Bill Barr has made a habit of delivering unnerving speeches since becoming attorney general, and on Friday, during remarks at an annual meeting of the Federalist Society, he took things up another notch still.
“Immediately after President Trump won election, opponents inaugurated what they call ‘The Resistance’ and they rallied around an explicit strategy of using every tool and maneuver to sabotage the functioning of the executive branch”, he declared.
Then, he accused “the left” of “undermining the rule of law” and engaging in a “systemic shredding of norms”. Here’s the offending clip:
It was an ironic contention, to be sure.
For one thing, Donald Trump enjoyed Republican control of the Senate and the House for most of the special counsel probe. Rod Rosenstein and Robert Mueller are both Republicans.
But more to the point, Trump arguably represents the biggest threat to the rule of law in the history of the country. And when it comes to the “shredding of norms”, Trump takes more than a little pride in trampling on tradition and decorum at every possible opportunity.
Consider, for example, that in their efforts to block the enforcement of a subpoena seeking Trump’s financial documents, the president’s attorneys argued last month that in a hypothetical case where the president made good on his campaign trail “joke” about “stand[ing] in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot[ing] somebody”, local authorities could not even look into the murder.
“Local authorities couldn’t investigate? They couldn’t do anything about it?”, Denny Chin, one of the three judges on the federal appeals panel which reviewed the case asked, inquiring as to what options police would have if Trump literally grabbed a rifle, ran out into the middle of the street and gunned down a half-dozen pedestrians for no reason. “Nothing could be done? That’s your position?”, Chin asked.
“That is correct”, Trump’s attorney said.
Let that sink in. It’s not clear that the president’s supporters understand how far down the road to authoritarianism Trump has taken the country. His attorneys were not joking. The president’s contention in the case to block Manhattan prosecutors from enforcing a subpoena is that Trump could personally execute a civilian (any civilian), in broad daylight, for no reason, and he would not only be immune from punishment, but in fact could not even be investigated.
That’s just one example. Trump makes a daily show of running roughshod over the rule of law and the “norms” that have defined America’s system of governance since the dawn of the republic. And he’s proud of it.
Barr went further on Friday. He compared progressives to a “dangerous”, “occupying military power”, and also lambasted federal judges who he accused of acting “like amateur psychiatrists attempting to discern an executive official’s real motive, often after ordering invasive discovery into the executive branch’s privileged decision-making process”.
“Barr has long adhered to a school of legal thought that draws a vision of uncompromising presidential power from the Constitution”, CNN reminds you. “That ideology, in line with the unitary executive theory, has guided conservatives for decades, including many of the lawyers in the crowd that Barr addressed Friday evening”.
Last month, Barr delivered a widely-panned speech at Notre Dame’s law school, where he essentially argued for the establishment of a Christian theocracy and blamed “the forces of mass communication, popular culture, the entertainment industry, and academia” for mounting what he described as “an unremitting assault on religion and traditional values” leading to “the wreckage of the family… soaring suicide rates and a deadly drug epidemic”.
In his quest to defend Trump, Barr has gone to extraordinary lengths, including overseeing an investigation into his own Justice department and the FBI.
Over the past nine months, the attorney general has flown around the world (on taxpayer dollars, by the way) in search of evidence to support the president’s claims that US law enforcement and the intelligence community engaged in illegal conduct during their investigation of his campaign’s alleged ties to the Kremlin. Those allegations are based in part on conspiracy theories, some of which emanate from the seediest corners of the internet.
You can watch Barr’s full Friday night speech below, although we most assuredly do not recommend it to anyone who wants to have a good weekend.