January 16, 2019

AG Nominee William Barr

Editor’s note: Thank you so much for your thoughts and feedback on our special edition yesterday! (and for bearing with our glitches and errors… )

Some highlights from the dozens of emails we received:

“This edition, concept and content, is next level.”

“I disagreed with a couple points made, with the thought that I could argue the points, and only sub-vocalized, ‘BS!’ once (while thinking of a source for contradictory evidence). That is an amazing record of effective treatment of complex issues.”

“Keep up the good work and keep showing both sides that the other side is also smart, caring, and thoughtful.”

In case you missed it, here we are answering over twenty anonymous questions posed to liberals and conservatives. Give it a read if you have a few, and please share far and wide!

On Tuesday, Attorney General nominee William Barr testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
AP News

See past issues

From the Left

The left is divided on whether Barr can be an impartial Attorney General.

“On June 8, 2018, while a private citizen, Barr had delivered a 19-page memo to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein… It starts out with an acknowledgment that Barr has no idea what facts Mueller has uncovered… He goes on to make assumption after assumption about the evidence Mueller does or does not have. He then proceeds to offer his admittedly uninformed opinions based on those assumptions… Barr is plainly setting up straw men just to knock them down.”
NBC News

During the hearing, he “criticized former FBI Director James Comey for his decision, mere weeks before the 2016 election, to publicly criticize Hillary Clinton when announcing the decision to not prosecute her over her email security while secretary of state. ‘If you’re not going to indict somebody, you don’t stand up there and unload negative information,’ he explained. That raises questions about how much information he’ll disclose about the Russia investigation if it’s not used to bring criminal charges.”
New Republic

He also “[claimed] not to know what [the emoluments clause] is… but the emoluments clause — and litigation around it — has become a key flashpoint in the larger debate over Trump’s financial conflicts of interest and lack of disclosure about his finances… Under the circumstances, the safest path for Barr was probably to say nothing — which is what he did.”

“Trump has eschewed job candidates with Bush ties. As a result, Trump’s most important appointments have been mostly inexperienced… [But Barr is] someone who is proudly and in a highly traditional way presenting himself as a mainstream, experienced, Republican official… Expect Barr to defend the president’s legal prerogatives aggressively… But also expect that, if Mueller can show Barr definitively that Trump colluded with Russia to subvert [the] 2016 election, committed crimes or engaged in an unlawful cover-up, Barr will listen — and act accordingly.”

Barr stated, “‘In the current environment, the American people have to know that there are places in the government where the rule of law, not politics, holds sway’…That was an important and reassuring message… [Barr] is a conservative Republican with views that not every American will embrace. But he came across as highly qualified and committed to the traditions, procedures and mores of the Justice Department.”
Washington Post

Critics of the candidate argue, “Want to defeat Trump? Attack Biden… Many progressives are understandably fearful that attacking the presumptive frontrunner might weaken him and give Trump ammunition for the general election. But challenging Biden’s record is important. For example, his core base of support – older Democrats – needs to know what an unreliable defender of Social Security and Medicare he is. By challenging him on his record, especially in the eyes of older, traditional Democratic voters, progressives could break the myth of Biden’s ‘electability’. (A strange trope given that Biden has tried and failed to be a presidential nominee since the 1980s.)… Anyone angling to be the Democratic nominee should espouse a real progressive agenda – just being ‘anti-Trump’ isn’t enough.”
Bhaskar Sunkara, The Guardian

“For Warren or anyone else to prevent the uniquely depressing experience of a Biden ‘national unity’ campaign, specifically targeted at a tiny cadre of wobbly Trump voters and Jeff Flake-style dissident Republicans, something has to change before next winter. Democratic voters and the media and basically everyone else must get over their skittish, fearful response to the Trump presidency, and their based-on-nothing certainty that nominating a progressive or a woman or a socialist or anybody who isn’t an avuncular white man with a vaguely reassuring demeanor and no discernible ideology will once again lead to disaster.”
Andrew O’Hehir, Salon

From the Right

The right supports Barr and is optimistic about his confirmation chances following the hearing.

From the Right

The right supports Barr and is optimistic about his confirmation chances following the hearing.

Many are highlighting Barr’s statement that, “I’m in a position in life where I can do the right thing and not really care about the consequences, in the sense that I can truly be independent… President Trump has sought no assurances, promises, or commitments from me of any kind, either expressed or implied, and I have not given him any, other than that I would run the department with professionalism and integrity.”
Daily Signal

“Barr emphasized that the conclusion of Robert Mueller’s investigation required as much transparency as the law allows. That may not be great news for the White House, depending on what Mueller includes in his report… Barr’s even-handedness and straight-arrow approach will give Senate Democrats few opportunities to launch any effective attacks that will paint Barr as a Trump toady.”
Hot Air

Credit to Mr. Barr for defending his memo [last year] as entirely appropriate, and for refusing to say he’d recuse himself from the Mueller probe…

“The Constitution’s guardrails are especially important when passions are high and political mobs want heads on pikes. As Mr. Barr’s memo put it: If a Justice investigation ‘is going to take down a democratically-elected President, it is imperative to the health of our system and to our national cohesion that any claim of wrongdoing is solidly based on evidence of a real crime—not a debatable one.’”
Wall Street Journal

Barr “not only survived his eight-hour Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday but left it with a strong chance of picking up Democratic votes… The smooth confirmation of a new attorney general seemed unimaginable last year, when Democrats warned that Trump's decision to fire Jeff Sessions had sparked a ‘constitutional crisis’ amid fears that Trump was looking to take control of the ongoing investigation into whether he colluded with Russia to win the election in 2016.”
Washington Examiner

“If the Democrats oppose someone like William Barr, there is no one that they would support… Barr is the right man to clean up the political gamesmanship that corrupted the upper echelons of the Justice Department and FBI under the previous administration and should be confirmed without delay.”
Fox News

“If Joe Biden can win his way through the primaries, he’s almost lab-engineered to beat Trump. He doesn’t cause Republican panic, he has the potential to connect with white working-class voters in a way that Hillary couldn’t in 2016, and he has a potential to connect better with black voters than Hillary did… if Biden emerges from [this] crucible, Trump will face a very different challenge than he faced in 2016.”
David French, National Review

A libertarian's take

“The relevant question is not the nationality of a source offering ‘oppo research’ but the accuracy and relevance of the information. Another consideration is whether the information was obtained illegally—by hacking emails, for example. While the Supreme Court has said people have a First Amendment right to share illegally obtained information if they were not involved in the lawbreaking (something that news organizations frequently do), you might reasonably argue that they should also report such crimes when they become aware of them, which may be what Trump had in mind when he said he might contact the FBI ‘if I thought there was something wrong.’”
Jacob Sullum, Reason

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