In the A Block of MSNBC's Morning Joe on Thursday, co-host Joe Scarborough suggested that we need to reconsider how the attorney general is appointed. In the B Block, he got specific and also offered some other norm-busting proposals, all in the name of saving norms.
Scarborough's opposition to Attorney General William Barr led him to have, "been thinking about the attorney general position for quite some time." Barr's performance has been so awful, according to Scarborough, that he thinks the AG should be appointed for ten years, just like the FBI Director, or needs to be confirmed by a super-majority in the Senate. That position, while bad, because it would protect the Justice Department from accountability, were not even Scarborough's most outrageous suggestions.
Another one of his proposed "reforms" was to take the final say regarding classified information out of the hands of the President and put into that of the Intelligence Community. "If the president says it's not classified, then it's not classified. Wrong! That's the wrong answer!" Scarborough ranted. "And it's also wrong for the President of the United States to be a security risk when he's talking to Vladimir Putin."
What Scarborough either wittingly or unwittingly just suggested would be to criminalize foreign policy. As the system stands right now, the President, as head of the Executive Branch sets foreign policy. If you think his foreign policy is dangerous or even just stupid, you can vote him out of office. Scarborough's proposal would seem to say that whatever the un-elected, and therefore unaccountable, IC thinks is more important than the voters. Scarborough may have good reasons to not like Trump's rhetoric towards Putin, but in the name of saving norms, he just proposed criminalizing a policy difference. That is not the way to save democratic norms. If the IC does not like the President, in a free country, they should either work with him to change his mind or resign in protest and explain to the public why they did so.
Scarborough suggested "conservative jurist" George Conway be part of a "constitutional review" to lead these changes which even the rest of the Morning Joe cast found somewhat humorous, but Scarborough insisted "No, I'm dead serious." He suggested Conway and former acting Solicitor General and current Georgetown Professor of National Security Law Neal Katyal, "get together and figure out what doesn't work when you have somebody that is a would be tyrant in the White House?"
Trump is such a tyrant that Barr said at his press conference that Trump will not be envoking executive privilege over the parts where "the White House voluntarily cooperated with the Special Counsel’s investigation." But Scarborough's "conservative" plan to combat such tyranny would be to create excessively powerful and largely unaccountable law enforcement and intelligence bureaucracies.
Here is a transcript of the April 18 show:
6:34 AM ET
JOE SCARBOROUGH: Well, we've talked about checks and balances, we've talked about again, I've been thinking about the attorney general position for quite some time. That is actually, there are some things because there are people like myself that said, “oh, the institutions will hold, the institutions are fine,” the institutions have held thus far but that's because good men and women stood up at the right time, including Jeff Sessions when he recused himself.
MICHAEL STEELE: Right
SCARBOROUGH: The attorney general, Mr. Barr, is now proving there are people that go in that are so craven for power that they actually will blow up constitutional norms. So whether you're looking at the attorney general possibly being selected like the FBI for ten years and I would say even by a supermajority of the United States Senate, whether you're talking about a new way to look at these security clearances, there has to be a new way to look at the security clearances. We have to stop saying whatever the president says is declassified is declassified because after attacking Hillary Clinton throughout an entire campaign, for sending e-mails that might have been classified, he just blabs to the foreign minister of Russia and just blabs.
STEELE: Take a look at this
SCARBOROUGH: And every time he does something reckless and irresponsible that concerns the intelligence community, everybody goes, well, if the president says it's not classified, then it's not classified. Wrong. That's the wrong answer. Presidents should be indicted, democratic or Republican presidents. You can't shoot somebody in Fifth Avenue and ride it out. You can't be in a position where if he's not re-elected, he may be sent to jail by the Southern District of New York or indicted but if he is re-elected and if he commits crimes being re-elected, he still can't be indicted. Wrong. And it's also wrong for the President of the United States to be a security risk when he’s talking to Vladimir Putin. For us to go, “Oh if the President says its declassified then it becomes declassified” -- there are a system of checks and balances that need to be in place. We had a 9/11 Commission. We need a constitutional I don't want to say convention because that will suggest something--
STEELE: Don't do that!
SCARBOROUGH: I don't want to be the state of California. We need a constitutional review by brilliant Republican and Democratic, conservative, liberal scholars a can look at it. I appoint George Conway to run the whole thing. No, I’m dead serious. He’s a conservative jurist and Neal Katyal. They get together and figure out what doesn't work when you have somebody that is a would be tyrant in the White House?