From the moment the central claim of the Russiagate conspiracy was decimated by the Mueller Report, Democrats have generated a series of manufactured outrages to keep the conspiracy dream alive.
Why the theatrics? Well, the scope of the Trump “collusion” theory has radically contracted from its heyday.
What was once “Donald Trump personally colluded with Vladimir Putin to steal the 2016 election for the Kremlin!” is now “Why won’t the attorney general release the entire unredacted version of a report that exonerates the president of collusion!” It doesn’t have quite the same bite.
So Democrats have moved from conspiracies about Russia to conspiracies about the report debunking the conspiracy.
After a week of histrionics about Attorney General Bill Barr, who had offended Democrats and their media allies by writing a letter that accurately laid out the findings of the special counsel’s two-year investigation before releasing it, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler began demanding the release of the unredacted report. The White House, as expected, asserted executive privilege.
Though the law clearly places discretion over the redaction with the attorney general, Nadler claimed assertion had triggered a “constitutional crisis.”
And committee Democrats quickly moved ahead with a contempt vote. Actually, some Democrats aren’t even content with simply holding Barr in contempt’ they want to arrest the attorney general. “Its day in the sun is coming,” Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland said this week.
We have some precedent here. In 2012, Attorney General Eric Holder was the first US attorney general in history to be held in both criminal and civil contempt. The Obama administration had refused to hand over specific documents that pertained to a specific law enforcement endeavor.
Operation Fast and Furious had cost lives, and yet the Obama administration wouldn’t hand over memos that likely contradicted Holder’s sworn testimony on the matter. Instead, they asserted executive privilege.
I don’t remember Holder being led away in handcuffs.
It’s all an act, of course, meant to create the perception that Barr, in cahoots with Trump, is hiding the findings of Mueller’s unimpeded and open-ended investigation. For Democrats, instigating a contempt vote over a lightly redacted report is the best way to pretend we are living through another Watergate.
In the real world, the notion that a Trump antagonist like Mueller has buried vital evidence implicating the president in conspiracy or obstruction deep within the now-redacted sections of his report is a dizzyingly silly. From the looks of it, Mueller spent more time describing Trumpian outbursts than looking for Russian interference.
Democrats know full well that Mueller didn’t leave any of his impeachment fodder in the margins. Democrats, in fact, were so exceptionally uninterested in specifics of the redactions that when Barr offered a dozen members of Congress, six Democrats and six Republicans, the option of reviewing the minimally redacted report, not a single Democrat — not Chuck Schumer, not Nancy Pelosi and not Jerry Nadler — showed up to take a look. They didn’t even feign interest for appearance’s sake.
If they had, Democrats would have found they had access to more than 98 percent of the report, including 99.9 percent of the politically charged Volume II, according to Department of Justice. Nadler knows well that the sliver of redacted material shouldn’t be made public — most of it legally required.
Some of the redactions consist of grand-jury material, some of it classified information, some of it evidence related to ongoing investigations (and perhaps this will matter later) and some of it material that would be damaging to reputations of individuals who haven’t been charged with any crimes.
There is a legitimate need for congressional oversight of the executive branch. For far too long, partisans have abdicated their constitutional duty. And when people like Nadler use that power as a political cudgel, they corrode the public’s trust.
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