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Kamloops News

THOMPSON: The ridiculous string of Attorneys General under Trump

June 10, 2019 - 12:00 PM



America’s top law enforcement officer is the Attorney General. Most of the men and women who have held the job were exceptional…highly regarded jurists who understood justice and respected the rule of law. There have been anomalies…like John Mitchell, Nixon’s Attorney General…who served 19 months in prison for his crimes related to the Watergate affair.

But nothing in history can touch the ridiculous string of Attorneys General under Donald Trump. In Trump’s two-and-a-half-year presidency, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, Matthew Whitaker and William Barr have all masqueraded as Attorney General.

A cursory glance at the judicial records and behaviours of these characters reveals, well, tragic character flaws. There are reasons aplenty why each should never practice law…let alone serve as America’s top law man.

Let’s take them one at a time. Jeff Sessions is - as we say in the South - a good ole boy from Alabama. As a Senator, Sessions was one of Trump’s earliest and most loyal supporters. However, that mostly one-way relationship took a severe blow to the head when Sessions recused himself from all matters related to the Justice Department’s probe into Russian interference during Trump’s 2016 campaign.

Sessions took a curious route to Attorney General. He was appointed U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama by President Reagan in 1981, but when Reagan nominated Sessions to be a United States District Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama…he lacked the votes necessary in the Senate to confirm him.

Stories of racist remarks and behaviour plagued Sessions most of his judicial and political careers. He surrounded himself with Right Wing political operatives also accused of bigotry, like long-time communications director, Stephen Miller. More than 1,400 law school professors opposed Trump’s nomination of Sessions for Attorney General. Even so, Republicans showed little concern for history and facts, and quickly confirmed him.

But, when you cease to be the loyal lapdog Trump demands…you’re gone. So, in less than two years Sessions was persona non grata…Trump asking him to resign. What happened next might be the silliest, most absurd elevation of anyone to America’s top law enforcement officer…enter one Matthew Whitaker.

Whitaker had been Jeff Sessions’ chief of staff, a lawyer who moved from one Iowa law firm to the next, failed in a bid for the Senate and was a pitchman for a Miami-based patent scam company. Of course, in an effort to endear himself to Trump he was a major critic of the Mueller Probe. The best way to land a position within the Trump Administration, it seems, is to advertise that you agree with Donald.

Whitaker’s nonsense was second to none…appearing in promotional videos for a toilet for “well-endowed men” and another product described as a “theoretical time-travel commodity tied directly to price of bitcoin.” The Federal Trade Commission ordered the company to pay $26 Million in fines after finding it provided “almost no service in return” to investors. Such is Whitaker’s pedigree.

Whitaker served as Acting Attorney General for just four months…but it was more than enough time to look even more like an obedient lapdog than Sessions. His almost incoherent ramblings during a few interviews and news conferences were laughable. He became the ultimate “lawyer joke”…even among lawyers.

Whitaker was merely a placeholder until Trump could find someone who cared less about the U.S. Constitution and the Oath of Office than protecting Donald Trump’s favourite person…Donald Trump.

Trump found that man in William Barr…who had served as Attorney General for two years under George H. W. Bush. Barr - a longtime proponent of unfettered presidential authority - advertised his availability with an 18-page unsolicited memo to the White House and the Justice Department. In it he questioned the legality of the Mueller Probe…BINGO!

Trump nominated Barr and in a hearing led by gutless and spineless Republicans…he was confirmed. A look at what Barr’s testimony during that hearing…and what he has since said as Attorney General proved his perfect fit. He works for Trump…not America…and he’s another liar. Whatever legacy Barr thought he might have as a member of the Justice Department…he will be seen forever as just another weak - possibly criminal - Attorney General.

Barr - like Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin - will very likely be charged with contempt and be impeached…punishments well deserved in both cases. A read of the Mueller Report alongside Barr’s comments and four-page so-called “summary” of the report shows the top law enforcement officer in America…like Trump…is unfit for office.

I’m eager to see Trump’s next pick for Attorney General. Forget qualifications…lapdogs and yes-men are no doubt queuing up for a shot at becoming America’s top law man…writing unsolicited documents pandering to an unstable president. Trump could have four or even five Attorneys General in a single four-year term…a record that will long stand. That is, if he’s not impeached before November 2020.

Meanwhile, Sessions, Whitaker and Barr - the Three Stooges of Attorneys General - have made justice in America more dream than reality…and Barr continues his shameful behaviour today.

When will Republicans in Congress do the right thing? Do they even recognize the right thing? Congressman Justin Amash, a Republican from Michigan does.

Pity. He’s the only one of 249 Republican lawmakers willing to stand up for America…adhering to their Oaths of Office and the U.S. Constitution. I remember when having character and integrity was a given...Republican or Democrat. I hope I live to see that time again.

— Don Thompson, an American awaiting Canadian citizenship, lives in Vernon and in Florida. In a career that spans more than 40 years, Don has been a working journalist, a speechwriter and the CEO of an advertising and public relations firm. A passionate and compassionate man, he loves the written word as much as fine dinners with great wines. His essays are a blend of news reporting and opinion.

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