As a society, we all generally agree that if a law is broken, it is enforced with a penalty. However, what happens when the person responsible for being the driving force behind the laws we’ve all agreed upon can’t be trusted to enforce laws that are meant to protect us from corruption?
October 20, 1973, President Richard Nixon ordered Attorney General Elliot Richardson to fire the Watergate special prosecutor, Archibald Cox. On March 10, 2004, President George W. Bush’s White House counsel pressured Attorney General John Ashcroft to sign an extension on the president’s domestic surveillance program from Ashcroft’s hospital bed while still in intensive care. Today we have Attorney General Jeff Sessions who had to recuse himself from an investigation conducted by the Justice Department of President Trump, because (intentionally or not) Sessions failed to disclose the number of contacts he had with Russian officials.
In 1973 Attorney General Richardson resigned in protest against Nixon’s order to fire Special Counsel Archibald Cox. In 2004, with the support of then DeputyAttorney General James Comey and FBI Director Robert Muller, Attorney General Ashcroft refused to sign the extension. As for Attorney General Sessions today, we have a long way to go before we can look back, learn, and adapt.
That is the comfort of history, we know what happened, how it happened, and how we can change course. So, we know the Attorney General of the United States can be politically pressured to the point that their integrity and judgment can be compromised. So how do we learn and adapt from this? One solution currently exists in 43 states – having an Attorney General elected by the people.
Having an elected Attorney General of the United States means only the people can hire, or fire, the top law enforcement agent in the country. We cannot pretend that this solution would end all corruption, as we’ve seen with State Attorney Generals that were elected. This solution, however, means the Attorney General of the United States would no longer have to succumb to the whims of a president who does not see the Attorney General’s Office as being independent.
Good ideas can only be ignored for so long before the idea takes on a life of its own and leaves behind the stubborn like a rock covered in moss. It might be a difficult and a messy process to get off the ground, but as 43 states proved, it is possible to successfully make the Attorney General the people’s lawyer.