-controlled Senate failed to muster a single vote, save that of Mitt Romney, to convict a patently guilty president on charges of obstruction of justice. Applebaum, probably correctly, attributes this appalling inaction to fear of speaking out. As she points out, we are living with the fatal consequences of that act of cowardice and collaboration today:

[I]in March, the consequences of that decision became suddenly clear. After the U.S. and the world were plunged into crisis by a coronavirus that had no cure, the damage done by the president’s self-focused, self-dealing narcissism—his one true “ideology”—was finally visible. He led a federal response to the virus that was historically chaotic. The disappearance of the federal government was not a carefully planned transfer of power to the states, as some tried to claim, or a thoughtful decision to use the talents of private companies. This was the inevitable result of a three-year assault on professionalism, loyalty, competence, and patriotism. Tens of thousands of people have died, and the economy has been ruined.

All of this, and all that waits for us in the coming months, are the consequences of a knowing Republican collaboration with an administration whose incompetence and malevolence is unmatched by any in U.S. history. And yet, Republicans still show no sign of opposition. No voice of objection is raised to decry the torrent of perpetual cruelty and inhuman disregard, even as a deadly virus sweeps through the population, even as the world turns its back on an America it no longer recognizes. Applebaum frankly asks of these Republicans: How low will you allow the country to go?

Come November, will they tolerate—even abet—an assault on the electoral system: open efforts to prevent postal voting, to shut polling stations, to scare people away from voting? Will they countenance violence, as the president’s social-media fans incite demonstrators to launch physical attacks on state and city officials?

To these open questions Applebaum simply attaches a small piece of advice to those who have compromised whatever integrity they once possessed in the service of this one awful man. She quotes Władysław Bartoszewski, a survivor of Auschwitz and former prisoner of both the Nazis and the Soviets, who later rose to the position of foreign minister in his home country of Poland. Bartoszewski’s advice? Just try to be a decent human being, because that is the way you will be remembered.

Whether any Republicans will actually follow that advice remains to be seen.

Barr’s ‘investigation’ into the Russia investigation began months earlier than previously known

Attorney General William Barr has been conducting a series of investigations into the origins of the Russia investigation since he arrived to bail Trump out. Republicans and their media pals have been pushing the idea that some always-unspecified crime was committed by following up on information that Putin was determined to interfere in the U.S. election, and that Trump officials were eager to welcome his assistance. After all, Obamagate was just awful—even if no one can explain why.

But maybe what’s needed is an investigation into the origins of Barr’s investigation. Because new information shows that Barr was already talking to his own hand-picked investigator, U.S. Attorney John "Bull" Durham, before he released the redacted Mueller report to the public. A whole series of meetings between Durham and Barr took place soon after the attorney general returned to Washington, D.C., all for the purposes of ripping into the Russia investigation and supporting Trump’s endless string of conspiracy theories.

As CNN reports, records show that Barr brought Durham in for a series of meetings well before announcing the official start of an investigation into how the Russia investigation got underway. Soon after being confirmed as attorney general, Barr began pulling in Durham, meeting with him much more frequently than other U.S. attorneys. 

That Barr hit the ground ready to attack the Mueller investigation isn’t surprising; after all, it was a letter complaining about that investigation that was largely responsible for netting Barr his job. But it seems that Barr went in the door already planning how he would try to attack the Russia probe, and who he would select to do it. That degree of early action opens questions into whether Barr was already moving the pieces into place to attack Mueller before he sat down in the Justice Department.

Barr’s meeting with Durham eventually became a series of round-the-world trips in which both Barr and Durham undermined U.S. intelligence agencies and attempted to get allies to confirm parts of ludicrous conspiracy theories. That includes attempting to get officials in both Rome and London to agree that Maltese professor Joseph Mifsud was a CIA plant put in place to lure George Papadopoulos into connection Trump and Putin, that Australian official Andrew Downer was an instrument of U.S. intelligence who provided false reasons for opening an investigation, and that Ukrainian hackers conspired with Hillary Clinton to make it seem as though Russia stole data from the DNC. 

Barr and Durham apparently failed to find any takers on their Q-flavored tour, but that didn’t stop Barr from announcing that Durham’s investigation had become a “criminal probe” in October and announcing an expanded scope in December that included having Durham going after former FBI Director James Comey and other former intelligence officials, including former CIA Director John Brennan. 

This week, Barr refused to answer a question about the status or focus of Durham’s investigation. He did say that he doesn’t expect that the probe will result in a criminal investigation of Joe Biden or Barack Obama. That may seem like a disappointment for Trump fans, but it doesn’t mean that Durham isn’t going to announce charges against Comey, or Brennan, or anyone else that Trump wants charged. It doesn’t even mean that there won’t be charges against Obama or Biden as Barr is perfectly capable of feigning surprise at just what Durham has “uncovered.”

What’s clear is that the Durham probe was planned in advance. And while Barr has complained repeatedly about there being insufficient evidence to charge Michael Flynn, or insufficient evidence to initiate the Russia investigation, the Durham probe was created as a total fishing expedition, with no evidence whatsoever.

Top Democrats urge Justice Department internal watchdog to investigate AG William Barr

Two top Democrats are urging the Justice Department's internal watchdogs to investigate slanderous remarks made by Attorney General William Barr about the intelligence community official who elevated the whistleblower complaint regarding Donald Trump.

Appearing on Fox News on April 9, Barr said Trump had done "the right thing" when he fired former intelligence investigator general Michael Atkinson, suggesting that Atkinson had exceeded his mandate as IG by exploring "anything" and then reporting it back to Congress. But in a letter to two Justice Department officials, the Democratic chairs of the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees said Barr had "blatantly mischaracterized" Atkinson's conduct.

"Mr. Barr’s remarks followed the President’s admission on April 4 that he fired Mr. Atkinson in retaliation for Mr. Atkinson’s handling—in accordance with the law—of the whistleblower complaint," Reps. Adam Schiff and Jerry Nadler wrote. "Mr. Barr’s misleading remarks appear to have been aimed at justifying the President’s retaliatory decision to fire Mr. Atkinson."

Barr claimed that Atkinson had "ignored" Department of Justice (DOJ) guidance that he was "obliged to follow" regarding how to handle the whistleblower complaint, a total distortion intended to gaslight Americans about what transpired. In actuality, Atkinson had no legal or professional obligation to defer to the Justice Department, which had conveniently and perplexingly declined to investigate whether Trump broke any laws in his call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. 

"To the contrary, Mr. Atkinson faithfully discharged his legal obligations as an independent and impartial Inspector General in accordance with federal law,” Schiff and Nadler wrote to Justice Department inspector general Michael Horowitz.

Schiff and Nadler further said that Barr had not only misrepresented the matter, he also sought to obscure the fact that DOJ and the White House had improperly coordinated their efforts in order to "keep Congress in the dark about the existence of the complaint." 

"The role of Attorney General Barr and other senior DOJ officials, in coordination with the White House, in attempting to prevent the whistleblower complaint from reaching Congress — as required by law — warrants your attention," they wrote, referring to the complaint that sparked Trump’s impeachment trial.

The two added that Barr's remarks represent a "disturbing pattern of misrepresenting facts" about the conduct of other government officials, including his purposeful misrepresentation of the conclusions of Robert Mueller's Russia probe.

"Indeed, a federal judge recently examined Mr. Barr’s 'lack of candor' and concluded that Mr. Barr 'distorted the findings in the Mueller Report,' which 'cause[d] the Court to seriously question whether Attorney General Barr made a calculated attempt to influence public discourse about the Mueller Report in favor of President Trump.'"

The message reinforced points made in a similar letter sent to the Justice Department last week by Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California and Mark Warner of Virginia. It's hard to know whether DOJ inspector general Michael Horowitz will take up an investigation into Barr, but Horowitz has previously touted Atkinson's "integrity, professionalism, and commitment to the rule of law and independent oversight."

Barr isn’t about to quit, he’s not trying to stop Trump, and he’s not concerned about justice

Attorney General William Barr has been going public this week, expressing his frustration with Donald Trump. Barr is so upset about Trump placing his stubby vulgarian fingers on the scales of justice that he worries that he can’t do his job. He has even thought about quitting.

Don’t you believe it. The manual of the Justice Department says, “The legal judgments of the Department of Justice must be impartial and insulated from political influence. It is imperative that the Department’s investigatory and prosecutorial powers be exercised free from partisan consideration.” But Barr doesn’t believe any of that. He’s not leaving. And he’s not going to stop turning the Department of Justice into a blunt instrument in Trump’s undersized hands.

On Tuesday, The Washington Post reported that Barr had considered resigning in response to Trump’s never-ending tweets about federal judges, prosecutors, and jurors. But on Tuesday night, Barr’s spokesperson made it clear that he wasn’t going anywhere. And no matter how many times the Post quoted “people close” to Trump or Barr about the White House friction over Trump’s Twitter habit, this definitely seems like a moment when it makes more sense to believe what Barr’s spokesperson is saying rather than the media accounts.

The idea that the Department of Justice is supposed to be apolitical and insulated from political decisions isn’t hidden away or just a matter of obscure tradition. That’s the first paragraph of the manual that every member of the department is required to read. That’s what the DOJ is supposed to be—impartial, insulated, free to seek genuine justice rather than be influenced by politics.

All of that is exactly the opposite of what Barr has done from the very moment the Senate blessed his return to the attorney general position. Barr has made it clear, in both words and deeds, that he sees the DOJ as a wholly owned subsidiary of Trumpism, Inc. And he’s not about to back away from using his powers to blunt a blade that cuts deep against Trump’s political opponents.

Since moving his stuff back into the Department of Justice, Barr has:

Butchered the Mueller report, creating a false narrative especially designed to replace the actual results in the media spotlight with claims that Trump had been exonerated. To do this, Barr rewrote the conclusion on collaboration with Russia to disguise more than 100 points of active contact. But Barr’s action on the second half of the report was even more amazing: He took 10 instances of clear obstruction of justice and simply declared them okay, based on nothing more than his own opinion.  Extended the idea that Trump cannot be charged with a crime while in office—an already controversial ruling—to the even more astounding claim that Trump cannot be named in a criminal proceeding or even considered as part of a criminal investigation.  Attempted to hide the intelligence community whistleblower report by issuing a ruling that what the inspector general had determined was a critical issue was not critical at all. Attorneys working for Barr made an unprecedented decision that the whistleblower report did not have to be shared with Congress, despite clear law that said otherwise. That this decision failed to hold was entirely because the inspector general refused to be silent. Pretended during the impeachment proceedings that he was uninvolved in the Ukraine plot, even though he was clearly named by Trump as a conduit between the White House and Ukrainian officials. By refusing to testify before the House, Barr hid any actions he or the DOJ may have taken at Trump’s request … right up until the impeachment was over, when he announced an official pipeline between Trump’s personal attorney and the Department of Justice.  Created a special team lead by Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham to seek evidence for conspiracy theories voiced by Trump and Fox News. This has included attempting to get intelligence services in Australia, Italy, and the U.K. to provide information that could be used to attack the FBI and CIA. It has also included specifically seeking support for conspiracy theories meant to harm those Trump sees as enemies—from Hillary Clinton to James Comey to Andrew McCabe—despite a lack of genuine evidence. Created a second special team of hand-selected attorneys specifically to harass and undercut U.S. attorneys involved in cases that “interest Trump.” The latter have been subject to questioning about their loyalties and motives even as their cases have been put through additional review and second-guessed by Barr’s Trumpist hit squad. Directly interfered in the sentencing of Michael Flynn and Roger Stone by withdrawing sentencing suggestions and replacing them with much milder alternatives and by removing the U.S. attorney in charge of the Washington, D.C., office—an attorney who had been a member of Trump’s transition team and who was selected for that role by Trump personally—and replacing her with someone who would ignore career prosecutors and go along with Barr’s interference.

The Post story may claim that Barr “has his limits” when it comes to doing what Trump demands. If that’s so, those limits are yet to be tested. Because Barr is not a believer in a “unitary executive,” where all the departments of the executive branch are the responsibility of the president; he is a monarchist, who sees Trump as the owner of not just the Justice Department, but justice itself.

If he has limits, they won’t be found in the manual of the Department of Justice. Their basis might be found in actions of the Committee of Public Safety … or maybe not.

Trump brags that he’s all about getting revenge on those who failed to ‘kill the king’

Every day of the Senate trial, Adam Schiff made the cases that Donald Trump is not a king. He’s not free to use the weaponry of the state as his personal tool, and not exempt from the consequences of his actions. He’s a citizen, constrained by law like the rest of us.

But of course, Republicans disagreed. And on Saturday morning Donald Trump made it clear that not only does he consider himself a king, he intends to make the remainder of his rule all about “grievance, persecution and resentment.”

Trump based his morning tweets on a two-week old article from The New York Times which looked at Trump’s post-impeachment actions. Susan Collins may have claimed that Trump was going to be chastened by the hearings, impeachment,  and trial.

And Trump has made it clear that he did learn something from the whole process. He learned that he can get away with anything — absolutely anything — without being concerned that Republicans will hold him accountable.

Following the impeachment, Trump has fired those who testified against him like Lt. Col. Vindman and Gordon Sondland. He’s taken petty vengeance on people like Vindman’s twin bother for having the bad taste of being related to someone on Trump’s enemies list. He’s held a White House session of self-congratulation in which he pointedly left out even most of the Republicans who voted to acquit over their failure to be sufficiently loyal. He’s continued hollowing out agencies across the government. He made it clear that he did send Giuliani to Ukraine to mine for political turds, and he told Geraldo Rivera that the way he will deal with phone calls to foreign leaders in the future is by conducting them in secret with no one listening in.

In one sense Trump’s mentality post-impeachment is that of the bunker. He’s been even more suspicious, more dismissive of the idea that anyone else has an opinion worth listening to, more determined to surround himself with a handful of only the most loyal, most protective staff (Welcome back, Hope Hicks!).

But if Trump is suspicious and angry down there in the gold bunker, he’s also feeling like he now has the space to revenge himself on anyone and everyone. And, of course, he’s ramped up his use of the Justice Department—and primary tool William Barr—to protect his friends, punish his enemies, and defy the whole concept of rule of law.

Trump has not just drawn a hard connection between himself and the state, he used his morning tweets to select a quote from the Times article that was surely meant to be a criticism.

“Ralph Waldo Emerson seemed to foresee the lesson of the Senate Impeachment Trial of President Trump. ‘When you strike at the King, Emerson famously said, “you must kill him.’ Mr. Trump’s foes struck at him but did not take him down. A triumphant Mr.Trump emerges from the biggest test of his presidency emboldened, ready to claim exoneration, and take his case of grievance, persecution and resentment to the campaign trail.” 

Trump added a “witch hunt!” claim to this statement, making it clear that as he was reading this section, he was nodding along. King, yes, Persecution, certainly. Resentment, and how.

The series of revelations that spilled in the last three days showing that not only was Barr putting pillows in place to protect Trump’s associates from facing consequences of their crimes, but building a whole team designed to second-guess and undermine veteran prosecutors shows how far down the fascism path Trump is already gone. Trump has already embraced “jokes” about naming himself president for life. Now he’s putting out tweets in which he’s the king.

And his rabble is applauding.

Susan Collins is so concerned about Trump that she’s going to make a sternly worded phone call

The White House better be prepared. It’s going to get a sternly worded phone call from Sen. Susan Collins over the impeached president’s interference in the sentencing of Donald Trump’s buddy Roger Stone after his conviction in federal court. She told reporters that Wednesday, saying that Trump should "play no role whatsoever when it comes to sentencing recommendations" and that he "should not have commented" and that she wished he "would not tweet." No word on whether she's also going to talk about the tweeting on the phone call. But boy, that's sure going to strike terror in Trump's heart.

She also has questions for Attorney General William Barr, she says, but she's not sure if there should be any hearings yet over Trump and Barr turning the Department of Justice into Trump's defense counsel. She wouldn't want to be hasty. Still, a sternly worded phone call might be happening. I'm sure she really wishes it would help. But don't worry, she says, about Trump being "emboldened" by being let off the hook by her and her Republican pals.

Her time's up. Please give $1 to help Democrats in each of these crucial Senate races, but especially the one in Maine!

He wasn't acting out because he knows now that there are no limits to his power, now that the Senate will let him do literally anything. It's just him acting like a toddler, she says. He "often acts in an impulsive manner," she explained in a USA Today interview. "I think the president was angered by impeachment and that is reflected in the personnel choices he made," she said. Because that makes it so much better, the fact that he's now a 4-year-old on speed, and it had absolutely nothing to do with her.

No, she's not responsible at all for his behavior now. She was doing her solemn duty and certainly, she told the Bangor Daily News, if the president had committed "treason or bribery," she would definitely have voted to impeach. The House, however, called Trump's treason and bribery in withholding aid to Ukraine in order to force that country to interfere in the presidential election on his behalf "maladministration." So they didn't meet her bar.

But boy, Trump, she better not catch you doing this again, or you'll be in big trouble.