Now that Attorney General Bill Barr has released the Mueller report, there is a great hue and cry from Democrats.
They gripe that the attorney general redacted the material gathered by the special counsel’s grand jury.
Of course, the attorney general is following the law — grand jury proceedings, including all evidence and testimony presented before them, are secret. And for good reason.
By demanding the release of grand jury material, Democrats are asking the attorney general to violate the law, and are doing violence to an important bulwark that protects Americans from abuse by an all-powerful government.
Democrats used to care about civil liberties. But in their blind pursuit of power and political advantage over President Trump they have learned nothing and forgotten everything.
It wasn’t that long ago the shoe was on the other foot and Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr’s grand jury was investigating President Clinton.
The independent counsel was required by law to produce a report. Democrats adamantly opposed releasing Starr’s report, chock full of salacious details.
They lost that particular fight, and following that debacle, Democrats relegated the office of the independent counsel with its public reports to the dustbin of history. Going forward in its stead, a “special” counsel would write a confidential report that would only be seen by the attorney general.
But now, the Democrats reverse course again and seek to end grand jury secrecy. Such a move would be devastating to the privacy rights of all Americans.
The grand jury differs in important ways from other juries, and represents a departure from the adversarial system that underlies American justice.
Unlike a regular jury, grand juries don’t hear both sides of a case. They only hear what the prosecutor wants them to hear. Prosecutors present witnesses before the grand jury to make the case they want to make. They lay out evidence as they see fit, then ask the grand jury to issue an indictment and bring charges against the defendant.
The witnesses the prosecutor presents to the grand jury are not cross-examined. There are no defense witnesses, nor are there defense attorneys present during grand jury proceedings. In many states, prosecutors are not required to present the grand jury with exculpatory evidence they have that would clear the defendant.
And there is a further departure from the norms we expect in the American criminal justice system.
Common criminals arrested for the most heinous crimes are told they have the right to remain silent, they have the right to an attorney and that anything they say can and will be used against them (the so-called Miranda warning).
Not so with witnesses before a grand jury. They cannot have their attorneys with them when they are being questioned, and they are never told they have the right to remain silent.
You can see how witnesses could easily be tripped up and end up saying something that results with them being charged with perjury or worse. They could be accused of crimes though they never had the chance to cross-examine their accusers.
Grand jury testimony could include all manner of hearsay, unverified rumors and even false allegations against innocent persons. That’s precisely why it’s kept secret.
Justice demands prosecutors not expose damaging information against someone who’s not charged with a crime.
And again, Democrats used to understand this. They used to lead the fight against overzealous prosecutors who abuse grand juries.
“The misuse of the grand jury process by prosecutors in the office of Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr has again focused the spotlight on the need to protect ordinary Americans from this key facet of the criminal justice system that is so rife with abuse,” wrote Gerald Lefcourt, a noted liberal criminal defense attorney who defended the Black Panthers and served as president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. (Lefcourt is no fan of Trump or Barr.)
Today, congressional Democrats behave like the prosecutors they used to criticize. They seek to exploit special counsel Robert Mueller’s grand jury for their own political ends and do away with safeguards that protect Americans from abuse.
By dispensing with the presumption of innocence, the privacy rights of Americans and even the electoral college, Democrats’ scorched earth policy against President Trump threatens our entire legal and constitutional system.
Kimberly Guilfoyle (@KimGuilfoyle) is vice chairwoman of America First Policies, a nonprofit organization supporting key policy initiatives that will work for all citizens in our country and put America first.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.