Party politics is the most narrow-minded occupation in the world. A guy raised in a straitjacket is a corkscrew compared to a thick-headed party politician. All you would have to do to make some men atheists is just tell them the Lord belonged to the opposition party. After that, they could never see any good in Him.
— Will Rogers, 1925
A funny thing sometimes happens when a political party or members of it set out to destroy someone else’s credibility or reputation. Some of the tar comes off in the hands of the ones doing the tarring. That is what has happened, I think, to the 24 Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee who voted Wednesday to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress.
They based this extraordinary but not unprecedented action on Barr’s refusal to give the committee the full unredacted Mueller report, including grand jury-related documents that he is forbidden by law to release except under court order. What they have essentially said is to hell with the law. We want everything and we want it now.
It’s worth noting that Barr earlier offered to make the unredacted report available to senior Democrats on the committee should they take the short walk from Capitol Hill to the Justice Department where they could read it in a secure room. Not one of them, as of this writing, chose to do so.
By now, anyone having an interest in the Mueller report has had more than ample opportunity to read the lightly redacted version (about 99 percent of the report’s 430-odd pages). It was published on a number of internet sites within hours of its release by the Justice Department. I downloaded my free copy on Barnes and Noble’s Nook.
The report quickly shot to the top of best-selling non-fiction books, including lists published by this newspaper, The New York Times and The Washington Post.
Special counsel Robert Mueller and his team of lawyers, who authored the report, came up with no evidence of collusion between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia, as the whole world now knows. Their exhaustive, damn-the-expense and Inspector Javert-like search also found insufficient evidence to support charges that President Trump had obstructed their search. This did not fit the narrative many Democrats had staked to their dreams of impeachment and overturning the results of the 2016 election. In seeming desperation, they have seized upon Mueller’s explicit, quaint and possibly illegal prosecutorial finding that though he had insufficient evidence to charge the president with obstructing his probe, he could not, however, “exonerate” him of doing so.
It hardly needs restating here, but in the American system of justice, the burden falls on the prosecution to prove the guilt of an accused, not on the accused to prove innocence.
And that brings me to Barr’s castigation by certain Justice Committee Democrats, some of whom are declared candidates in the 2020 presidential race. I think they have done themselves and their party serious political damage by their ham-handed and improvident treatment of Barr, a man with a far greater respect for the law and knowledge of it than demonstrated by his accusers.
Yes, the people have a right to know. But if they had the time to view this farce on television, or took the time to plow through the hundreds of pages of the barely readable or understandable legalese of the Mueller report, they justifiably have a right to know how so much money and so much time produced so little.
If this is all they have to show for it, perhaps it’s time they find new jobs, in the real world, rather than the unreal one in Washington politics today.
R.L. Schreadley is a former Post and Courier executive editor.