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Editorial: Justice has survived four years of Trump's assaults. It may not survive more.

Editorial: Justice has survived four years of Trump's assaults. It may not survive more.

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Barr and Trump

Attorney General William Barr listens as President Donald Trump speaks during a White House meeting last month. The relationship between Trump and Barr is fraying over the lack of splashy indictments so far in the Justice Department’s investigation into the origins of the Russia probe, according to people familiar with the matter.

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

Once again, a federal prosecutor assigned by Attorney General William Barr to improperly investigate President Donald Trump’s perceived enemies has come up empty. There will be no criminal charges from the probe of Obama-era officials for “unmasking” sources mentioned in intelligence documents. This probe, like others before it, was based entirely on Trump’s delusions of persecution and his autocratic instinct to punish political adversaries. How many of these snipe hunts have to come up empty before Barr stops abusing his office like this?

Most of it stems from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s connections with the 2016 Trump campaign. That probe confirmed extensive Russian contact with the campaign, concluded that Trump effectively obstructed justice and resulted in multiple felony charges against Trump associates. After all that, Trump and his enablers still claim the investigation was fraudulent — “The greatest political crime in the history of our country,” Trump has ludicrously dubbed it.

Barr, clearly doing Trump’s bidding, set out to “investigate the investigators” with multiple retaliatory probes. But it turns out that the paranoid fantasies of an unstable president can’t yet topple the structures of America’s justice system — even when backed by a sycophantic attorney general.

Last year, the Justice Department’s inspector general concluded the FBI was justified in opening the Russia investigation. Barr rejected that finding and pressed his hand-picked investigator, U.S. Attorney John Durham, to keep looking. Barr had promised to release Durham’s final report before the election — a clear violation of the Justice Department’s standing policy against potentially affecting election outcomes — but now says there will be no such release until later.

Ditto for U.S. Attorney John Bash, who Barr appointed to probe Obama administration officials who sought the identities of names redacted in intelligence reports (which is in fact a common practice). Sources confirmed this week that Bash’s report finds no wrongdoing.

All of this failure by federal legal officials to banana-republic Trump’s enemies into jail cells has prompted apoplectic reactions from Trump. In a series of blustery interviews and tweets, Trump attacked Barr (proving, once again, that selling one’s soul for this president is invariably a losing proposition) while basically admitting he has directly pressured Barr to indict Barack Obama, former Vice President Joe Biden and others. “He’s got all the information he needs,” Trump told an interviewer. “They want to get more, more, more, they keep getting more. I said, ‘You don’t need any more.’”

A president’s open use of the Justice Department to try to prosecute his political enemies is, on its face, worse than anything Trump and his cohorts have even accused the FBI of doing. Americans can take comfort in the fact that, so far, this campaign hasn’t worked. But expecting that dam to hold through another four years of Trumpian rule would be expecting too much.

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