A new investigation of the investigators
Attorney General William Barr answered the GOP rallying cry to “investigate the investigators,” assigning a U.S. attorney to examine the origins of the probe into Russian election interference, The New York Times reported this week. John Durham, the top federal prosecutor in Connecticut, was tapped to assess intelligence-gathering methods used on the Trump campaign; the Justice Department inspector general will soon deliver findings on a similar topic. Durham is—for now—conducting a review, not a criminal inquiry, meaning he can’t subpoena documents or witnesses. The Times reports that Barr will take a “personal role” in Durham’s work, a chief focus of which is the FBI’s court-approved surveillance of former Trump campaign aide Carter Page. “I think spying on a political campaign is a big deal,” Barr has told the Senate.
Trump now faces at least 29 state or federal investigations and is working to block all of them. Donald Trump Jr. threatened to defy a subpoena from the GOP-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee to testify about campaign contacts with Russia, finally agreeing this week to address a limited number of topics. House Democrats say the Trump administration has refused at least 79 oversight requests, and U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta voiced skepticism this week in a case addressing Trump’s authority to block his accounting firm from complying with a congressional subpoena. According to Trump’s logic, Mehta said, “the Whitewater and Watergate investigations were beyond the authority of Congress.”
What the columnists said
Barr is going to staggering lengths “to indulge and validate the president’s most corrupt impulses,” said Paul Waldman in WashingtonPost.com. Despite the “copious misdeeds” reported by Mueller, Trump and his allies still insist “there should never have been an investigation in the first place,” and want Durham to prove that. Even if Durham is not a partisan hack, he will probably turn up “a few instances of minor sloppiness” that Republicans can use to bolster their “insane conspiracy theories.”
It’s Democrats who are peddling a new conspiracy theory every day, said William McGurn in The Wall Street Journal. Even House Speaker Nancy Pelosi knows the Democrats’ case is weak. That’s why instead of calling a vote to hold Barr in contempt, Pelosi is waiting to build “an omnibus contempt bill.” She’s using hysterical language like “constitutional crisis,” claiming Trump is “goading us to impeach him.” This is just a way to avoid accountability. If what she says is true, “Go ahead, impeach Trump.”
That’s exactly what the House needs to do, said Michelle Goldberg in The New York Times. Democrats need to bring to bear all powers of their own “in the face of an administration that is trying to amass dictatorial powers.” Just listen to Trump’s own lawyers, said Jonathan Chait in NYMag.com. Their “official position is that Congress has no business looking into whether the president has broken the law.” If this theory prevails, Trump will get his wall—“a wall of legal impunity.”