Of President Donald Trump’s many career skills, perhaps the least appreciated is his lifelong and uncanny ability to sniff out lawyers who will serve his will.
In slightly more than 500 days in office, Attorney General William Barr has pivoted from establishment D.C. attorney—sworn to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States—into Trump’s family lawyer. The office of the attorney general is one of the oldest in our constitutional system, and the department is pledged “to ensure fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans.” But Barr, instead, displays a tendency to use all the department’s levers—and with a $32 billion budget there are a lot of them—not to protect “all Americans” but to protect the president, personally and politically.
Is Election Day set by law? “I’ve never looked into it,” Barr demurred in his testimony this week. Is it appropriate for the president to solicit or accept foreign assistance in an election? Barr’s first answer: “It depends what kind of assistance.” These are the answers of a man who has turned the once-proud Department of Justice into the president’s personal law firm. That is contrary to every tradition of the Justice Department, but consistent with how Trump has operated for his entire professional life.
For decades, Trump found his family lawyers on the mean streets of New York and New Jersey, tapping the corrupt Roy Cohn and his successors, like Michael Cohen and Marc Kasowitz, to protect his interests. They quickly earned the title of “fixer” for a man whose personal and professional legal needs ultimately swelled to more than 4,000 lawsuits — bankruptcies, divorces, libel, unpaid debts, condo fees, wage disputes, and fraud, to name a few. [Continue reading…]