Autocracy watch: One second from midnight

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Actually, a very good argument can be made that midnight came and went months ago, when Republicans in Congress demonstrated their willingness to support Donald Trump no matter how far across every possible line he stepped. Paired with the Republican-controlled Senate’s approval of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, the idea that American institutions were going to stand up to the hurricane for another two years already seemed highly doubtful. But it took the full, public arrival of Attorney General William Barr to make it clear: There is no law but Trump’s law.

In two days of hearings before the House and Senate, Barr did not shy away from the truth. He does not believe that either he or the Department of Justice need to have any concern about what’s good for the nation. He doesn’t believe that he, or the FBI, need to be concerned about the actual interpretation of the law. He is there to see that what Trump wants to happen, happens.

In his brief stint as attorney general, Barr has already suppressed the release of the Mueller report, not just from the public, but from Congress. He’s instigated an investigation of the former leadership of the DOJ and the FBI at Trump’s order, even though the Inspector General is already engaged in a review of the steps that initiated the special counsel investigation. He has declared his singular authority as the arbiter of not just what gets revealed to the public, but what is made available to congressional committees that have the authority, under law, to act in oversight of his office.

As Barr was making it clear that the attorney general of the United States actually bears no allegiance to the United States, he was joined on Capitol Hill by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Mnuchin, having stepped into the middle of a legal request between the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and the IRS, made it clear that Donald Trump’s tax forms will not be produced.

The other thing that both Mnuchin and Barr made clear in appearances before the House was their utter disdain for that body. Whether it was Mnuchin telling Maxine Waters to use her “gravel” or Barr sneering at Democrats concerned about his joining a complaint about the Affordable Care Act, they both left no doubt at all that the Trump White House is done even pretending that Congress has any remaining authority.

view The Daily Kos