Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
The opening credits of the Perry Mason television drama featured a statue of justice as a blindfolded woman raising aloft a pair of scales. This common visual metaphor captures the two critical dimensions of justice: balancing the punishment with the crime, and the equality of all under the law.
Four years ago the Obama administration and rogue partisans in the FBI and DOJ abused their powers in order to keep Donald Trump from being elected, and then to hamstring and sabotage his administration. Now we are nearing the end of the investigations into those crimes, and the truth long obvious to many will finally be confirmed. But if the verification of these crimes is not followed by indictments and the malefactors put on trial, our political system will be seriously damaged, and we citizens will lose faith in the integrity of our justice system and its role in protecting our political freedom
Like freedom, our view of justice as embodying fairness and balance has not been universal to all peoples. They may have had laws, but those laws were not necessarily just. Our notion of justice arises from the creation of constitutional states that first took form in ancient Greece. Before then, power over others was a personal possession of rulers based on their assumed superiority of wealth or birth, and as such was unaccountable to the masses. These rulers made the laws and enforced them, but they were not always subject to the same laws nor were they enforced fairly. Like governing, applying justice, then, was a function of the ruler’s status and privilege, or his alleged connection to the all-knowing gods. Justice, like political power, resided in men, not in laws equally applied.
The constitutional city-states of ancient Greece invented the transformational ideas that political power should be separated from flawed mortals and enshrined in laws and institutions that men managed and applied, but always remained the possession of the political community that outlived any particular man. By the time of the Athenian democracy, citizen males whether rich or poor, illiterate or educated, brought indictments against malefactors, made prosecution and defense speeches, and sat with several hundred “jurors” to adjudicate innocence or guilt, and determined the punishment. That they did so at times wrongly or corruptly, merely confirms their flawed humanity.
That responsibility and privilege of meting out justice given to all citizens reinforced their political equality and freedom. Our system avoids the excesses of the direct democracy of Athens by having professional judges and prosecutors, but they too are still accountable to the people through their elected representatives, or in some states directly through the ballot box. An important exercise of our freedom is to demand that justice, which can involve incarceration that takes away our freedom, be applied equally to all, and balanced with the offense. Anything else is tyranny.
We just saw an example of tyrannical “justice.” A state district court judge in Texas sentenced a salon owner to a week in jail because she opened her business so she and her employees could feed their families. She did not violate a law, but a proclamation from the governor to keep “non-essential” businesses closed. Such ad hoc proclamations are problematic because they frequently reflect subjective or arbitrary judgments of risk that are not based on reasonable, let alone scientific, evidence. Yet the judge in Texas imposed a draconian punishment for no reason other than the business-owner’s refusal to grovel before his authority and admit she was “selfish.” He violated the foundations of true justice––balancing the punishment to the offense, and applying it equally––which led to the woman losing her freedom until the state’s Supreme Court intervened.
Such distortions of justice characterize the lockdown orders issued mainly by blue-state governors. As insulting to the citizens’ freedom as those have been, more serious is the corruption of the Obama administration, especially his FBI and DOJ, that began in the last days of his second term. The President of the United States became involved in a concerted partisan effort to damage the campaign of his potential successor. After Trump was elected, deep-state operatives continued to undermine his administration for four years, spawning a two-year illicit investigation by a special counsel, and preposterous Articles of Impeachment from the Democrat-controlled House. All were riddled with violations of investigatory laws and protocols ranging from the fraudulent FISA court warrants to the withholding of exculpatory evidence.
This attack on President Trump by partisan members of executive agencies of which he is the head has serially demonstrated the corruption of the two prerequisites of true justice: balance and equality under the law. The hounding of Michael Flynn is perhaps the most egregious deformation of true justice. The pretext for investigating him, that he violated the archaic Logan Act, was facially absurd. As the incoming National Security Advisor, speaking with the Russian ambassador was unexceptional, indeed required of his position. That conversation was recorded, as all such contacts are, and then Flynn and others mentioned in the talk were illegally “unmasked.” Even though FBI agents said Flynn didn’t lie, the FBI still set a “perjury trap” with questions about the conversation that they already knew the contents of, and that was perfectly legal. The FBI slyly discouraged Flynn from having a lawyer present, and presto, an American hero who had served his country in war and peace was now a criminal sentenced to prison after having been bankrupted paying for his defense.
Justice was seriously violated because Flynn, though innocent, was treated much differently than many other people who actually committed crimes. The most egregious of whom is Hillary Clinton, who clearly is guilty of using a private server to transmit classified information, which constitutes a felony. For that crime, she was questioned unsworn, with her two lawyers present, both of which would have been material witnesses in any prosecution. Clinton’s “bleaching” of the server and destruction of tens of thousands of emails, which constitutes obstruction of justice, were matters of indifference to James Comey’s FBI. So much for equality under the law and punishment balancing the crime.
So Clinton committed crimes and went scot-free, while Flynn did not commit the crime of lying to the FBI (which Obama seems to think is “perjury”), and underwent the ordeal of having his son threatened, his savings wiped out, and his reputation besmirched, as were other victims like Carter Page. The DOJ has asked the court to vacate the case against Flynn, and that happened only because Donald Trump became president and appointed an Attorney General who understands what true justice is.
Numerous other examples from this corrupt scheme likewise illustrate the violation of justice. Flynn did not commit lie to the FBI and suffered like Jean Valjean, while agency functionaries like James Clapper, John Brennan, and Andrew McCabe lied under oath with impunity. FISA warrants marred with 17 violations were based on the transparently bogus Russian kompromat known as the Steele Dossier paid for by the Clinton campaign and the DNC––facts the petitioners did not reveal to the court––all for dubious partisan purposes that required treating some people differently from others. So far, these violations have gone unpunished except for a few miscreants getting “fired,” which means pulling down a cushy federal pension while enjoying an equally cushy gig with MSNBC.
When such offenses committed by “public servants” sworn to uphold the Constitution go unpunished, our whole political order that protects our freedom is compromised. When justice that is supposed to be blind and balanced becomes corrupted by inequality and excesses, the equality of all free citizens before the law is endangered, for then, to paraphrase Orwell, some pigs are more free and equal than others, hollowing out and weakening those critical political goods. After all, that same sort of corruption provided the offenses that justified the American Revolution in the Declaration of Independence, the bulk of which is a catalogue of George III’s unjust violations of the colonists’ rights, “a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.”
Similarly, the “soft” tyranny of concentrated power created by our technocratic “managerial elite” is the aim of those who would not accept the legal election of Donald Trump, and who continue trying to damage his administration and forestall his reelection. For such ruling class, true justice must give way to “social justice,” a mask for the further concentration of power at the expense of our liberty. This warping of justice is camouflaged by its claims to eradicate inequality, racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, and other crimes they have hung on Donald Trump and his supporters. But like all tyranny, it’s really all about power.
Over the last few years we’ve seen Justice stripped of her blindfold, and her scales tampered with. As for their victims, the perpetrators and their media hirelings respond as the Gallic chieftain Brennus did to the Romans when they protested the crooked scales that he was using to weigh out the tribute they owed. Throwing his sword on the scales, he sneered, “Vae victis!”––To hell with the conquered.
If we want to avoid becoming a world where sheer power determines justice, all these investigations must end with indictments, trials, and condign punishment in order to hold the malefactors accountable, and deter future ones. But if they are left unpunished, then we will find ourselves increasingly living in a world where justice is not blind, and all are not equal under the law.