November 29, 2023

The (Too) Long Arm of the Law

Even if no one is above the law, some are surely being run over by it.

It’s time to dismiss the fantasy that our American justice system, particularly at the federal level, is even-handed. That’s demonstrably untrue.

Merrick Garland, our attorney general, repeatedly claims (including in sworn testimony before Congress) that “no one is above the law.” What he conspicuously sidesteps is the obvious fact that exerting the full force of the law against one’s political opponents, while ignoring comparable behavior elsewhere, means that some are unfairly squashed by the law.

The glaring reality is that under Garland’s tenure, the DOJ, the FBI (a branch of DOJ), and several state AGs have focused hugely disproportionate attention to real or imagined transgressions by his boss’s political enemies. That’s how banana republic dictators stay in power. There should be no room for that in America.

Donald Trump is not the only target of today’s rampant politically motivated legal actions — although he’s a convenient one, a threat supposedly grave enough to justify any and all means to block his return to power. And in fairness, it did not start with the Biden regime; rather, it’s been practiced for years by embedded elements of government. (Dare we call it “the swamp”?)

The larger picture is that what we’re watching has little to do with enforcing the law. Rather, it’s a deliberate intent to damage, to intimidate, and to publicly delegitimize those who pose a political threat to entrenched government interests. How many examples do we need before we recognize it as such? Here are a few:

  • Trump crony Roger Stone was apprehended in a pre-dawn raid by two dozen armed FBI agents — despite the fact that he had not been accused of any violent acts and he had promised, through his attorney, to turn himself into authorities the next day. It was all for show, with CNN tagging along (obviously tipped off in advance) — a demonstration to all of what can happen to adherents of the wrong political side.

  • Pro-life advocate Mark Houck was also arrested at gunpoint by a platoon of federal agents, at his home and in front of his terrified family, essentially for expressing his views too passionately outside of a Philadelphia abortion clinic. He was subsequently acquitted, but our government’s leanings on the controversial issue came across loud and clear.

  • After the 2016 election, Trump’s designated national security advisor, retired Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, was charged by the DOJ with lying in an informal meeting with FBI agents, despite the fact that the contemporaneous notes of agents present at that meeting confirmed that his responses had been truthful. The matter was ultimately settled by a Trump pardon, but not before Flynn’s reputation was permanently scarred and he was bankrupted by massive legal expenses — an obvious cautionary lesson to others who might aspire to join Team Trump.

  • The FBI’s massive coast-to-coast manhunt for January 6 protesters led to the arrest, prosecution, and conviction of more than 1,100 persons, the overwhelming majority of whom illegally trespassed on government property that day but harmed no one. Recently released video of events that day show that many of them simply walked into the Capitol as police stepped aside, wandered around, and then left. Their lives and reputations have been irreparably damaged, essentially for improperly expressing their skepticism about the 2020 election result.

One might reasonably expect that the far more violent behavior by George Floyd protesters — arson, assault, razing of a police precinct, occupation of a federal courthouse, all resulting in dozens of deaths and billions in damages — would have provoked comparable DOJ attention. It did not. (Oops — I almost forgot — January 6 was an insurrection, intended to overthrow the U.S. government. Sure.)

  • And, of course, there is the barrage of Trump indictments in the middle of the presidential election season. Each of the four may prove legally viable, and convictions are quite possible. But the issue here is why — other than pure political advantage — U.S. federal and state justice departments chose to pursue those matters while largely ignoring obviously comparable ones (such as Joe Biden’s own mishandling of classified documents).

My personal view, expressed often on these pages, is that Donald Trump is not the right person for the 2024 presidency and that he’s not the only one who can “drain the swamp.” But that’s for each of us to decide. The great irony here is that absurd over-reach by political partisans — obvious to the electorate — may have the unintended effect of reelecting him. Had our justice system been as even-handed as Garland claims, I suspect the 2024 election would be unfolding in a very different way.

Unless effectively checked by elected leaders on both sides, weaponization of our justice system by the party in power will become the new norm. While Democrats have fine-tuned the process, we can be sure that, given the opportunity after a successful election cycle, Republicans will take full advantage and happily return the favor.

And so, it is left to us — the electorate on both sides — to steadfastly resist any urge to reward that behavior with our votes.

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