We have reached a staggering low point in the life of American justice. This past Thursday, the Department of Justice announced that it opened a criminal inquiry into its own Russia investigation. In other words, the Trump administration is out for blood. In the process, they’ve managed to almost completely devalue any notion of fairness.
The Department of Justice, despite its name, is not part of the judicial branch of government — it’s part of the executive branch, and thus within Trump’s remit as head of that branch. His unique ability to control Bill Barr from within the same branch of government allows him to get away with a lot without any risk of overt constitutional improprieties by dipping his hand into the judicial branch or legislative branch. So what now?
First, it seems like Barr’s highly unusual trips around the world with foreign governments didn’t pay off too much. My take is that if foreign leaders gave Barr any information he could actually use against Obama-era officials, he or Trump would have already made a grand announcement about it. In all likelihood, Obama officials did nothing wrong in the way of investigating Russian interference and, notably, foreign leaders aren’t ready to go down with Trump. Because of these factors, Barr was left without dirt, and in grasping for something to please Trump and make himself look important, he decided to open a criminal investigation on the Russia inquiry.
Now, we wait. I find it exceedingly hard to believe there will be anything for Barr to dig up. Instead, we’re going to see the investigation wind up with no findings, Trump declare victory and that the deep state is toast, and move on to his next scandal. Except there’s a problem.
Barr’s investigation into Russia inquiry misconduct might itself turn out to be misconduct. It is entirely possible that wasting resources on a case that is virtually meritless, that is, backed up by little to no factual basis, could land Barr in some hot water. At best, a wild goose chase could be considered a careless mistake. At worst, it could be investigated as having a malicious intent, namely Barr pursuing an investigation for the express purpose of political retribution. This would be difficult to prove, but given that it strongly appears to be the case, maybe less difficult than Barr hopes.