Category Archives: Justice

Inside the Mind of William Barr

For those to dare to venture with me down this treacherous winding path there is a prize at the end of the journey.  From his words and actions we must piece together an understanding of Barr’s strategy and its goal.

There’s little doubt that like the President’s personal lawyers, Barr has punched his ticket “on the Trump Train” and like any good team their moves are well coordinated.  Still it would be unfathomable to think they would operate without some legal theory, even a flawed one.  For the investigating House committees understanding this theory is crucial.

Many of us think Barr’s objective is to push Congress toward impeachment, which Trump can use to consolidate this base.  I think Barr and the President recognize that impeachment is inevitable so the goal is to buy time to stir the Trump base into a fever pitch.  The strategy relies on reinforcing conspiracy theories, illegal coups attempts and harassment of the President all to discredit impeachment hearings before they begin.  The defense is to begin impeachment now.

Even as Barr has tried to obscure the details his legal theory, his testimony before Congress reveals clues and vague instructions for Congress to follow.   The surreptitiousness is necessary to hide the fact that impeachment is his idea rather than an unprovoked and impetuous move on the part of the Democrats.  The defense is to give Barr the credit he so wants to avoid but so rightfully deserves.  Congress should thank him for clarifying his opinion that criminal justice is the domain of the Justice Department while impeachment by Congress is the sole remedy for handling Presidential misdeeds.  Congress should stop investigating criminal offenses and begin investigating impeachable offenses.

The following is solely my interpretation of William Barr’s legal theory as it relates to the office of President. The pieces are coming together so I think it’s a fair interpretation unless or until Barr himself is willing to expand on his theory.  As it stands I believe Barr has given Congress the green light on impeachment; the House should believe it too!

Barr’s theory is based in part on this definition contained in the U.S. Constitution;

The charge of high crimes and misdemeanors covers allegations of misconduct peculiar to officials, such as perjury of oath, abuse of authority, bribery, intimidation, misuse of assets, failure to supervise, dereliction of duty, unbecoming conduct, and refusal to obey a lawful order.”  For clarification only they added “Offenses by officials also include ordinary crimes, but perhaps with different standards of proof and punishment than for non-officials, on the grounds that more is expected of officials by their oaths of office.”

Barr believes that;

  1. The prosecution of ordinary crimes by non-officials is the sole duty of the Justice Department and not that of Congress.  He has conceded that Congress may interrogate ordinary citizens like Donald Trump Jr. but must refer this to the Justice Department for any prosecution.
  2. The prosecution of ordinary crimes by officials may be done by both.  Ideally Congress should prosecute the official first but with different standards of proof
    1. The standard of proof in a criminal case is “beyond reasonable doubt.” I’m a numbers guy so I’m going to put that at 97%.  The standard for non-criminal cases like civil actions is generally “a preponderance of the evidence”, specifically set by law at 51%.  Presumably the higher standard for criminal cases is because of the possibility of physical punishment or confinement whereas other cases are limited to monetary penalties, compliance or injunction. 
    2. According to Wikipedia, ”Conviction removes the defendant from office. Following conviction, the Senate may vote to further punish the individual by barring him or her from holding future federal office, elected or appointed. Conviction by the Senate does not bar criminal prosecution.”
  3. Prosecution of misconduct peculiar to officials is the sole duty of Congress.  The definition gives examples of such crimes but does not limit them in any way.  Any abuses of the extraordinary powers granted with the office may be scrutinized in the impeachment process.

While Barr’s strict interpretation of the separation of powers between criminal offenses and impeachable offenses defies precedent, it does make some good points.  I think perhaps it is a legal theory of convenience rather than one of firm belief.  But either way I would urge the House to take it at face value and proceed directly to impeachment.  Barr himself will either have to own it or explain it.

Congressional Duty to Impeach

Congressional Duty to Impeach

High Crimes and Misdemeanors

What are we talking here, “treason” and “jaywalking?”  Or did our founding fathers have something different in mind?  Well, Benjamin Franklin asserted that the power of impeachment and removal was necessary for those times when the Executive “rendered himself obnoxious.”  Does that remind us of anyone we know?  For most of us, we see these words and think that some kind of crime must be alleged before an impeachment trial can begin.  Sure, we call it a trial, but Congress is not a court of law.  It is a trial in the sense that there are facts and circumstances to be weighed, whether we are weighing criminality or obnoxiousness…. Continue reading

SENATOR COLLINS GOT THE MATH WRONG!

Not since “No Child Left Behind” (declaring that every child should perform at or above the 40th percentile,) has Congress shown such incompetence in comprehending simple math.

This was quite apparent in Susan Collins’ 40 minute justification of her yes vote!  We all understand this cannot be decided either way with absolute certainty; but her conclusion that the “more likely than not” standard should apply, is deeply flawed.  This standard would apply if we were deciding which of two candidates should be elevated to the Supreme Court.  There are scores of equally qualified candidates; and finding one without such a sordid past, just can’t be that hard.  Basically Collins has said the probability that Kavanaugh has lied, is somewhere below the 50 percentile mark.  Now I don’t know if he lied about everything; but it’s pretty clear from both sworn and volume of volunteered testimony, he lied about some things.  And it can’t be that hard to find a candidate who at least pretends to be non-partisan! Continue reading

Senator Graham, You Know You’re in Trouble, When You Can No Longer Count on Me.

Linsey Graham says, What am I supposed to do? Go ahead and ruin this guy’s life based on an accusation?

Lindsey, what world do you live in?  We’re talking about turning him down for a job, something we’ve all survived and got on with our lives.  A hiring decision requires only a preponderance of the evidence that you have the best candidate, not guilt beyond the shadow of a doubt. Besides you missed the point entirely; this isn’t about his reputation or her reputation, it’s about decisions, some of them life or death decisions affecting some three hundred million Americans for years to come. Continue reading

Senator Grassley, will you let Trump run the Russia investigation?

From my August 22, 2018 letter to Senator Grassley.

It’s been almost two years since I wrote you about Trump’s statement on the “Access Hollywood” tape.  As he was about to meet my niece Arianne Zucker he told Billy Bush, “When you’re a star they’ll let you do it.  You can do anything.”  I asked you, “Is it true; will you let him do anything?”  It’s time for you to give us an answer….

Continue reading

Trump Can Really “Turn a Phrase”

Can you see anything wrong with the U-turn sign to the left?  How about the U-turn sign below?

At Monday’s joint press conference Trump said, “I don’t see any reason why it would be Russia.”  Of course this is a single statement taken out of context. To put his statement back into the context of his speech, he was saying,

“I don’t see any reason why Russia would tamper with our elections.” 

Facing harsh criticism Trump tried a U-turn to reverse this statement claiming a one-word omission, which when “put in proper context” reads,

“I don’t see any reason why Russia wouldn’t tamper with our elections.”

Perhaps you can now see how the U-turn sign doesn’t match the curvature of the road ahead.  He tried to sell the rather odd phraseology of his intended statement as a double negative but it turns out to be a nonsense negative.

Deception is a treacherous road to follow.

High crimes and misdemeanors

What are we talking here, “treason” and “jaywalking?”  Or did our founding fathers have something different in mind?  Well, Benjamin Franklin asserted that the power of impeachment and removal was necessary for those times when the Executive “rendered himself obnoxious.”  Does that remind us of anyone we know?  For most of us, we see these words and think that some kind of crime must be alleged before an impeachment trial can begin.  Sure, we call it a trial, but Congress is not a court of law.  It is a trial in the sense that there are facts and circumstances to be weighed, whether we are weighing criminality or obnoxiousness.  Continue reading

A Gun Solution We Can “Live” With

As published in the Grinnell Herald-Register on February 19, 2018

As we mourn the deaths of another 17 young people with their whole lives ahead of them, I have to ask what’s actually changed since February 11, 2013 when the Grinnell Herald-Register published my first article on the subject.  Well in the five years since Sandy Hook some of the states hardest hit like Connecticut and California have enacted progressive gun legislation but on the whole legislation in the US has only increased the risk to American citizens.  Iowa is a good example of a state where reckless legislation is likely to make matters worse while we remain convinced that what happened in Parkland (recently named the safest city in Florida) can’t happen here.  The NRA has since become (whether wittingly or unwittingly) entangled in a Russian plot to create divisiveness in our country. Continue reading

It’s Time for Grassley to Step Down as Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee

First I have to apologize to my readers (all six of them) who subscribe to my blog “Dare to Ask” at topsawyer.com.  I must retract this passage from my article published last August, “Whether or not he (Senator Grassley) was answering me directly his answer at the Mount Ayr town hall this week shows that the Senate Judiciary Committee is now willing to share with us the 10 hours of potentially damning testimony from Glenn Simpson, a reversal from just a month ago.  Thank you Senator Grassley.” Continue reading