It would be far better to read for ourselves Attorney General (AG) William Barr’s Constitution Day speech at Hillsdale College than to rely on the media-Democrat complex to relate what he said faithfully. The speech is posted on the Justice Department’s website. It is a scintillating explanation of the role of federal prosecutors in a free society, operating under a Constitution that guarantees liberty by dividing government power and making its exercise politically accountable.
What has gotten the most attention is the AG’s supposed belittling of career prosecutors. Ripped from its context, as if he were flipping off bumper sticker bromides rather than developing an argument, critics have feigned outrage that Barr equated the notion of trusting assistant United States attorneys (AUSAs) to make weighty decisions with letting the class syllabus be set by the tots at a Montessori preschool.
You will no doubt be shocked to learn that this is a complete distortion of what he said.
What Barr was driving at involves a significant philosophical dispute about prosecutorial power. Progressives regard it as a mere formality that the Framers vested the duty to execute the laws in the president. In their construct, federal prosecutors are not so much executive branch officials who serve the president as they are government lawyers who serve an abstraction known as “the rule of law,” which is vaguely understood to be laws enacted by Congress and rulings rendered by the judiciary — unless a Democratic president doesn’t approve of the laws or the jurisprudence. Also in their view, assistant U.S. attorneys are supposed to go about their weighty business completely insulated from politics — and, in Republican administrations, insulated from oversight by Main Justice, too. As for the attorney general, he is not the president’s lawyer but the public’s legal agent for purposes of reining in the president — except in the Obama administration, in which it was evidently fine for the attorney general to be the president’s self-described “wingman.”