— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) June 9, 2021
Shaub is probably referring to the likes of senators Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema, and possibly Jacky Rosen. But someone closer to President Biden should be included among the "institutionalists in DC who think things worked before Trump (and) the cure for his abuses is to behave according to pre-Trump norms," thus "showing up to a 21st century battle with muskets."
The Washington Post reported that the Justice Department on May 28 asked
a federal judge to dismiss lawsuits against former president Donald Trump, former attorney general William P. Barr and other officials for last June’s violent clearing of demonstrators from Lafayette Square by U.S. military and police....
Lawyers for the ACLU said that despite legal precedents, the government’s defense would “authorize brutality with impunity” in the heart of Washington at one of the most symbolic spaces within the seat of the federal government.
Protesters in Lafayette Square, we may recall, were violently removed as Donald Trump staged a photo-op while holding a Bible, awkwardly and uncomfortably, in front of a church. Former federal prosecutor Paul Butler recently explained that the action was vigorously defended by then-Attorney General Bill Barr who, approximately thirteen months earlier, had
prepared a four-page letter purportedly describing the report’s “principal conclusions” that the Trump campaign did not collude with Russia and that Mueller would not charge Trump with obstruction of justice. Barr added that the facts contained in the report provided insufficient evidence of obstruction, and that in reaching this conclusion he had consulted with DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel.
In response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking the materials that Barr relied on, federal District Judge Amy Berman Jackson issued an opinion finding that Barr had been “disingenuous” when describing Mueller’s findings and ordered the release of the Office of Legal Counsel memo. Justice Department lawyers, under Barr, had objected to releasing the document on the basis of attorney-client privilege, but Jackson found that memo contained “strategic, as opposed to legal advice,” designed to support Barr’s determination to absolve Trump.
The judge characterized the Justice Department arguments against release as “so inconsistent with evidence in the record, they are not worthy of credence.” That’s actually a cogent description of the Trump administration’s approach to many issues; one might have expected the new sheriff in town to support the judge’s rebuke of the corrupt old regime. But Garland’s DOJ is standing by Barr’s DOJ — it released a heavily redacted version of the memo and is appealing Jackson’s order to provide the entire document to the public
And two days ago, The Daily Beast reported
In June 2019, New York magazine published an excerpt of (E. Jean) Carroll’s book in which she accused Trump of raping her inside a dressing room at the high-end Bergdorf Goodman department store in Manhattan sometime around 1995. Trump denied ever meeting Carroll, then later told The Hill: “Number one, she’s not my type. Number two, it never happened.” Carroll sued for defamation in New York state court.
The Justice Department, then led by Trump loyalist Bill Barr, moved the case to federal court, where it tried to push a legal theory arguing that the government can’t be sued for libel or slander and that therefore Trump is shielded because he’s a government employee—and was speaking out against Carroll in his official capacity as president.
In a filing with the Second Circuit Court on Monday, the Justice Department argued
Speaking to the public and the press on matters of public concern is undoubtedly part of an elected official’s job... the specific conduct need not constitute an act of ‘public service’ to be within scope” of employment that would grant him the federal government’s protection.
In her statement on Monday night, Carroll's attorney, Roberta Kaplan, noted
The DOJ’s position is not only legally wrong, it is morally wrong since it would give federal officials free license to cover up private sexual misconduct by publicly brutalizing any woman who has the courage to come forward.
Moreover, Trump's denials should not be legally protected because, as Kaplan recognized, they were "not the official act of an American President."
A few years after Richard Nixon in disgrace resigned the presidency because of the Watergate scandal, he told interviewer David Frost "when the President does it, that means it's not illegal." Decades later, Will Bunch would remind us "Those words were largely seen by the American public -- which continued to hold the ex-president in low esteem -- as a symbol of his unbowed arrogance."
Nowadays, a President doesn't himself have to claim unlimited power. He has attorneys for the Department of Justice to do it for him. William Barr fulfilled that role aggressively. Merrick Garland does it somewhat more subtly and respectably. Nonetheless, President Biden thus far seems to have the kind of Attorney General who will find no action he takes to be indefensible.