January 16, 2019

AG Nominee William Barr

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Some highlights from the dozens of emails we received:

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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.”
Vox

“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.”
Bloomberg

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

“Trump’s defenders will say this evidence is all circumstantial. But circumstantial evidence is not weak evidence: it’s simply evidence based on the circumstances in which an act of wrongdoing is committed — such as the license plate of a car that speeds away from a bank just after that bank is robbed. Criminals are convicted on such evidence all the time. They will also say that there’s no explicit quid pro quo proposal here. But… ‘even when a corrupt deal is struck implicitly, the government can still prosecute extortion on a quid pro quo basis. Circumstantial evidence can be enough to prove a criminal exchange.’…

“In the absence of an explicit quid pro quo over restarting aid, the context and circumstances are what will become the focus of the investigation. There is enough here to support impeachment. Whether it is also enough to convince Republicans and lead to removal is another matter.”
Noah Feldman, Bloomberg

Some suggest that Congress “remove Trump from office, so that he cannot abuse incumbency to subvert the electoral process, but let the American people make the judgment on whether or not he gets a second term… Removing Trump from office for the remainder of his term would disable him from abusing presidential power again and protect the integrity of the electoral process from inappropriate interference. At the same time, letting him run for a second term would permit the American electorate to decide whether Trump, despite his attempt to subvert the system, should have another chance… Decoupling removal from disqualification lowers the stakes and changes the constitutional calculus. As long as Trump can run again, Republicans cannot hide behind a claim that they are [the] ones protecting voter choice by opposing impeachment.”
Edward B. Foley, Politico

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 a dozen drones or missiles can do the kind of damage to the world economy as did those fired on Saturday—shutting down about 6 percent of world oil production—imagine what a U.S.-Iran-Saudi war would do to the world economy. In recent decades, the U.S. has sold the Saudis hundreds of billions of dollars of military equipment. Did our weapons sales carry a guarantee that we will also come and fight alongside the kingdom if it gets into a war with its neighbors?… the nation does not want another war. How we avoid it, however, is becoming difficult to see. John Bolton may be gone from the West Wing, but his soul is marching on.”
Patrick Buchanan, The American Conservative

Others note, “I’d hate to be a Democratic member of Congress trying to convince Joe Sixpack that this is a whole new ballgame. The transcript shows Trump being Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky trying to ingratiate himself with the big dog by, for instance, mentioning that he stays at Trump hotels. Trump’s conversation is typically scattershot, wandering all over the field, leaving a reasonable listener puzzled about what the takeaways are supposed to be…

“I think Joe Sixpack’s response is going to be a hearty shrug. After all that has emerged about Trump so far, his approval rating is closely tracking Obama’s approval at the same point in his presidency. To get Mr. Sixpack’s attention you are going to have to do better than this.”
Kyle Smith, National Review

President Trump should be happy. As much as Warren is articulate, obviously intelligent, and energetically supported by Democrats, she would also be far easier to defeat than Joe Biden… Considering Trump's economy, the president is well placed to defeat Warren.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

A libertarian's take

“Why did Modi pick this moment to do something so radical? Violence in Kashmir had been trending downwards for the last year, after all. The main reason, besides President Donald Trump's alarming offer to mediate a settlement, is that he wanted a distraction from India's mounting economic woes. India's GDP growth dropped from over 8 percent to 5.8 percent over the last year, and it is widely expected to dip further. Just as ominous has been the crash in consumer demand. India's usual problem has been an insufficient supply to meet its voracious appetite for vehicles, cell phones, and other similar goods. But sales figures for all consumer goods have posted a precipitous decline, slamming businesses that are dramatically scaling back investments.”
Shikha Dalmia, Reason

On the bright side...

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