While some may feel tempted to praise Barr for acknowledging reality, the critical issue is why he so enthusiastically joined Trump’s attempt before Nov. 3 to delegitimize our election. Moreover, why has he not admonished Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and Trump for seeming to put pressure on state election officials to refuse certifying valid results? And why did he appoint U.S. Attorney John Durham on Tuesday as special counsel into the origins of the Russia probe — an outrageously partisan and likely illegal move that guarantees the investigation will continue into the incoming Biden administration? Barr apparently needs reminding that, without hope of cover from the president, his hyperpoliticization of the Justice Department (e.g., spinning the Mueller report, intervening in the Michael Flynn case) might come under scrutiny in the next administration.
In any case, a voice of sanity — once more from outside D.C. — reminds us just how irresponsible congressional Republicans have been by remaining silent about Trump’s ongoing efforts to undermine the election. Georgia voting official Gabe Sterling, a Republican, denounced the president’s behavior as well as the public suggestion from Trump lawyer Joe diGenova that fired cybersecurity official Christopher Krebs be “executed.” (DiGenova later implausibly claimed he was joking):
Sterling rightly slammed both Trump and Republican senators for allowing this circus to take place, resulting in threats of violence against local officials. Republicans may want to delude themselves with the argument that their silence does no harm, but Sterling quite effectively explained why this is utterly false. No valid legal claims remain; Barr confirms there is no there there. Yet Republicans in Congress, petrified of Trump and his red-hatted brigades, hide under their desks — or worse, play along with Trump’s lie that there is some doubt in the outcome.
The result could be deadly. As Ronald Brownstein aptly stated, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) are “abetting Trump’s baseless conspiracy claims with full warning that could be the eventual outcome. It’s not like they haven’t been warned through the proliferation of death threats [against] local election officials.”
Republicans in the Senate and House — not to mention the lawyers filing baseless lawsuits on Trump’s behalf — must be held accountable. At the very least, the media should cease repeating their claims of voter fraud, which only amplifies justifications for the kind of conduct Sterling denounced. When Republicans appear for questions from the media, this should be the first and — until they respond — only topic. The incoming attorney general should order a full review of post-election shenanigans and make recommendations to prevent even the appearance of pressure on local officials and to automatically trigger the presidential transition process when a winner becomes clear. And, finally, Democrats in the Senate need to confront their Republican colleagues on the floor and in hearings. Why are they indulging in anti-democratic conspiracies? Why are they not responding to local Republicans’ calls to denounce the subversion of our election? Sterling is right: Enough.