"You particularly have the legal branch of government trashing the law," says legal historian Stanley I. Kutler, author of the Nixon-tapes chronicle Abuse of Power. "The rule of law isn't applying to the rulers any longer."Mr. Kutler notes as well that this sort of core tampering with the separation of powers isn't exactly easy to reel back once it's been unleashed. "So am I supposed to think that Hillary will instantly bring my habeas corpus back?" Mr. Kutler asks. "For 40 years, I taught legal and constitutional history. I'm glad I'm no longer teaching. If I had to give one of those lectures today, I'd have to tell my students, 'This is all now bullshit.'"Veterans of past Justice Departments feel much the same outrage.
"When I joined the Justice Department in 1990," recalls Jonathan Shapiro, a former assistant U.S. attorney in Los Angeles, "there were still folks around who would tell you the story about how they lined the hallways to give Elliott Richardson a standing ovation when he left," after the then Attorney General resigned in protest over Richard Nixon's "Saturday Night Massacre" firing of Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox. "When I left the job in 1998, there was still the sense that it was verboten to fuck around the with the U.S. attorneys. No one had the brass to fire them for political motivations—it would look far too craven, partisan and dirty."
Occasional Reasonoid Chris Lehmann pens a side-splittingly informative (how often can you splice together those adjectives?) column on the U.S. Attorneys scandal for the New York Observer, dissecting DC's reaction and grilling legal experts on why the story matters.
Read Lehmann's Reason output here.