Pondering the Pundits

Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from> around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

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Neal Katyal: Why Barr Can’t Whitewash the Mueller Report

We have a system in place for our government to uncover evidence against a sitting president. And it’s working.

Many who watched Attorney General William Barr’s testimony on Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which followed the revelation that the special counsel Robert Mueller had expressed misgivings about Mr. Barr’s characterization of his report, are despairing about the rule of law. I am not among them. I think the system is working, and inching, however slowly, toward justice.

When it comes to investigating a president, the special counsel regulations I had the privilege of drafting in 1998-99 say that such inquiries have one ultimate destination: Congress. That is where this process is going, and has to go. We are in the fifth inning, and we should celebrate a system in which our own government can uncover so much evidence against a sitting president. [..]

The underappreciated story right now is that we’ve not only learned that it was Mr. Barr — and pointedly not Mr. Mueller — who decided to clear President Trump of the obstruction charges, but also discovered the reasoning behind Mr. Barr’s decision. The American public and Congress now have the facts and evidence before them. The sunlight the regulations sought is shining.

Charles M Blow: Reimagining America

Admitting the truth is the first step toward our country’s restoration.

Not completely gone and not irrevocably ended, but forever altered. Or, maybe it is fair to say that our concept of America itself was a concoction, that it was always one solid body blow away from buckling at the knees.

Whichever the case, it is certainly true now that Donald Trump has tested our institutions and our constitutions — both government and personal — and found them all wanting, found them all weak, found them all vulnerable to the ravaging.

In the course of three years, he has completely taken over one of America’s two primary political parties, the Republican Party, a 165-year-old institution, the party of Abraham Lincoln. [..]

America naïvely believed that the presidency was for honorable men (women, shamefully, still haven’t been given a shot), that the president of us would always in some form be the best of us. Few could conceive that a character who lacks character would get the chance to sit in that seat. And now that he’s there, it has been painfully underscored that removal is nearly impossible and that power can go nearly unchecked.

Yes, we may as well say the eulogy for the enigma we assumed was modern America and quickly turn to the truth: No one is coming to save us. No one is coming to restore this country and it won’t self-resurrect.

This is all up to us.

Jennifer Rubin: At least one person came out smelling like a rose

Attorney General William P. Barr lost whatever credibility he had left. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) once more revealed himself incapable of putting country over party. (He confessed not to have read the Mueller report but nevertheless proclaims the whole thing “over.”) Most members on the committee spoke too much, argued too frequently and failed to pin down Barr on key facts. There was one exception to the political demolition derby.

Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) asked clipped, insightful and fact-based questions. She left Barr stammering and got him to concede that he had not looked at the underlying evidence before giving his own prosecutorial opinion on obstruction of justice. Even worse, he fumbled around when asked if the president or anyone else at the White House had asked or suggested he investigate someone


As those watching could see, she did it all calmly and methodically, directing Barr to answer questions and not interrupt her. (The sight of Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), partly bemused and partly impressed watching her, confirmed how effective she was.)

It was the highlight of the hearing for Democrats, and her performance is not likely to be lost on Democratic primary voters. To the extent that they are looking for someone to take down President Trump, the veteran prosecutor offers Democrats someone entirely capable of slicing and dicing a Republican who refuses to acknowledge easily established facts.

Greg Sargent: William Barr is helping to cover up Trump’s biggest crime of all

As the political world struggles to digest the enormity of Attorney General William P. Barr’s profound corruption of his role on President Trump’s behalf, it’s worth stepping back and surveying a distilled version of what we know, now that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s redacted report has been released:

Russia launched a massive attack on our political system, undermining the integrity of our elections, to elect Donald Trump president.
U.S. law enforcement launched an investigation primarily aimed at getting to the bottom of that attack so that we could fully reckon with what happened and ensure the integrity of future elections.
Trump tried in multiple ways to derail that accounting of this massive attack on our political system — and then tried to bury the truth about that derailment effort — in a manner that was at best corrupt, and at worst criminal.

The simplest way to understand much of what Barr has done — and what Trumpworld will be doing to impede inquiries going forward — is that it’s mainly aimed at obscuring the broad contours of that larger story.

The point here is not that everything they’re doing is deliberately aimed at this end. It’s that this bigger story is at the center of everything — and by “biggest crime of all,” I mean Trump’s most monstrous wrong — and thus efforts to keep smaller truths from coming out will inevitably be about obscuring that larger story.

Max Boot: How conservatives rationalize their surrender to Trump

Former FBI director James Comey has published in the New York Times the most insightful analysis I have read of how President Trump corrupts those who work for him — such as Attorney General William P. Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein. “Accomplished people lacking inner strength can’t resist the compromises necessary to survive Mr. Trump and that adds up to something they will never recover from,” Comey writes. “It takes character like Mr. [Jim] Mattis’s to avoid the damage, because Mr. Trump eats your soul in small bites.”

This reminded me of something I wrote in USA Today on Feb. 29, 2016, while Trump was still one of many candidates seeking the GOP nomination: “This is, in general, a moment of testing for Republicans. It is a character test. Do you believe in the open and inclusive party of Ronald Reagan? Or do you want a bigoted and extremist party in the image of Donald Trump?” [..]

The surrender by conservatives outside the administration has proceeded through a gradual process of compromise and corruption similar to that on the inside. The most important factor driving this process, I believe, is fear of the professional consequences of opposing the vengeful occupant of the Oval Office.

Members of Congress have seen what happened to former senator Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and former representative Mark Sanford (R-S.C.), who had the temerity to occasionally criticize the great Trump. From the standpoint of a political careerist (someone like Graham, who has held elected office for the past 26 years), they have suffered a fate worse than losing their lives: They have lost office.

Richard Wolffe: It’s painfully clear: today’s Congress wouldn’t have impeached Richard Nixon

The Republican-dominated Congress clearly thinks it’s no longer an impeachable offense to abuse power

There was a point during the Senate’s alternate grilling and chilling with Attorney General Bill Barr when you could hear the ghost of Richard Nixon crying.

Nixon took one final helicopter flight from the White House a generation too soon. He shuffled off this mortal coil a decade too early for redemption.

Because judging from the Republican response to the Mueller report, there is no way today’s Congress would have come close to impeaching Tricky Dick.

It was Kamala Harris, the former prosecutor and current presidential candidate, who exposed the very long distance traveled by Republicans over the last 45 years.

She began with a simple question of an attorney general who was supposed to apply some establishment lacquer to the grifters and jokers who are the best and brightest on Planet Trump. Instead, he revealed himself to the biggest grifter of them all: a fake attorney general defending a fraudulent administration. [..]

And so it came to pass that the attorney general of the United States pretended that he couldn’t remember if the president had tried to use the justice department to pursue his personal enemies.

Nixon was unlucky enough to be president at a time when Republicans and Democrats thought it was an impeachable matter to abuse power.

Reasonable people might disagree about what constitutes an abuse of power. But reasonable lawyers would all agree that a president suggesting, inferring or hinting at an investigation of someone like a political opponent would be just such an abuse of power.