Commentary: Forget ‘Contempt of Court,’ What About ‘Contempt of Public’?

by Roger Kimball


We have all heard about contempt of court and contempt of Congress. They are offenses for which one may be fined or jailed. But what about contempt of public? What’s the penalty for that?

I don’t know that you will find contempt of public in the statute books. If not I offer up the phrase free and for nothing to the bureaucrats who look after such things. I think it should be added to our vocabulary if not to our code of laws. It names a grievous assault on the community. By making a travesty of the rules and institutions that undergird our social life, contempt of public threatens to undermine that essential if often hard-to-define societal lubricant: trust.

We can see two blatant instances of contempt of public unfolding before our eyes even as I write. On Friday, our version of Darth Sidious, Merrick Garland, announced that he was appointing U.S. Attorney David Weiss as special counsel to investigate the slew of allegations of bribery accumulating like barnacles on the lumbering vessel that is the Biden family.

Garland said that he was elevating Weiss to special counsel status in order to give him a freer hand. Henceforth, the U.S. Attorney for Delaware would be able to carry on his work outside Delaware, focusing, for example, on California, where Hunter Biden lived when many of the alleged misdeeds occurred.

That sounds good on paper. But really it is just hooey. Indeed, Weiss’s appointment as special counsel was a multifaceted act of contempt of public. In the first place, as was widely pointed out as Garland made his announcement, appointing Weiss was improper because special counsels are supposed to come from outside the government. Weiss, a sitting U.S. Attorney, is very much inside the government. An uncharitable observer might even say that he is inside the pocket of Merrick Garland, who in turn has snuggled deeply into the fleece of Biden, Inc. In any event, you don’t have to be uncharitable, merely accurate, to say that David Weiss is ineligible to be a special counsel.

Of course AG Garland knew this, just as he had to know that he would instantly be called out on it by the battalion of legal eagles swarming over and dissecting his every statement. He knew, but he didn’t care. Why? Because he assumes he will pay no penalty for his exhibition of contempt. He never has in the past. Why should this time be different?

Garland’s contempt of public goes far beyond the technical matter of appointing someone who is ineligible for the job. His scorn for the public he is supposed to be serving is on more flagrant view when we consider David Weiss’s history with Hunter Biden.  He has been investigating — or, rather, he has been “investigating” — Hunter Biden for the past five years. As has been widely observed, during that time he slow walked the investigation — hence my scare quotes around the word — to such an extent that the statute of limitations has wheeled into view on many of the charges.

Moreover, it was Weiss who presided over the sweetheart deal to end all sweetheart deals for Hunter. He was supposed to be prosecuting the case. In fact, it would be closer to the truth to say he was burying it. The full measure of sugar he shoveled into the deal is something that became known only accidentally thanks to an attentive judge. The world knew that Hunter was escaping any jail time for his tax and felony gun crimes. We discovered that the deal also immunized Hunter against future indictment only because Judge Maryellen Noreika, who presided in the case, actually read the deal and had the gumption to say, “Hey, what’s this?

By keeping David Weiss on the case of Hunter, and by elevating him to the status of special counsel, Merrick Garland has once again spit in the face of the public. It is worth noting, however, that his contempt of public does not operate only in hush-hush mode, working to exonerate and protect friends of the regime. It also works in attack mode, to destroy the regime’s enemies.

We see contempt of public all around us. I have several times mentioned the case of John Eastman, a distinguished Constitutional authority whose tort was offering his client, Donald Trump, the best legal advice he could. But of course that is but one case among many. For several years now, we have been witnessing what amounts to the Sovietization of America. The most astonishing instance is the regime’s vendetta against Donald Trump. It is an entertainment that has had many changes in the supporting cast — James Comey giving way to Robert Mueller giving way to Liz Cheney giving way to Alvin Bragg giving way to Jack Smith.

Hardly a week goes by, it seems, without Trump being indicted yet again. New York, Georgia, Florida, Washington, D.C. Where will it end? It seems that wherever Trump has alighted, a wild anti-Trump judge or DA or prosecutor is waiting for him. In Washington, a town that votes more than 95 percent Democratic, Trump is up against an ostentatiously hostile judge called Tanya Chutkan. So far, his requests for a change of venue and a call on the obviously biased judge to recuse herself have fallen on deaf ears. At this point it is not at all clear how the story will play out. Will Judge Chutkan issue a gag order? Will she place Trump under pre-trial detainment? We don’t know.

What is clear, however, is that this rough beast called contempt of public is growing bolder and more indiscriminate. It is entirely possible that Donald Trump will win the nomination, and then the election, from jail. That would be some recompense — what Trump himself might call “retribution” — for these serial acts of contempt of public since doubtless one of his first acts on assuming office would be to pardon himself.

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Roger Kimball is editor and publisher of The New Criterion and the president and publisher of Encounter Books. He is the author and editor of many books, including The Fortunes of Permanence: Culture and Anarchy in an Age of Amnesia (St. Augustine’s Press), The Rape of the Masters (Encounter), Lives of the Mind: The Use and Abuse of Intelligence from Hegel to Wodehouse (Ivan R. Dee), and Art’s Prospect: The Challenge of Tradition in an Age of Celebrity (Ivan R. Dee).
Photo “US Attorney David Weiss” by US Attorney’s Office and “Joe Biden” is by Adam Fagen CC-NC-2.0


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