With President Donald Trump officially acquitted in the impeachment trial against him, Attorney General William Barr is taking steps to make sure his boss never has to endure basic accountability again.
Barr issued a memo to Justice Department officials with guidelines for conducting investigations into politically notable individuals. Among the new rules?
Any investigations into a presidential candidate will require his written approval.
According to the memo, the Justice Department
"has a strong interest in the prosecution of election-related crimes, including those involving corruption of the election process...[W]e must investigate and prosecute those matters with sensitivity and care to ensure that the department's actions do not unnecessarily advantage or disadvantage any candidate or political party."
This should be concerning to anyone who's been following Barr's tenure as Attorney General.
Barr underplayed the findings of the Mueller Report in an effort to keep the entire document from the public. His Justice Department has been arguing in court that a sitting President can't be indicted and that, therefore, a sitting President should be shielded from all investigations on every crime (even murder). Barr was also implicated in the Ukraine scandal by Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas.
Though the cause for an investigation would likely rise through official channels before reaching Barr's desk, an investigation cannot begin until Barr expressly gives his approval.
This could theoretically give him the authority to sign off on an investigation into Democratic presidential contenders in the 2020 election. It would also give him the authority to deny an investigation into his boss, Donald Trump.
In a time of normalcy—when an impartial Attorney General could be trusted to serve the country instead of the President—some would consider this heightened scrutiny an improvement, but Barr's track record indicates that he's willing to use the Justice Department to shield the President from accountability for illegal and unethical activities.
For that reason, this new rule didn't sit too well with people.
The 2020 election just became even more urgent. Check your voter registration status here.
For a Republican strategist's thoughts on how best to defeat Trump, check out Running Against the Devil by Rick Wilson, available here.