Debra Saunders: Bill Barr, Champion of Justice
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Debra Saunders: Bill Barr, Champion of Justice

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WASHINGTON — “Governments that use the enormous power of law enforcement to punish their enemies and reward their allies are not constitutional republics; they are autocracies,” noted a letter signed by more than 2,000 former federal prosecutors calling for Attorney General Bill Barr to resign because he wants to drop a criminal charge against President Donald Trump’s first national security adviser, Mike Flynn.

Be glad these folks are former and not current prosecutors because they have gone to bat for the very practice they claim to oppose. Federal prosecutors against government overreach — that’s an oxymoron.

Barr’s action, they assert, was “rare” — and that’s a problem because it shouldn’t be rare for the nation’s top lawman to curb one of many abuses that lay at the feet of the feds.

Consider Ted Stevens, the then-GOP senator from Alaska who was found guilty on corruption charges and lost his reelection bid in 2008. Later, it was learned that federal prosecutors intentionally hid evidence that exonerated him.

The Russian probe turned out to be a partisan exercise. We now know that it was clear early on that there was no coordination between the Kremlin and Trump Tower during the 2016 campaign. Then-FBI Director James Comey and — after Trump fired Comey — special counsel Robert Mueller nonetheless carried out a brutal investigation that targeted Trump associates on charges that had nothing to do with Russian meddling.

Yes, the feds got scalps. But they never found a smoking gun in the Russian mess.

Some of the probe’s successful prosecutions involved clear and proven criminal behavior. Paul Manafort, for example, was convicted for bank and tax fraud, but his crimes predated his brief stint as Trump’s campaign chairman.

Flynn’s story is messy.

The one-time Army lieutenant general pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement about a post-election phone conversation with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. He later claimed he did so under duress.

Be it noted, Trump fired Flynn in February 2017 for lying to Vice President Mike Pence about his bid to persuade Moscow not to escalate in response to sanctions President Barack Obama imposed against Russia.

Barr’s take, as he told CBS News on May 7, was that if Flynn lied, it wasn’t a crime because there was no lie that was “material to a legitimate investigation,” as the team investigating Russia and the 2016 campaign was closing up. Also, it’s not clear that Flynn intended to lie to the FBI because the national security veteran knew that the feds had recorded the conversation.

But as Mark Corallo, a one-time spokesman in President George W. Bush’s Department of Justice, told me: “Faced with financial ruin and the prospect of his son being prosecuted, he took a deal. By the way, it happens every day.”

Corallo worked briefly for Trump’s private legal defense team. He resigned shortly after the White House released a false statement that asserted Donald Trump Jr. and other top campaign figures met with a Russian lawyer to discuss adoption issues, when in fact Trump’s son had been teased into the meeting with the prospect of dirt on Hillary Clinton.

The meeting did not live up to the hype. In part, because of Trump’s false spin, it became dirt used against Team Trump.

Corallo applauded Barr for dismissing the case against Flynn as the right response to federal law enforcement’s “absolute culture of everybody’s guilty, we just haven’t caught them yet.” When law enforcement chooses to “investigate people, not crimes, tear up the Constitution,” Corallo warned.

The FBI’s questioning of Flynn? “A perjury trap,” quoth Barr, who noted FBI officials failed to inform Flynn that he was under investigation and worked around White House protocol.

Many big media outlets treat Barr’s behavior as partisan. Somehow they have no worries that federal prosecutors working under the Obama administration launched a probe against the GOP nominee based on a “dossier” funded with Democratic money.

There are a lot of people inside the beltway who hate Trump. And he does little to try to change their minds. But law enforcement shouldn’t be a popularity contest, with prosecutors hounding individuals who haven’t broken the law.

As Barr told CBS, “I think it’s sad that nowadays these partisan feelings are so strong that people have lost any sense of justice, and the groups that usually worry about civil liberties and making sure that there’s proper procedures followed and standards set seem to be ignoring it and willing to destroy people’s lives.”

Contact Debra J. Saunders at dsaunders@reviewjournal.com or 202-662-7391. Follow @DebraJSaunders on Twitter.

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Idaho’s structure of electing governors and LG’s completely separately — different from many states which bind them together — allows for the office holders to come from different points of view.

For future historians and artists who'll chronicle today's health and economic crisis, one humble item will stand out as the chief cultural emblem of the times: wearing a mask. Or not.

A small outbreak of coronavirus at a Fry Foods plant in Weiser gives a prime example of the importance of testing for COVID-19. More than that, it represents a warning shot across the bow of potential pitfalls if we don’t reopen our economy the right way.

As we tiptoe through Stage 2 of Gov. Brad Little’s phased reopening plan and approach a more robust Stage 3, it’s going to become even more important that we take the necessary steps to prevent future outbreaks.

And there will be future outbreaks.

The fact remains that the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is still out there. It’s ready to strike again, and without a vaccine, it remains a potentially destructive and fatal disease.

Aggressive and quick testing remains one of the key elements — perhaps the most important element — of controlling outbreaks at this point.

Fry Foods offers an early case study.

The Weiser food processing plant employs 260 people to make onion rings and other food products. It shut down earlier this month when at least seven employees tested positive for the coronavirus.

Fry Foods initially didn’t test all 260 employees at the Weiser facility — only the 50 or 60 who likely came in contact with the employees who tested positive. Other employees were able to get tested on their own.

The Idaho Bureau of Laboratories (state run-laboratories) tested all that they had the capacity to do in one day, according to Kelly Petroff, director of communications for the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. The state lab can do about has a testing capacity of approximately 200 tests per day.

“We are not prepared to handle this,” Doug Wold, human resources manager for Fry Foods, told the Idaho Statesman, referring to the lack of coordinated response. “If you don’t have an employer who’s willing to be proactive, we’re just going to fail.”

Fortunately, Crush the Curve Idaho, a private, business-led initiative established during the outbreak to increase testing, stepped in and tested every employee at Fry Foods.

By Tuesday of this week, 20 employees — about 8% of the plant’s workforce — had tested positive for the coronavirus, along with at least two of their family members. Nearly all were asymptomatic.

RAPID-RESPONSE TESTING

That’s what needs to happen: rapid-response testing. If you have an outbreak at your workplace, get everyone tested. For those who test positive, keep them home and isolated. For those who test negative, they can keep on working and you’re back in business.

When the outbreak hit Fry Foods, company officials made the decision to shut the plant down.

Without adequate testing, that’s unfortunately the right thing to do. Without testing, you have no idea whether you have seven infected employees, 70 or 270.

We applaud Fry Foods company officials for making the tough call to shut down, even though they were given the green light by the Southwest District Health Department to resume operations.

Coronavirus is stealthy. A person can carry coronavirus longer without symptoms, potentially spreading to others unwittingly. Some people who carry coronavirus have no symptoms at all.

We are encouraged that Crush the Curve Idaho stepped up and stepped in here.

But Idaho needs a more concerted and organized plan to do rapid-response testing.

We are a fragmented health system. Health providers include Saint Alphonsus, St. Luke’s, Primary Health, Saltzer, among others. Then think about all the entities who pay for health care: Blue Cross of Idaho, Regence BlueShield, PacificSource, SelectHealth, etc. Throw in Medicare, Medicaid and those who are uninsured.

Even our own government health management system is fragmented, with the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare and seven independent health districts not operated by the state.

And, in the case of Fry Foods, situated in a city bordering Oregon, workers were from two states.

NO COORIDINATED EFFORTS

No wonder Fry Foods officials were at a loss for where to turn for help. Without some sort of coordinated effort to test all employees and somehow pay for those tests, shutting down the plant was the best option.

It’s worth noting that the Fry Foods employee who initially had coronavirus was at a family gathering of a larger number than outlined in the governor’s reopening plan and was with visitors from out of state, two violations of the governor’s guidelines. That’s why we have the guidelines, and that’s why it’s important to follow the guidelines. Otherwise, this is what you get: an outbreak that shuts down an entire food manufacturing plant.

Unfortunately, shutting down operations every time there’s an outbreak is not going to get the job done.

And there will be more outbreaks as we reopen our economy, reopen factories and workplaces.

Idaho has a lot to be optimistic about, and we have a golden opportunity to lead the nation in reopening our economy in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. We have had relatively few cases (around 2,300) and few deaths (77). Our early efforts to shut down parts of our social interactions and Little’s quick call to issue a statewide stay-home order clearly have paid off. Idahoans’ adherence to the stay-home order has helped to flatten the curve and control the number of new cases. Residents and businesses, alike, have done their part to make this happen.

Our hope is that Idaho can chug along through the stages of reopening. Our fear is that if we don’t do this the right way, we’ll have a surge and we’ll be back to a statewide stay-home order. Nobody wants that.

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