Paul Pillar

The Rule of Law in Jeopardy

Even if Trump doesn’t get his wall along the Mexican border, Nunes is building him a wall in committee offices, all the better to preclude any Democratic interference in, or even awareness of, future efforts to subvert the special counsel’s investigation.  Meanwhile, Nunes’ destruction of responsible bipartisan oversight in an important committee may be a canary in a coal mine in which there will be other elements of the nonpartisan rule of law getting blown up.  Notwithstanding the best efforts of dedicated officers in the FBI, it will be difficult to prevent the assaults from above and from Capitol Hill from having some politicizing effect on the selection, pace, and direction of investigations.  FBI Director Christopher Wray so far has sounded forthright about protecting the FBI’s mission, but the silence of Attorney General Jeff Sessions on this subject is inexcusable.  Everybody recognizes that there are policy matters on which the attorney general is the president’s man and does his bidding, but fulfilling the duty of independent and objective law enforcement is not supposed to be one of them.

And what about law enforcement elsewhere, such as at the chronically underfunded and understaffed Internal Revenue Service?  Amid an anti-tax ethos combined with disdain for objective law enforcement, it is easy to see neither the administration nor congressional Republicans caring much if tax avoidance increasingly slides into tax evasion, or caring about whether the IRS has enough resources to enforce the law.  This will make the deficit even worse, because a dollar used for enforcing tax laws returns more than a dollar in owed taxes.  It also will make the United States look ever more like third world countries whose finances as well as political procedures are screwed up.

Meanwhile, try to sustain your outrage.

Image: White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter (L) reminds U.S. President Donald Trump he had a bill to sign after he departed quickly following remarks at his golf estate in Bedminster, New Jersey U.S., August 12, 2017. Picture taken August 12, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst