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Barr's Corrupt Logic

Richard Martin

Posted on May 6, 2019 12:33

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Is there no end to Trump's allies' efforts to enable presidential corruption?

Attorney General William Barr’s recent testimony contained a logical argument for how a President could fire a special counsel with a non-corrupt motive.  His argument has four premises and one conclusion. 

The premises: (1) If the accusations against the President are false; (2) If the President knew the accusations were false; (3) If the President felt that the investigation was propelled unfairly by his political opponents; (4) If the President felt that the investigation was hampering his ability to govern.

The conclusion: The firing of the investigation’s independent counsel would NOT be corruptly motivated.

I note the following: (a) Barr presents the first two premises in factual form and the second two in the form of feelings (opinions) of the President; (b) Barr’s logical structure (using the conjunction "and") requires all four premises to be true for the conclusion to be true; (c) Barr dishonestly used the plural “accusations” to agglomerate all of Trump’s acts of “collusion” into one homogeneous group.

In the Russia investigation, a wide range of accusations were made against the President and his associates, including criminal conspiracy, collusion, and “welcomed Russian assistance.” Mueller determined the first to be lacking sufficient evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The last accusation is demonstrably true.

Although Barr would argue against this, it’s fair to conclude that one of Mueller’s missions was to examine acts that did not rise to the level of criminal conspiracy, but nevertheless involved the corrupt crossing of an ethical line. If we allow true accusations to populate the first premise, Barr’s argument fails abruptly since the first premise is not true, and firing the special counsel would thus have a corrupt intent.

Also, failure of the first premise automatically knocks down the second premise. Barr’s inclusion of the second premise actually represents another dishonest trick – improperly associating the President’s knowledge with the President’s feelings. 

Supposing we take Barr’s logic to its ultimate conclusion that all four premises are true. The one remaining question is why should the President’s feelings about the motives behind the investigation be relevant to his motive for acting to dismiss the special counsel? 

The process of jurisprudence culminates with a trial where evidence is presented by both sides and the jury renders a verdict, guilty or not guilty. If the investigators’ underlying motive was improper, the President could demonstrate that at trial and the jury would concur if his evidence was persuasive. Juries have a long history of concluding prosecutors failed to make their case, and prosecutors often pay dearly (job/promotion loss) for failed prosecutions. However, Mueller also empaneled a Grand Jury to assist with his investigation, and presumably, their work validated Mueller’s. 

Under Barr’s logic, the President should have free rein to short-circuit the judicial process solely because he wields the awesome power of that office. No ordinary citizen has the power to curtail, based on their feelings, a criminal investigation into their own conduct. Isn’t abuse of power the most definitive hallmark of corruption?

Richard Martin

Posted on May 6, 2019 12:33

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