Trump's chilling distortion of 'law and order'

Geoffrey Berman, the powerful US attorney for the Southern District of New York who has investigated a number of associates with ties to President Donald Trump, said he will not leave his post shortly after the Department of Justice announced he was stepping down. CNN senior legal analyst Laura Coates talks about what the move says about Attorney General William Barr.

Posted: Jun 21, 2020 11:00 AM
Updated: Jun 21, 2020 11:00 AM

US Attorney General William Barr triggered yet another firestorm this week when he announced that Geoffrey Berman, the US attorney for the Southern District of New York, would resign. The news — which came late Friday night — immediately created concerns that this was a politically motivated ouster. The situation took a surprising turn later that night when Berman refused to go. And by Saturday things had become strange.

Faced with Berman's defiance, Barr sent a letter to him that read, "Because you have declared that you have no intention of resigning, I have asked the President to remove you as of today, and he has done so." Trump, however, told reporters he was not involved with the decision, a claim that few will believe given how closely Trump and Barr have aligned their actions.

Some backstory: Berman's office has investigated high-level associates of President Donald Trump, including the President's former attorney Michael Cohen and Trump confidante and personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, and Trump had reportedly been upset with him for some time.

Barr's move came two days after former national security adviser John Bolton alleged in his new book that the President offered to interfere in a Southern District investigation of a Turkish bank. Trump told Turkish President Recep Erdogan that the problem (that is, the investigation) would be fixed when the prosecutors were "replaced by his people," Bolton wrote.

Though Berman was once seen as a Trump loyalist put into office during the purge of Preet Bharara, the President appears to have now turned against him.

Berman, however, didn't play along. "I have not resigned, and have no intention of resigning," he announced Friday.

Berman added, "I will step down when a presidentially appointed nominee is confirmed by the Senate. Until then, our investigations will move forward without delay or interruption." But on Saturday, after it became clear Berman's deputy would take over, the US Attorney said he would leave office.

The news of Berman's ouster is one more piece of evidence that Trump is the anti-law-and-order President, despite his claims to the contrary. Trump touts law and order when it suits him, but attacks the courts and erodes our judicial system when it comes to his agenda and actions. He loves to tweet former President Richard Nixon's famous catchphrase — law and order — which Nixon used in the 1968 election against Hubert Humphrey to promise an end to the riots and protests that had shaken the nation. But the truth is, the Trump administration has repeatedly taken steps that undermine our nation's confidence that this White House adheres to the notion that nobody is above the law.

Barr has been the point man in this strategy. He brings a level of legal sophistication and political savvy that Trump lacks and has repeatedly placed the political interests of the President above the law. When the Mueller investigation wrapped up, the attorney general framed the findings of the report in a way that exonerated the President from wrongdoing. During the impeachment hearings and trial earlier this year, Trump reportedly leaned on Barr to limit the ability of legislators to obtain necessary information. And in Trump's post-impeachment attacks on inspectors general and US attorneys, Barr has proven willing to take the bold and controversial steps necessary to insulate his boss.

Under Barr, the Justice Department has supported an aggressive response to the Black Lives Matter protests. Millions of Americans have taken to the streets across the country to demand bold policing reforms that aim to stop the police brutality that led to the death of George Floyd. But Barr has denied that systemic racism is a problem in policing, and the Justice Department has stood firm, years after scrapping Obama-era police reforms.

The Justice Department also deployed armed forces against peaceful protesters at Lafayette Park. Rather than embracing the notion, which many conservatives would have once agreed to, that protecting individual human rights from unaccountable police officers is the way to ensure law and order on the streets, the Justice Department under Trump has instead pushed for a breathless acceleration of state policing power.

The restraints that have checked previous administrations have deteriorated, and we are now living in a moment when President Trump — with Barr's assistance — appears to believe that there are no law and order guardrails prohibiting what he can do.

Given the fact that Senate Republicans continue to back him, the President is not wrong in this assumption. Senate Republicans have played an essential role in allowing Trump to continue eroding our democratic institutions. As long as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is willing to stand firm in backing the administration, the odds of any sort of serious check on these kinds of actions diminish.

The wildcard remains the courts. This week, the Supreme Court defied the President by ruling that he could not immediately end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, delivering a major blow to his anti-immigration platform. This decision came soon after Trump appointee Justice Neil Gorsuch shocked conservatives by joining Chief Justice John Roberts and four liberals on the bench in a decision protecting gay and transgender persons from workplace discrimination.

Though the Supreme Court is now under a conservative majority, it is not an institution where members can be primaried out of their posts, and federal judges have the capacity to be true institutionalists, even in an era when many elected officials refuse to accept that role. Certainly, Chief Justice Roberts is following these events with a close eye. As the President bends law and order to fit his own agenda, the biggest question remains: How much are the federal courts willing to tolerate and at what point will they finally check the President in the dangerous campaign that he has undertaken?

Until the courts step in, the nation is in a dangerous place. The stories that have converged in the past few weeks have revealed quite clearly that law and order is under threat. The threat, however, isn't coming from the streets but from the highest office in the land.

This article has been updated to include news of Attorney General William Barr's firing of Geoffrey Berman and President Trump's response.

Lafayette
Clear
45° wxIcon
Hi: 49° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 38°
Kokomo
Partly Cloudy
40° wxIcon
Hi: 46° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 32°
Rensselaer
Partly Cloudy
37° wxIcon
Hi: 42° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 29°
Lafayette
Partly Cloudy
45° wxIcon
Hi: 43° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 38°
Danville
Partly Cloudy
48° wxIcon
Hi: 49° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 42°
Frankfort
Clear
41° wxIcon
Hi: 49° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 34°
Frankfort
Clear
41° wxIcon
Hi: 45° Lo: 33°
Feels Like: 34°
Monticello
Partly Cloudy
39° wxIcon
Hi: 46° Lo: 35°
Feels Like: 32°
Monticello
Partly Cloudy
39° wxIcon
Hi: 46° Lo: 35°
Feels Like: 32°
Logansport
Partly Cloudy
36° wxIcon
Hi: 44° Lo: 33°
Feels Like: 29°
Mild Conditions Continue Wednesday
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

WLFI is promoting fire safety with FREE smoke detectors

 WLFI and several local fire departments are helping with your fire safety this winter. CLICK HERE. 

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 657037

Reported Deaths: 12450
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion901321624
Lake48105871
Allen35552632
Hamilton31839393
St. Joseph29538510
Elkhart25261412
Vanderburgh21115377
Tippecanoe19765197
Johnson16242352
Porter15838267
Hendricks15723296
Clark11843179
Madison11672314
Vigo11503228
Monroe10248158
Delaware9788178
LaPorte9720194
Howard9017194
Kosciusko8514107
Bartholomew7373147
Warrick7369146
Hancock7362128
Floyd7139164
Wayne6586188
Grant6395157
Morgan6040124
Boone603388
Dubois5868111
Dearborn540266
Henry539492
Marshall5390104
Cass537199
Noble506775
Jackson462063
Shelby458490
Lawrence4154111
Gibson399681
Harrison395160
Clinton392353
DeKalb382078
Montgomery381583
Knox354484
Miami354063
Whitley346235
Huntington338176
Steuben335955
Wabash328775
Putnam325959
Ripley325161
Adams320249
Jasper312943
White295351
Jefferson292770
Daviess284296
Fayette270255
Decatur269388
Greene259978
Posey259731
Wells255374
Scott248446
LaGrange240170
Clay238944
Randolph225076
Spencer215830
Jennings213544
Washington207727
Sullivan202038
Fountain200341
Starke185950
Owen181652
Jay177328
Fulton176437
Carroll175618
Perry172435
Orange170450
Rush163922
Franklin158335
Vermillion158040
Tipton145441
Parke137915
Pike127232
Blackford120027
Pulaski105643
Newton96431
Brown94639
Benton91113
Crawford90113
Martin80114
Switzerland7507
Warren74612
Union66810
Ohio52711
Unassigned0425

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events