The latest outrage from the White House — the latest as of Tuesday morning, anyway, because a new affront to decency and liberty is always underway — comes in the form of a move from the Justice Department to further protect the president from accountability.
Donald Trump, the man, has been embroiled in a lawsuit against reporter E. Jean Carroll, who says he raped her more than 20 years ago in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room. When he denied it, Carroll initiated a suit for defamation in federal court. Just as Carroll’s legal team won a small victory, setting the stage for a DNA test and testimony from Trump, the man, Attorney General Bill Barr filed paperwork moving the case from Manhattan to Washington DC, effectively changing the defendant from Trump the man to Trump the president.
Barr’s move asserts that Carroll’s lawsuit is actually against the federal government. Trump was president when he denied these rape claims in 2019, which, according to Barr’s Justice Department, means that Carroll’s accusations are actually against the United States of America and not Trump, the man.
It means that the president will be entitled to use Justice Department lawyers to defend him for rape — yes, on the taxpayer dime — and that Carroll’s road to justice has come up against a major obstacle: the full force and power of the federal government, which rarely loses judgements against civilians and has wide leeway to quash investigations against itself.
For anyone familiar with how all this is supposed to work, it’s an astonishing act of legal brazenness.
If this motion is allowed to go through — a federal judge will make that decision — it would establish the president as the living embodiment of our country, an unassailable icon, not unlike a monarch or a despotic dictator. It means that the president is untouchable, that to besmirch him is to go against all the institutions of our nation, against the very soil upon which we stand.
This has got to be the most perverted thing Barr has done with the Justice Department since he ascended to Attorney General in February 2019. From the beginning he has sounded like Trump’s personal lawyer. Now, it seems that he has completely foregone the task of representing the laws of this nation, instead using his post to create favorable conditions for his lone client.