Attorney General Bill Barr is coming under fire by a group of prominent conservative lawyers, many of whom worked for previous presidents, for wildly defending President Donald Trump against impeachment by arguing that the Founding Fathers supported unfettered executive power.
Barr made the argument during a speech to the Federalist Society, forcing the group known as Checks & Balances to release a statement of condemnation to the New York Times.
“As lawyers, many of whom have served in upper-level positions in prior Republican administrations, we consider ourselves duty-bound to uphold the Constitution as a document of liberty,” the group wrote. “In recent months, we have become concerned by the conduct of Attorney General William Barr.”
“Barr’s view of history, including his claim that the Founders shared in any respect his vision of an unchecked president, and his assertion that this view was dominant until it came
under attack from courts and congress a few decades ago, has no factual basis,” they continued. “Actually, the Founders deliberately created a government of checks and balances, and the effectiveness of different presidents in exercising power within that framework has varied widely. Indeed, the greatest assertions of presidential power have come in the last half-century. That our system has met those assertions with balanced responses of the other two co-equal branches is hardly a reason to abandon now the system that has served us well for so long.”
Indeed, the Founders had just broken away from the British monarch after a bloody years-long war. They feared an executive wielding too much power, and that’s why they created three co-equal branches of government. We don’t have a king, no matter how much Trump wants to be one and no matter how much his toadies like Barr want to let him be one.
Some members spoke independently to the Times about Barr’s behavior.
“Mr. Barr’s view on executive power is a misreading of the unitary executive theory,” former Reagan solicitor general Charles Fried said. “It is also clear that the executive branch is subject to law. Barr takes that notion and eliminates the ‘under law’ part. Conservatism is respect for the rule of law. It is respect for tradition. The people who claim they’re conservatives today are demanding loyalty to this completely lawless, ignorant, foul-mouthed president.”
Former George W. Bush DOJ staffer Stuart Gerson called out Republicans in Congress for acting like the British Parliament.
“The Republicans in the Senate and in the House think they’re in a Parliament, and their responsibility is to a prime minister to whom they owe party loyalty,” Gerson said. “That’s not the American tradition. One can recognize substantial executive power, but that doesn’t mean the legislative branch should be dead. It’s important for conservatives to speak up. This administration is anything but conservative.”
Kellyanne Conway’s husband George Conway, also a member of the group, certainly is speaking up. He has been a top critic of Trump and supports impeachment, a process that has gone badly for Trump ever since Democrats began the public hearings.
As more and more conservatives speak out against Trump and criticize Republicans in Congress for standing by him despite his crimes, it becomes even more likely that the stranglehold Trump has over his supporters will start to crumble. Once that happens, Republicans will be forced to abandon ship to have any chance of saving themselves on Election Day in 2020.
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