Appearing on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow show Dem Presidential hopeful Kamala Harris pointed out a serious consequence of Attorney General Barr’s conduct that receives very little media attention. AG Barr is often criticized for his overt political bias, but as Senator Kamala Harris aptly pointed out, his troubling conduct is having a real devastating effect on the integrity of the overall justice system. The full Maddow segment is available here but the relevant clip is below.
Sen Harris told Maddow, “Everyday in America there are people walking into courthouses around our country, state courthouses, federal courthouses. And they’re going to walk into those courthouses skeptical of whether justice actually occurs in those places. And that is real, that is a real consequence when we see the kinds of behavior we’ve been seeing under this administration which is that it is undermining people’s confidence in our democracy. And that is not an overstatement.”
Senator Harris later added, “One of our greatest strengths as a nation is that we have a system of democracy that we will fight for, that we will die for, and one of the most significant pillars in that system is our justice system. Now we know it is imperfect and we know it is deeply flawed in many ways. But when the highest official in the land[Barr] presents himself to the world the way we just witnessed, I think it calls into question the integrity of the system overall.”
This was such a profound statement by Senator Kamala Harris especially as it relates to communities of color who as we know are disproportionately targeted by the U.S. criminal justice system. Senator Harris’ forceful argument is that if the head of DOJ(AG Barr) displays such callous disregard for the rule of law (willfully lying to Congress, ignoring Congressional requests for testimony), then his DOJ in the eyes of the public, has lost all moral authority to hunt down other lawbreakers–the thieves, bank robbers, rapists etc.
In essence, Sen Harris’ argument is that AG Barr’s gravest “sin” is not necessarily that he is a partisan political hack, but that his unfortunate actions are seriously detrimental to a key pillar of our democracy–the justice system. Both Democrats and Republicans benefit from a sound justice system meaning Barr is sacrificing a key pillar of our democracy for the benefit of only one person–President Trump.
Bottom line, even though AGs are political appointees, it has always been expected of them to project an image of independence from the executive branch so as to instill confidence among the public that they are not being unduly influenced by external forces when making prosecutorial decisions. With the current state of affairs, no reasonable person can make the argument that AG Barr is not acting under the direction of/in concert with the Trump administration. Trump and Barr echo each other, sometimes even using the same phrases in their public utterances. For this and many other reasons, the only recourse is for AG Barr to resign so that efforts can begin to restore the integrity of the justice system which he has severely shattered.
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