Unlike some of my liberal pundit counterparts, I’m nowhere close to wanting to throw Attorney General Merrick Garland to the wolves. The court filings he’s made thus far seem to be nothing more than procedural, and will be erased by judges’ rulings. And in spite of some angry ranting across social media, we’ve seen no indication yet that Garland is planning to let Donald Trump off the legal hook.
That said, tonight’s bombshell revelation is another matter. The New York Times has exposed that while Trump was President, the Department of Justice – under Jeff Sessions and then Bill Barr – illegally spied on multiple House Democrats, including House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff. The DOJ also reportedly spied on House Democrats’ families, including at least one minor.
It doesn’t matter that there were subpoenas involved; this was one of the most blatantly illegal acts in the history of American politics. Nor does it matter that the DOJ tried to justify this by (falsely) insisting that Schiff and others were leaking secret intel; this was nothing more and nothing less than the Executive Branch spying on the Legislative Branch for partisan reasons. Everyone who participated in it must face consequences.
The good news, as it were, is that Donald Trump, Jeff Sessions, and Bill Barr are now completely out of power, and – in spite of certain doomsday narratives – none of them are ever getting back into power. But that’s not enough. There are surely other DOJ officials, who are still on the job, who were involved in this criminal and frankly psychotic plot to spy on members of Congress. Merrick Garland must fire them immediately, and they must be prosecuted for their abuses.
While I’ve long cautioned readers that appointing a Special Counsel isn’t some kind of magic wand and isn’t a fit for most situations, this might actually be the rare scenario where it would be the right move. A Special Counsel is supposed to step in and investigate matters where the DOJ itself has too much of a conflict of interest. This disturbing development would seemingly qualify.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report