So who were those mysterious cops in Lafayette Square last week, men in riot gear wearing no insignias, no badges, no form of identification, refusing to answer questions from reporters and the public about what unit they were with?
“We don’t have secret police in the United States of America,” Steve Schmidt said on a righteous tear about this on Rachel Maddow’s show. “An essential part of this story is understanding, ‘Who are these men?’ We don’t have secret police. These men need badges, they need identification. The American people have a right to know who’s funding them, their chain of command, and who they report to. This idea that the attorney general of the United States has suddenly become an interior minister in a thugocracy with a private militia of some type that reports to him is antithetical to every precept of American democracy.”
Donald Trump may have the instincts of a fascist, but it’s Bill Barr who’s executing that vision. This guy is a fascist, and a smart one. He’s read books. He probably has a bust of Franco somewhere in the house. I choose Franco because Barr’s brand of fascism reeks of Falangism, the fascist movement in Spain that was with Franco during the civil war and believed in the unity of church (Catholic) and state.
This is what Barr believes. He all but told us, in that Notre Dame speech last year. The speech became instantly infamous for some of its more outlandish lines about “militant secularists” trying to destroy the moral order, but if you read the whole thing, you see that the message was that the state must use its authority to advance and promote religion. His words as spoken mostly sounded American enough to the untrained ear—lots of talk about freedom and liberty.
But if you read between the lines, or if you just read the relevant lines about how “free government was only suitable and sustainable for a religious people, a people who recognized that there was a transcendent moral order”—it’s easy enough to see what kind of society Barr really wants.
And he’s doing everything he can to create it. Let’s just quickly summarize Barr’s progress:
First, audition for the attorney general job with a memo that says the president is above the law in every way, shape, and form.
Second, promise at your confirmation hearings to protect the Mueller investigation.
Third, undermine the Mueller investigation by spinning it in the most pro-Trump direction possible before allowing the public to see it.
Fourth, appoint a prosecutor to try to build a case that Trump’s 2016 campaign was indeed the target of a deep state conspiracy.
Fifth, go against your own department and try to erase the Michael Flynn conviction, leading to howls of protest from literally thousands of ex-prosecutors of both parties.
Sixth, unseal FBI documents so that Flynn’s lawyers can go out there screaming that they prove Flynn was framed, when in fact they proved no such thing.
I’m sure I’m forgetting some others, but those six will do. They amount to what seems to have been a well-thought-out, premeditated plan on Barr’s part to get himself installed at the Justice Department where, in the name of defending the moral order against the secularists, he could twist and subvert the law to get Trump re-elected, which is exactly what he’s up to.
John Durham, Barr’s prosecutor, is still hard at work presumably trying to find indictable offenses committed by as many deep-staters as he can. I’d have thought Durham would have moved by now. It’s getting a little late in the game, electorally speaking, to set up politically effective show trials for Jim Comey and John Brennan and whoever else. But maybe Trump doesn’t really need the trials, because obviously a sane jury would acquit both men in five minutes. He just needs the indictments.
As for Barr trying to get Flynn exonerated, the idea is to clean the slate, because it communicates to credulous voters that no one in Trumpland was guilty of anything (provided you set aside Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort and George Papadapoulos and Roger Stone and Rick Gates and Richard Pinedo and Alex van der Zwaan), and it was all 100 percent hoax from the start, just as Trump has been saying for years now. The difference between Trump saying it now, when he just sounds like the demented narcissist he is, and saying it if Flynn’s conviction is vacated is that the president will actually have “the law” on his side.
How’s that for “moral order”?
And now, this secret police force. Schmidt raised exactly the right questions to Maddow—who employs these people, who pays them, to whom do they report? And I’ll raise another. Will Barr really get away with not answering these questions in a democracy?
Barr has denied he gave the order last Monday for police to attack American citizens exercising their First Amendment rights. He was quick to add, however, that he was fine with the attack. “I’m not involved in giving tactical commands like that,” he said. “I was frustrated and I was also worried that as the crowd grew, it was going to be harder and harder to do. So my attitude was get it done, but I didn’t say, ‘Go do it.’”
Sunday, on Face The Nation, he tripled down. They “were not peaceful protesters.” There were “three warnings given.” Host Margaret Brennan noted that her CBS colleagues on the scene said they didn’t hear any warnings or see any crowd violence. Barr was undeterred.
Trump has done and will continue to do enormous damage to this country. Fortunately, he’s probably too stupid and self-centered to make most of it stick after he’s gone. But Barr’s a different story. The nation’s top law-enforcement official perverting the law in the name of defending his idea of religious tradition can do all kinds of damage that sets precedents.
And he has more power to rig the election than Trump ever will. Especially if this police force stays intact. Where will Barr send them on Election Day?
All of which is why Donald Trump is only the second most dangerous man in America.