Bush’s AG tells GOP what it needs to hear about ‘weaponization’

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Bush’s AG tells GOP what it needs to hear about ‘weaponization’

Alberto Gonzales’ tenure as U.S. attorney general was tough to defend. The Brennan Center for Justice’s Andrew Cohen, during his time as CBS News’ chief legal analyst, wrote in 2007, “By any reasonable standard, the Gonzales Era at the Justice Department is void of almost all redemptive qualities. He brought shame and disgrace to the Department.”

A year later, Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick added that Gonzales helped create a Justice Department in which “politics sometimes had no end.”

Nevertheless, Gonzales remained quite popular with Republicans, even after he left George W. Bush’s cabinet, which makes his latest Washington Post op-ed all the more notable.

The former attorney general, whose reputation as a traditional GOP partisan has never been questioned, explained that he’s “recently heard from friends and former colleagues whom I trust and admire, people of common sense and strong values, who say that our justice system appears to be stacked against Trump and Republicans in general, that it favors liberals and Democrats, and that it serves the interests of the Democratic Party and not the Constitution.”

Gonzales wants those who believe this to know that they’re mistaken.

Let’s set aside the fact that three independent grand juries of Americans — not just three prosecutors — have indicted one Republican politician, Trump, for a variety of crimes. All crimes are important to the victims. The crimes alleged in the most recent indictment appear to be the most serious, because if they are true, then Trump engaged in crimes against democracy — crimes against millions of voters in this country. Scores of Americans who participated in the Jan. 6 riots have been held accountable. It stands to reason that the person who urged them to go to the Capitol and who stood the most to gain from interfering with the electoral count should also be held accountable.

His op-ed for the Post proceeded to advise Republicans feeling aggrieved by Donald Trump’s intensifying legal jeopardy to “carefully review the facts of the cases against him rather than assuming conspiracies. I urge them to at least be open to considering that the problem may rest with Trump rather than the prosecution of him for his alleged crimes.”

Or put another way, partisans assuming the former president is being persecuted might need to consider the possibility that he’ll be proven guilty.

Those who read my work during the Bush/Cheney era know that I had more than a few concerns about Gonzales’ work at Main Justice, and my point is not to reassess those earlier criticisms, which I continue to believe were valid.

Rather, what strikes me as significant is that Gonzales is pushing back against misguided Republican assumptions. Much of the GOP is absolutely convinced that federal law enforcement has not only been politicized, but has been turned into a partisan “weapon,” used by rascally Democrats and liberals to target innocent, unsuspecting conservatives who are being punished for no reason.

These absurd beliefs are wholly unsupported by evidence, but the challenge is identifying voices Republicans might find credible on the subject. It’s against this backdrop that Gonzales is stepping up in support of reality.

I don’t know if GOP officials and voters will listen to the former attorney general, but on this issue, they clearly should.

Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer for “The Rachel Maddow Show,” the editor of MaddowBlog and an MSNBC political contributor. He’s also the bestselling author of “The Impostors: How Republicans Quit Governing and Seized American Politics.”

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