Dick Thornburgh is a lifelong Republican who served as U.S. attorney general from 1988 to 1991 under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
Immensely disturbed by the turn in sentiments by some segments of his party against the Department of Justice and the FBI, Thornburgh was motivated to write an op-ed in The Washington Post today to vociferously urge his fellow Republicans to defend Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation against interference by an administration that has abandoned the party’s traditional deference to the rule of law.
Thornburgh begins his op-ed by stating his credentials and declaring that he knows from personal experience how effectively the Justice Department enforces the law in a fair and equal manner. He then addresses the issue which has weighed most heavily on his mind of late.
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“Many recent comments about special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and his investigation have been regrettable and undeserved. I was surprised to see President Trump’s lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, a respected former U.S. attorney, suggest this week that Mueller is “trying very, very hard to frame” the president, echoing comments made by the president himself that the investigation is “a Witch Hunt.” Those comments are the antithesis of who Mueller is and how he operates,” the former Attorney General declares.
Mueller was a colleague of Thornburgh’s in the law enforcement profession and a friend whose judgment and morality he accepts unquestioningly as he endorses Mueller as the perfect person to head the inquiry into Russia’s “assault on our democracy.”
“He possesses the skills and discipline necessary to perform his role, and his past leadership as head of the Justice Department’s criminal division and as director of the FBI leave no doubt as to his ability to evenhandedly conduct significant investigations. He is serious but not sensational and loyal to the rule of law.”
“Mueller must put all applicable evidence before an impartial grand jury that will decide whether to bring charges. We must let him do his job,” Thornburgh exhorts.
The former Attorney General then goes on to excoriate Trump’s propaganda campaign against the so-called “deep state” as a destabilizing and diminishing conspiracy to undermine public confidence in the justice system.
“It is disconcerting to witness the unfair attacks on the Justice Department now occurring; they erode public confidence and corrode the integrity of a core principle of our country. Our country must not let hyperpartisanship diminish the rule of law. That is not who we are, and it isn’t what we should ever become. I have great confidence in the special-counsel process. Indeed, my party has always stood with law enforcement, recognizing that its job is both difficult and essential. Law-enforcement officials ranging from state and local police to FBI officers in the field to prosecutors and judges must be able to do their work without fear of political retribution,” he writes.
Thornburgh concludes with a rallying cry to Congress, and to his fellow Republicans in particular, stressing the essentiality of defending the Special Counsel and his probe.
“I urge all members of Congress to become more vocal in their defense of the rule of law. Elected officials must stress unambiguously their support of the role of the special counsel and guard his right to pursue this investigation in a fair and impartial manner. Through whatever means members of Congress deem appropriate, they must defend the rule of law and the integrity of the special counsel’s mission.”
“As John Adams said, our country is “a government of laws, and not of men.” This founding principle of our democracy must be protected. We will be remembered by what we say and what we do in this challenging time in America’s history. We must all speak out and work to protect the special counsel’s investigation from interference. As Republicans, we owe that much to our party. As citizens, we all owe even more to our country.”
In today’s modern, Trumpified version of the Republican party Thornburgh’s perspective may be seen as antiquated as a 78-playing Victrola, but unless his call is heeded our democracy may wind up as brittle and susceptible to shattering as an old shellac record.
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