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Conservative writer unloads on AG Barr’s defense of unfettered presidential power: 'Wrongheaded' and deeply disturbing

William Barr image by U.S. Department of Justice

Conservative Washington Post columnist Max Boot has not only been high critical of President Donald Trump, but also, of all the Republicans he views as Trump’s enablers. That includes Attorney General William Barr, who Boot takes to task in a Sunday column for refusing to recognize the limits of the executive branch of the United States government.


On Friday night, November 15, Boot notes, Barr gave a speech to the conservative Federalist Society, saying, “Over the past several decades, we have seen steady encroachment on presidential authority by the other branches of government.” That statement, Boot stresses, is “wrongheaded” — and in the age of Trump, checks and balances are more important than ever.

“Trump has now taken rule-by-executive-order to the next level by declaring a ‘state of emergency’ to spend money on his border wall that Congress refused to appropriate,” Boot asserts. “Trump has also misused his authority in myriad other ways, including obstructing justice — as outlined in a special counsel report that Barr deliberately mischaracterized — and soliciting a bribe from Ukraine to release congressionally appropriated military aid.”

During his Federalist Society speech, Barr claimed that Trump opponents don’t view “themselves as the ‘loyal opposition,’” but instead, “see themselves as engaged in a war to cripple, by any means necessary, a duly elected government.” And Boot, in light of how Trump typically talks about political opponents, finds Barr’s comments ridiculous.

“Earth to Barr: Trump does not treat his critics as ‘the loyal opposition,’” Boot writes. “He calls them ‘human scum,’ ‘traitors’ and ‘the enemy of the people,’ using the language of dictators. And it is Trump and his toadies — not his opponents — who are ‘willing to use any means necessary to gain momentary advantage.’”

During his speech, Barr blamed Trump opponents for his inability to get more nominees confirmed. But Boot stresses that Trump has no one but himself to blame for a lack of confirmations.

“The real problem is Trump’s incompetence and his preference for ‘acting’ appointees to dodge the constitutional requirement to seek the Senate’s ‘advice and consent,” Boot emphasizes. “Trump has not nominated anyone for nearly 20% of the top federal jobs. If Barr wants to find a real abuse of the confirmation process, he should talk to Merrick Garland.”

Judge Merrick Garland, of course, is the centrist President Barack Obama, in 2016, nominated for the U.S. Supreme Court after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to even consider Garland, which is why that seat remained empty and Trump nominated Justice Neil Gorsuch after being sworn in as president.

Barr also told the Federalist Society that “partisan” politics pose a threat to the United States’ “constitutional structure.” Boot agrees with that part, but stresses that no one is more partisan than Trump.

Barr, Boot observes, “is right, but not in the way he intended. The real threat to ‘our constitutional structure’ emanates not from administration critics who struggle to uphold the rule of law, but from a lawless president who is aided and abetted in his reckless actions by unscrupulous and unprincipled partisans — including the attorney general of the United States.”

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