Attorney General William Barr is less independent of aspirant dictator Donald Trump than Nazi Germany’s first Justice Minister, Franz Gurtner, was of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. Barr has systematically turned the Justice Department into a political weapon designed to protect Trump from the Congress, the courts, and individual U.S. citizens exercising their rights under the Constitution. Barr has trashed the rule of law that has ensured that America’s system of democracy has prevailed since the birth of constitutional government.
Barr has interfered in the investigation and findings of special counsel Robert Mueller and his team of investigators, he tampered with the prosecution of Trump cronies Roger Stone and Michael Flynn, he misused the power of his department to represent Trump in a personal capacity arising from a sexual assault lawsuit, he has signaled that he will help Trump in forcing the 2020 election into the courts for a determination of the victor, and he has used his office to launch a vindictive use of federal prosecutors to dig up non-existent dirt on Trump’s political opponents, including Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Loretta Lynch, James Clapper, James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, and others.
In addition, Barr has sought grand jury approval for the production of communications records between former national security adviser John Bolton and his publisher, Simon & Schuster, in a criminal investigation of Bolton for allegedly leaking classified information in his book about his time inside the Trump White House. Barr has also stepped up to investigate other former White House staffers for violating unenforceable non-disclosure agreements required by Trump but not by any federal law or regulation.
Barr also ordered the U.S. Marshals Service to carry out the banana republic-style extrajudicial murder of Portland, Oregon Black Lives Matter protester Michael Reinoehl. On September 3, Reinoehl was shot without warning by a U.S. Marshals SWAT team near Lacey, Washington. Reinoehl was a suspect in the Portland shooting death of violent “Patriot Prayer” militia member Aaron Danielson, who was part of a caravan of armed Trump supporters who descended on Portland to confront Black Lives Matter protesters. Witnesses claim that Reinoehl shot Danielson in self-defense, but thanks to Barr, the facts will never be brought forth in a court of law. Trump also displayed his support for Danielson on Twitter.
Trump has refused to have his department’s Civil Rights Division investigate police shootings of innocent African-Americans. Nor has Barr investigated the abuse of detainees being held by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), including reports that a Georgia doctor has been performing unneeded hysterectomies and other experiments on female ICE detainees. Barr also fired the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York (SDNY), Geoffrey Berman, while he was conducting criminal investigations of Mr. Trump and members of his administration.
Gurtner, who was a right-wing nationalist and no sweetheart, started his career as Bavaria’s minister of justice in 1922. Gurtner allowed Adolf Hitler to dominate the courtroom in the 1924 Beer Hall Putsch trial, which saw Hitler found guilty of treason and attempting to overthrow the Bavarian government. Hitler was sentenced to five years in Landsberg Prison. Gurtner facilitated Hitler’s early release after eight months, the legalization of Hitler’s National Socialist German Workers’ Party and a resumption of Hitler’s public speeches.
In 1932, Gurtner was nominated as Reich minister of justice in the governments of Chancellors Franz von Papen and Kurt von Schleicher. In 1933, Gurtner was retained by Hitler. Curiously, on the day before the Reichstag fire, the false flag incident that Hitler blamed on the Communists but was actually carried out by Nazi arsonists, Gurtner proposed a bill that was almost as draconian in curbing civil liberties than was Hitler’s Reichstag Fire Decree, issued after the arson attack. Gurtner also ensured a compliant judiciary by ordering the merger of the old school and respected Association of German Judges with the new National Socialist Lawyers Association.
But Gurtner also, at times, tried to show his independence from the Nazi regime. Gurtner was not a member of the Nazi “old guard” (Alte Kämpfer). For example, Gurtner attempted to curb the SA (Nazi Stormtroopers) and the SS in carrying out extrajudicial executions, the type which Barr recently authorized to be carried against Mr. Reinoehl in Washington state.
Gurtner also tried to protect his ministry from the excesses committed by Hitler’s government and the minister insisted that only the courts could exact punishment on Hitler’s opponents, not the SS or Gestapo. Gurtner also protested the ill-treatment of prisoners at SA-run concentration camps in Wuppertal, Bredow, and Hohnstein. Gurtner feuded with SS Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler over the SS policy of Postenpflicht (“Duty of Guards”), which authorized concentration camp guards to summarily execute insubordinate prisoners. Gurtner stated that the treatment conducted on prisoners in the camps “reveals a brutality and cruelty in the perpetrators which are totally alien to German sentiment and feeling. Such cruelty, reminiscent of oriental sadism cannot be explained or excused by militant bitterness however great.”
Barr, to the contrary, has failed to lift a finger to prevent the abuse of ICE detainees at detention camps they or their contractors operate.
One judge, Lothar Kreyssig of Brandenburg, was forced to retire early by Gurtner after taking issue with the transfer of mentally retarded children and adults, all wards of Kreyssig, to certain “institutions.” Kreyssig discovered that these court-protected subjects were being exterminated pursuant to the Nazi’s “Operation Mercy Killing.” In July 1940 Kreyssig filed murder charges with the state attorney in Potsdam against Philipp Bouhler, the head of Hitler’s Chancellery and the euthanasia program. Kreyssig also ordered hospitals not to transfer any of his others wards without his permission. The mere fact that such a Gurtner-appointed judge even existed in Nazi Germany was noteworthy.
Gurtner also clashed with his deputy, Roland Freisler, the infamous “hanging judge” of post-Operation Valkyrie (the 1944 plot to kill Hitler) infamy, over the issue of Nazi racial purity laws, particularly the criminalization of sexual relationships between “Aryans” and “non-Aryans.” Gurtner saw action in World War I in Palestine, where he would have had contact with the Jewish population, then under Ottoman rule.
Eventually, Gurtner was unable to curb the power of the SS and Gestapo and he saw the Justice Ministry reduced to nothing more than a Nazi rubber stamp operation, exactly where the U.S. Justice Department is today under Barr. Unlike Barr, Gurtner at least protested, albeit sheepishly, Nazi control over his ministry. Conveniently for Hitler, Gurtner died at the age of 59 in Berlin on January 29, 1941. There was a widely-held belief at the time that Himmler ordered Gurtner’s assassination. Perhaps that was a fitting end for someone who legally justified the rampage of killings ordered by Hitler in the “Night of the Long Knives.”
What penance will be exacted upon the lawless Mr. Barr?
Previously published in the Wayne Madsen Report.
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Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist and nationally-distributed columnist. He is the editor and publisher of the Wayne Madsen Report (subscription required).