So much of the drama of the last three years of the Trump administration is about the conflict between the Constitution, which requires political oversight of the bureaucracy, and the Resistance’s strongly held view that political oversight of the administrative state is evil.
The Russia collusion hoax was perpetrated by bureaucrats who admitted they were motivated by a a belief that their foreign policy vision was more appropriate and legitimate than the one chosen by the American people when they elected Donald Trump to be their president.
Likewise, the Ukraine impeachment effort was ginned up by a group of bureaucrats who wished that President Trump had followed their “interagency consensus” rather than his foreign policy vision. And the latest Resistance-created drama is about whether Attorney General William Barr should continue to let agents do outlandish things as part of their now-debunked Russia collusion theory or exercise any oversight whatsoever.
This much has been obvious to anyone who watches the news. But Chuck Todd said it explicitly while interviewing Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., on “Meet The Press Daily” on MSNBC yesterday.
“Are we at the point where we can not trust a political appointee to be in charge of Justice?” he suggested to the senator. Even Whitehouse, who is fairly extreme in his day-to-day life, dismissed the suggestion.
The context is that disgruntled attorneys from the Robert Mueller special counsel recommended that Roger Stone by imprisoned for seven to nine years for lying to Congress and witness tampering. The notorious dirty trickster had apparently lied to Congress about something that was legal, and then encouraged a friend to not hurt him when he testified. A jury led by a rabid partisan and Russia collusion truther with open and sustained hostility to the Trump administration (really!) found him guilty a few months ago.
The decision to prosecute the case was a curious one, since it’s not common to prosecute someone for lying to Congress, particularly with no underlying crime. The FBI and Justice Department have come under fire for allowing political friends to skate without charges for false statements while nailing political foes for lesser and less consequential problems.
Prosecuting was one thing. Getting a guilty verdict thanks to a highly partisan jury was another. But recommending that the 67-year-old man with no prior convictions and not considered a risk for violence be sentenced to nine years in prison was another thing entirely.
The disgruntled Mueller attorneys misled Department of Justice officials about their sentencing plans. When the political leadership learned of the egregious recommendation, they filed a new memo saying, sanely, vaguely, and mildly, that they now recommended fewer than the seven to nine years.
The media and other Resistance members flipped out and immediately sprung to action. Sidestepping the issue of the recommendation of nine years in prison, they began shaping a narrative that Barr had no right to exercise such oversight of the agency he, well, oversees. Media ran story after story suggesting that political leadership of the agency — not rogue agents behaving irresponsibly — was in crisis.
The story came mere weeks after a series of revelations confirming egregious abuse of the spy powers the agency used against the Trump campaign. A several-hundred-page report from the inspector general catalogued 17 major errors — all going against Trump campaign affiliates — in the securing of spy warrants. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has already thrown out two of those warrants, with another two possibly facing the same fate.
The media and other Democrats did not care about that story, except to spin it as an exoneration, somehow, of the Department of Justice and FBI. They never suggested that the agencies’ adoption of an unhinged conspiracy theory of treasonous collusion with Russia was a problem. They didn’t see a crisis with the use against political opponents of human informants, overseas intelligence assets, wiretaps, and national security letters. They didn’t care that the surveillance was inappropriately acquired. They didn’t care about the dozens upon dozens of criminal leaks that were deployed through a compliant media to set a false narrative of collusion.
But they care if someone attempts to stop any of these shenanigans.
The U.S. Constitution establishes the right of the president to appoint individuals to head agencies. The Founders never imagined the bloated and largely unaccountable bureaucracy that controls the lives of hundreds of millions of Americans through regulations and other administrative actions, but they never would have adopted Chuck Todd’s dangerous proposition that bureaucrats be allowed to lock Americans up, deny them their liberty, and otherwise operate a police force without political accountability.
The real constitutional crisis was the sidelining of an attorney general for years while an out-of-control special counsel probe attempted to destroy an administration duly elected by the people. Attempts to restore a degree of political accountability to the Department of Justice are the furthest thing from a problem.
Political accountability scares Todd and other perpetrators of the Russia collusion hoax. But if the American people are to have any trust in a powerful law enforcement agency, they need to know that they have some oversight of it, through their duly elected leader and the people he chooses to appoint to the post.