The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion A historical parallel for Barr to remember

Attorney General William P. Barr on Capitol Hill on May 1 in Washington. (Salwan Georges/The Washington Post)

David Von Drehle’s May 12 op-ed, “Democrats are trapped by their obsession,” was clever on the historical-parallel level and contained a few grains of truth, but it left out some crucial facts and forgot a much more recent historical parallel.

First, though the Watergate break-in was small stuff compared with the offenses committed by the Trump administration, there are interesting parallels between Attorney General William P. Barr and President Richard M. Nixon’s attorney general, John N. Mitchell. Both felt their job was not to be the top prosecutor for the people of the United States but instead to be the top attorney for the president who appointed them. In that guise, Mitchell was sent to prison for conspiracy (for Nixon), obstruction of justice (for Nixon) and perjury (for Nixon).

Mr. Barr discussed pending Justice Department cases with Mr. Trump, misled the public on the Mueller report in writing a summary and in a speech on the subject, and said under oath that he didn’t know whether special counsel Robert S. Mueller III took issue with Mr. Barr’s fraudulent summary of Mr. Mueller’s report.

Rather than cite the cleverness of Hannibal and Mr. Trump, perhaps it would be more useful to warn the Trump administration and especially Mr. Barr that Mitchell was sentenced to 2½ to eight years for perjury, obstruction of justice and conspiracy. 

Reminder: Democrats were accused of the same “obsession” two months before Nixon resigned in disgrace. Perhaps a few Republicans will wake up before the Constitution is permanently destroyed by Trumpism. 

Jon Temple, Chevy Chase