Rand Paul spoke this morning in opposition to the judicial nomination of David Barron, a Justice Department lawyer who authored the memos justifying the assassination of Americans accused of terrorism. Citing the opinions that Barron wrote in the memos, Paul emphasized three main objections to the nomination. The first objection was that Barron’s argument dramatically lowers the bar for finding Americans guilty of a capital offense, which abandons the traditional presumption that the accused is innocent until proven guilty. Second, instead of having to prove the guilt of the accused beyond a reasonable doubt, the accusation by itself will now suffice to justify a citizen’s execution. The last objection was that due process is being completely abandoned when the decision to order the killing of a citizen is a secret one made inside the executive branch. Paul made a point of saying that constitutional protections ought to be extended even when we assume that the accused has committed treason. He likened this to First Amendment protections for speech that we find abhorrent, and repeatedly asked if Americans would have the courage to uphold constitutional protections for people accused of heinous crimes. He expressed his horror at the idea that the government can execute a non-combatant citizen without trial, and vehemently objected to approving a lifetime appointment for someone who authored opinions justifying such a policy.
Last night, the administration announced that it would release the memos Barron wrote, but as Paul noted this morning they will do so only after the vote on the nomination has taken place. Paul suggested that the vote be delayed until all the memos had been released, but we know that isn’t going to happen. Subsequent remarks by Sen. Wyden indicate that even those Democrats that might have been expected to oppose Barron’s nomination have been appeased by the administration’s decision not to appeal the 2nd Circuit Court’s ruling that it disclose the memos. So there will be a procedural vote on the nomination today, and the confirmation vote is expected to go ahead tomorrow. Sen. Paul has made a convincing case that the Barron nomination should be defeated, but unless something changes very quickly it seems likely that Barron will be confirmed.