‘Only Thing to Stop Him Is Us’: Chris Hayes Calls for Resistance to Trump’s ‘Authoritarian’ DOJ Meddling in Stinging Monologue
MSNBC’s Chris Hayes issued a broad, public call for resistance to what he labeled the “real authoritarian stuff” of President Donald Trump’s interference with the Justice Department and rule of law.
During his live, Friday night show, Hayes began with a 10-minute long soliloquy detailing Trump’s ongoing meddling in DOJ cases both for his allies and against his enemies. He also blasted Bill Barr as the president’s “handpicked bagman,” pointing to several highly controversial actions over the past week as further evidence that the attorney general is aiding and abetting Trump’s politicization of the DOJ.
“It’s important to say the only thing standing between the rule of law and a kind of authoritarian decline is us,” Hayes soberly declared at the start of his opening monologue. “The laws we have, the institutions we have, those are all vitally important. But fundamentally, we are what stands in the way.”
Hayes then offered a brief history of the FBI and Justice Department, and pointed to how reforms have been continually put in place to correct the agency’s past abuses of power.
“One of the biggest reforms was establishing a wall between the president and the Department of Justice on certain matters,” he explained. “And the most important of all of these norms, the most important, is the separation between the White House and the president, and the Department of Justice on criminal matters and investigations.”
“Look around the world right now. In dozens of countries, the prosecutorial function of the government is used by strongmen everywhere as a tool of pursuing and harassing and purging political opponents,” Hayes noted, before pointing to the constant legal harassment and imprisonment of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny by Putin’s federal investigators. “Do we think that’s because he is an incorrigible crook? Or because Putin is clearly using the prosecutorial power to target his political enemies? And that is what is so dangerous about where we are as I’m talking to you. There is nothing specifically and explicitly in our constitution that says you can’t do that.”
He then analogized that oppression to Trump’s campaign threat to investigate and imprison his 2016 rival, Hillary Clinton, as well and the president’s incessant public threats and DOJ inspector general investigations of James Comey and Andrew McCabe, two former FBI officials whom Trump clearly despises for their respective roles in investigating his 2016 campaign and White House. And he cited Trump’s interventions to help his allies, Roger Stone and Michael Flynn.
“We’ve known from the time he was on the campaign trail, Trump wants to do that. He wants to use the Department of Justice against his enemies the same way Putin does. He literally ran on, “Lock her up!” Hayes recounted. “He tweeted at the first Attorney General Jeff Sessions all the time, time and time again, to investigate his political rivals. We know the president wanted James Comey prosecuted. We know that, thanks to the Washington Post, he hit the roof when they declined to prosecute Comey. According to the article” ‘Can you f-ing believe they didn’t,’ Trump reportedly said. And then Trump wanted Comey’s successor, acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, prosecuted because he opened up a counter-intelligence investigation into Russian interference into the election and the campaign’s possible ties, and also because his wife is a Democrat. That is some like real authoritarian stuff.”
Hayes then pulled up a Trump tweet from earlier on Friday, where the president boldly claimed the “legal right” to interfere in DOJ criminal prosecutions.
“The President has never asked me to do anything in a criminal case.” A.G. Barr This doesn’t mean that I do not have, as President, the legal right to do so, I do, but I have so far chosen not to!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 14, 2020
“Again, here’s the thing, in the most literal sense he is not wrong. There is nothing spelled out in the Constitution or spelled out in law that forbids this,” Hayes warned. “But that does not mean there is no check. The restraint, the thing stopping the president from doing whatever he wants are people. Mobilizing and organizing and calling switchboards of Congress and civil servants resigning inside the Department of Justice like those folks did and telling us what they know. Heck, people marching and protesting outside the Department of Justice if that’s what it takes, because the only thing to stop him is us.”
Watch the video above, via MSNBC.
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