The Queen of Hearts

From today’s Meet the Press transcript, a portion of the colloquy between Chuck Todd and Sarah Sanders:

Well it sounds like you’re not — that’s my point. It doesn’t sound like you want him to do his job. It sounds like you, the president has already determined the outcome.
Chuck, that’s the reason that he’s granted the attorney general the authority to declassify that information, to look at all the documents necessary is so that we can get to the very bottom of what happened. Once again, we already know about some wrongdoing. The president’s not wrong in that. But he wants to know everything that happened and how far and how wide it went.

I’ve posted the entire Sanders portion of the Meet the Press transcript here.

5 U.S.C. § 3(a) and (b) provide as follows:

§ 3. Appointment of Inspector General; supervision; removal; political activities; appointment of Assistant Inspector General for Auditing and Assistant Inspector General for Investigations
(a) There shall be at the head of each Office an Inspector General who shall be appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, without regard to political affiliation and solely on the basis of integrity and demonstrated ability in accounting, auditing, financial analysis, law, management analysis, public administration, or investigations. Each Inspector General shall report to and be under the general supervision of the head of the establishment involved or, to the extent such authority is delegated, the officer next in rank below such head, but shall not report to, or be subject to supervision by, any other officer of such establishment. Neither the head of the establishment nor the officer next in rank below such head shall prevent or prohibit the Inspector General from initiating, carrying out, or completing any audit or investigation, or from issuing any subpena [sic] during the course of any audit or investigation.
(b) An Inspector General may be removed from office by the President. If an Inspector General is removed from office or is transferred to another position or location within an establishment, the President shall communicate in writing the reasons for any such removal or transfer to both Houses of Congress, not later than 30 days before the removal or transfer. Nothing in this subsection shall prohibit a personnel action otherwise authorized by law, other than transfer or removal.

5 U.S.C. § 3(g) provides as follows:

Each Inspector General shall, in accordance with applicable laws and regulations governing the civil service, obtain legal advice from a counsel either reporting directly to the Inspector General or another Inspector General.

The “investigation” being undertaken by Bill Barr at the direction of Trump is nothing more than a de facto removal from office of the Inspector General of the Department of Justice. When, as Sarah Sanders says, “we’re going to let the attorney general make that determination [of whether James Comey committed treason and should be arrested] as he gets to the conclusion of this investigation” (lines 95-99), what she is saying is that the Trump Administration is intentionally violating 5 U.S.C. § 3(g). That section goes to the core of the independence of the Inspector General. It makes it clear that the Inspector General can only seek legal counsel from an attorney who reports directly up the line to the Inspector General, not the head of the agency that the Inspector General is charged with overseeing.

 “Let the jury consider their verdict,” the King said, for about the twentieth time that day.
“No, no!” said the Queen. “Sentence first–verdict afterward.”
“Stuff and nonsense!” said Alice loudly. “The idea of having the sentence first!

Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll : Chapter XII

Shortly after that passage, Alice awoke:

‘Oh, I’ve had such a curious dream!’ said Alice, and she told her sister, as well as she could remember them, all these strange Adventures of hers that you have just been reading about; and when she had finished, her sister kissed her, and said, ‘It was a curious dream, dear, certainly: but now run in to your tea; it’s getting late.’ So Alice got up and ran off, thinking while she ran, as well she might, what a wonderful dream it had been.

Somehow, I don’t think that we will soon awaken from this dream. Certainly, we will not view it in retrospect as a wonderful dream.

2 thoughts on “The Queen of Hearts”

  1. I’m not at all comfortable with a Barr investigation, but how exactly does it “de facto” remove the office of Inspector General, rather than supplement it, albeit in a rather sinister way?

    We know that historically our intelligence agencies have overreacted to perceived threats to the state, and to do so in a way that violates the privacy of US citizens. An unbiased investigation into whether that occurred here is not unwarranted, though it is difficult to see who has the integrity and moral standing to conduct such an investigation. Is it too much to hope that the press might do something along these lines?

  2. First, the press does not have subpoena power.

    Second, as section (a) of 5 U.S.C. § 3 provides, in pertinent part, the inspector general is chosen “without regard to political affiliation and solely on the basis of integrity and demonstrated ability in accounting, auditing, financial analysis, law, management analysis, public administration, or investigations.” To suggest that this description applies to Bill Barr is simply laughable.

    Finally, 5 U.S.C. § 3(b) sets forth the procedures for the removal of the inspector general, procedures that are simply not being followed here.

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