The present melodrama surrounding the sentencing guidelines of Trump partner-in-crime Roger Stone shows the same process as has Trump’s drive to take one person control over the State Department and the National Security Council.
Trump had to get rid of his political soul-mate, Jeff Sessions, because Sessions had an eye to his future and, therefore, wouldn’t simply be the complete lackey for Trump. He had to recuse himself from the investigation of what amounted to Trump’s ties with Putin. (That this investigation was not serious is another story.) Trump seemed to have struck gold with the hiring of Barr who, among other things, refused to turn over and then lied about Mueller’s ultimate report.
Trump & Barr
On the evening of February 10, Trump tweeted his displeasure with the (in)Justice Department attorney’s recommendation of a 7 to 9 year sentence for Trump’s partner in crime, Roger Stone. The very next morning, Attorney General Barr stepped in and ordered the withdrawal of that recommendation. Then things got sticky. The four (in)Justice Department attorneys responsible for that case withdrew in protest. One of them quit altogether. They were looking out for their future careers, which are based on capitalist democracy and the “rule of law”. In fact, a rebellion had been brewing within that wing of the government already. As the Washington Post reported “Barr was comfortable not being universally loved by career employees, but he felt the tweet Tuesday raised a bigger problem, giving people reason to wonder whether the department had been corrupted by political influence and decided he could no longer remain silent about the president’s public denunciations,” according to informants. In other words, up until that point Barr felt he could handle it
Barr’s real problem was not in simply carrying out Trump’s every need and desire. As Salon.com put it, “Nobody believes that Bill Barr needs a presidential tweet to know what he’s supposed to do. Everyone in America knows that Trump believes he and his cronies are above the law, and that he wants to put his enemies in jail. And no one has been more accommodating to Trump’s wishes than his attorney general, which is why the Washington legal community is up in arms.”
Don’t be so obvious
No, Barr’s problem was in Trump’s making it so obvious, especially after the impeachment trial. In that event, one of Trump’s followers – Republican senator Susan Collins – justified letting him off the hook by claiming that he’d learned his lesson. Here he was,
just days after, proving the exact opposite. It was like the driver of a robbery getaway car sitting in the car with his flashers going and blowing the horn while his confederate was inside robbing the bank. “For christ sake, if we’re going to rob the bank, don’t call attention to it!” was what Barr’s comment amounted to.
So the next day, he asserted in an ABC interview “I’m not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody … whether it’s Congress, a newspaper editorial board, or the president. I’m gonna do what I think is right.… I cannot do my job here at the department with a constant background commentary that undercuts me.” What could be more clear? “Mr. President, I’ve got your back. Don’t worry. But please don’t call such attention to it. It makes my life impossible.”
The response was two-fold. On the one hand, Trump’s lizard brain must have started to get the feeling that he was moving towards a situation similar to that of Julius Caesar in Shakespeare’s play of that name. In that play, the senate moves against Caesar as he moves to take unprecedented power. Ultimately his most trusted lieutenant, Brutus, joins the rest of them. Like Caesar, Trump must have instinctively felt he could be moving towards an “et tu, Brutus?” moment. Incapable of backing down personally, he dispatched, White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham to say: “The President wasn’t bothered by the comments at all and he has the right, just like any American citizen, to publicly offer his opinions…. The president has full faith and confidence in Attorney General Barr…”
But Trump made sure to assert he was in full control later in the day, when he tweeted, “The President has never asked me to do anything in a criminal case.” A.G. Barr This doesn’t mean that I do not have, as President, the legal right to do so, I do, but I have so far chosen not to!”
Trump’s faithful attack dog, Fox New’s Lou Dobbs backed him up. “I am so disappointed in Bill Barr, I have to say this. It’s a damn shame when he doesn’t get what this president has gone through, and what the American people have gone through, and what his charge is as attorney general….” he said.“Where the hell are the charges against the corrupt, the politically corrupt deep state within the Justice Department, the FBI, and why in the hell are we hearing apologies from someone in that rancid, corrupt department about what they permitted?…. And by the way, I don’t want to hear any crap about an independent Justice Department! This Justice Department, as does every one, works for the president.”
In other words, what Trump gave with one hand he and his attack dog took back a way with the other, just to make sure that everybody knows who’s boss.
Basically, what’s happening – once again – is that we have long-time officials and bureaucrats whose careers have been based on carrying out the dictates of or enforcing “the rule of law”, meaning capitalist democracy. As long as it is unclear that Trump will be able to go all the way in establishing one-man rule, many of these individuals feel they have to guard their reputation, meaning their future careers, by at some point standing up to Trump or his flunkeys like Barr. This is what was brewing in the Department of (in)Justice, and that is why Barr made the statement he did.
Absence of the working class
There is one more factor that we’ve grown accustomed to ignore: Those of us who have ever worked around a loud noise like a jack hammer and air compressor know that after awhile we grow immune to that loud noise. It’s only when it is shut off that we realize it was sounding. The near-total absence of the US working class, or any significant sector of it, as an independent force in society is like that loud noise. Like all the other political dramas, it’s totally absent. The main culprit in this is the union leadership, from top to bottom. This is the leadership that sided with Keystone in their struggle to build their pipeline. It’s the same leadership that supports
fracking. It’s the same leadership like that of Ironworkers Local 86 (Seattle) business manager Chris McClain, who actually sided with Jeff Bezos and Amazon against the poorest section of the working class, the homeless.
Ever since the post WW II era, this union leadership has been drugging and poisoning their members and the rest of the working class. Now, as the capitalist crisis grows ever more acute, the results of the leadership’s role is really striking home. What will reverse this? What will arouse at least a significant sector of the US working class? Will it be an environmental disaster? Or a war? Whatever it is, it seems a real shock will be required.
Meanwhile, socialists and real working class fighters should be explaining and agitating for working class independence and for organizing out in the streets to fight this onslaught of capitalism driven mad in the person of Trump… and whoever follows him.
Note: for how this issue is being carried out in the State Department and the National Security Council, see this article.