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Opinion

Opinion: Do Barr, Pompeo and Giuliani share a death wish?

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and President Trump outside the Oval Office in 2018.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and President Trump outside the Oval Office in 2018.
(Andrew Harnik / Associated Press )

Atty. Gen. William Barr, who is deeply embroiled in the Trump-Ukraine affair, doesn’t care about his place in history. “I’m at the end of my career,” he told Jan Crawford of CBS in March. “Everyone dies.”

Rudolph Giuliani, the president’s fixer, who is even more deeply embroiled in the Trump-Ukraine affair, is likewise indifferent. “I don’t care about my legacy,” he told the New Yorker last month. “I’ll be dead.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, 55, who is especially embroiled in the Trump-Ukraine affair, also has his eye on an End Times cleansing. “It is a never-ending struggle,” he told a Kansas church group, describing his work for the president. “Until the Rapture.”

Poets have envisioned death in thousands of ways. Clouds, worms, reunions, virgins and more. But Barr, Giuliani and Pompeo — each in the midst of a distinct moral crisis — may have a new one. Death as sweet, sweet liberation from congressional oversight.

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Let me propose an epitaph, suitable for any of these men when the time comes: “He’s gone where subpoenas can lacerate his heart no more.”

But if these men are counting on death to end their sea of troubles, the House doesn’t intend to give them that chance. With every letter or subpoena, Congress is demanding that these men stop daydreaming about oblivion or ecstatic union with Jesus and do what’s right in the here and now.

“Our inquiry includes an investigation of credible allegations that you acted as an agent of the president in a scheme to advance his personal political interests by abusing the power of the office of the president,” three Democratic House chairmen wrote in a letter to Giuliani. Giuliani has yet to reply.

Barr, who has already been held in contempt of Congress for defying an earlier subpoena, has been hard at work in Ukraine, Italy, Australia and the U.K., reportedly pursuing some cockamamie plan to show that the “deep state” is out to get Trump. He seems unlikely to break his pattern of cowardly silence about Trump’s obvious misconduct, but we’ll see.

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For his part, Pompeo, in a Tuesday letter to the chairmen of the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees said he felt bullied, and thus refused to authorize five State Department officials to testify before Congress on the Trump-Ukraine matter. The chairmen issued a statement: This stonewalling by Pompeo “is illegal and will constitute evidence of obstruction.”

At the same time, two of the five officials — Kurt Volker, a former administration envoy to Ukraine, and Marie Yovanovitch, former ambassador to Ukraine — evidently did not feel bullied. They both plan to appear before the committees: Volker on Thursday, Yovanovitch on Oct. 11.

At least Pompeo, who has been nervous and hazy when discussing what he knows about Trump’s July “smoking gun” solicitation of Ukrainian help to smear his rival Joe Biden, finally came clean Wednesday.

“I was on the call,” he told reporters at an early press conference.

So Pompeo knows all. Nonetheless, Pompeo, Barr and Giuliani are still dodging their responsibilities. You’d think if they were right that Trump is blameless, and the call was as “perfect” and “beautiful” as the president says it was, they’d want to set the record straight for Congress. Or if they were patriots, they’d want to be loyal to the Constitution and answer questions by elected officials whose remit from the founders is oversight of executive behavior.

But nope.

Like eye-rolling juveniles whistling in the dark, Barr, Giuliani and Pompeo are acting like they don’t give a hang about the evidence that Trump used “the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election,” as the Aug. 12 whistleblower complaint puts it.

Bully for them for not caring. But the American people do care. As of this week, according to a CBS News poll, more than half support impeachment. Several high-profile Republicans have also shown they care. About the whistleblower. About Trump’s misconduct. About impeachment.

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Last week, every Republican in the Senate supported a resolution to get the whistleblower’s complaint released to Congress. On Wednesday, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) added that the whistleblower, whom Trump has savaged as a liar and a spy, “ought to be heard out and protected.”

Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is often willing to break with protocol when it serves his party, told CNBC he’d put Trump on trial in the Senate if the House impeaches him.

Some Republicans have gone even further. Former Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) said in an op-ed Monday that the “president has abused the power of his office to pressure a foreign government to go after a political opponent.” Furthermore, Flake told an interviewer that a jaw-dropping 35 Republicans in the Senate would vote to convict Trump, if they were allowed to vote by secret ballot — and thus avoid any reprisals from the GOP base.

Now that the U.S. is convulsed by Congress’ impeachment inquiry — the president’s evident violations of the U.S. Constitution have become a kitchen-table issue — it’s important to understand that Trump has a trio of key henchmen enabling his abuses of power. So let’s say their names again: Barr, Giuliani and Pompeo.

These three can talk about hearsay all they want. They can slam the whistleblower. But the record of the call that Trump himself released is the game, folks. He used the power of his office for personal gain, not national interests.

That ought to be enough to make a person with even a dash of scruples take moral stock. But Barr, Giuliani and Pompeo are equivocating, bloviating, extenuating, stammering and otherwise gunning for more trouble. They better hope the Rapture comes this quarter, or they might have to start caring.

Twitter: @page88


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