If Justice Department employees are no longer seen as something separate in American life, we are all less safe. If jurors, judges, victims, witnesses, cops and sheriffs come to see them as part of a political tribe, and so trust them less, something essential is lost.
Now, one person, Attorney General William P. Barr, threatens the reservoir of trust. From the beginning, this attorney general has echoed the president, aping his dishonest characterizations of the department’s work and appearing to respond to President Trump’s self-interested demands for new investigations and prosecutions. And the water began draining. Last week, it started gushing out when the attorney general intervened in a case involving one of the president’s friends to overrule the sentencing recommendation of career prosecutors.
I have heard Barr say he doesn’t care about his legacy. Maybe not, but he should care about the reservoir. The people of Justice depend upon it. He should care enough about them — and the rest of us — to protect this vital American asset. The reputation of the Justice Department is more important than any of us, even an angry, vindictive president.