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William Barr, Kamala Harris

Under questioning from Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA), Attorney General William Barr (R-Trumplandia) admitted recently that he did not look at the evidence in the report by special counsel Robert Mueller, which concluded that the evidence did not allow him to state firmly that President Trump did not commit obstruction of justice.

He presented this as the routine procedure in the Department of Justice, which may well be the case, but the Department of Justice reviewing the decisions of a special prosecutor who investigated the president of the United States is far from routine. As Harris then pointed out, Barr’s letter to Congress summarizing the report stated flatly that there was no basis for prosecuting the president.

A standard course for law students at law schools in U.S. law schools is evidence. That is, evidence is a sufficiently important topic in law that it merits its own course, along with contracts law, tort law, and criminal law. In the practice of law, which often involves efforts to resolve disputes — even a criminal trial is at base a dispute between the prosecutor who asserts that the defendant committed a crime and the defendant who denies it — evidence is critical.

“Conservatives” don’t much understand or like it, Trump himself has no clue about it, but we live in a relentlessly empirical society. At least officially, we put great store in science and try to make rational decisions, unless we’re Republicans, anyway. We believe that the best way to acquire knowledge about the world is to rely on information from our five senses, suitably enhanced, where possible, with instruments that improve on the senses without distorting them unduly, such as microscopes, telescopes, particle accelerators, and computers.

We call this information that we gather via our five senses “evidence.” In a trial, which every criminal defendant has the right to under our system, the prosecution and defense show evidence to the jury to try to persuade them that their side is telling the correct version of the story about what happened when a crime occurred.

What Robert Mueller spent two years doing as special counsel was gathering evidence, mostly. He based his conclusions on that evidence. That’s the whole point.

For Barr to offer his own “summary” without looking at the evidence is just confirmation of what we already knew — he is not doing his job as an attorney. Trump hired Barr as he hires everyone, to be a shill for him. Barr is really no different from Kellyanne Conway, except in having a law degree. Barr didn’t need to look at the evidence.

He knew when he took the job his task was to claim that Trump committed no crime. Who needs evidence for that?

Written by

Uppity gay, Buddhist, author, historian.

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