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It’s astonishing that so many people, primarily critics of President Donald Trump and his administration, express shock or at least feign it that Attorney General William Barr has been vigorously defending the president in the wake of the report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, including his recent testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee and subsequent television interviews.

Their lamentation that Barr is serving as defense counsel for the president, rather than acting as “The People’s Lawyer,” is either the height of naivete or a misunderstanding of the federal government system.

The attorney general is a political appointee of the president, subject to confirmation by the Senate. He serves at his pleasure. He gives advice and counsel to him and the various government agencies and other entities, officials and employees and represents them in legal proceedings. He is a member of the administration and of the president’s Cabinet. He is even in line for succession to the presidency in the event of a vacancy, seventh in order.

In nearly all states, including Minnesota, attorneys general are elected officials like Minnesota’s Keith Ellison. He or his counterparts can accurately be characterized as “The People’s Lawyer.”

But it is a misnomer to cast the president’s appointed head of the Justice Department as some sort of consumer watchdog or ombudsman.

While the attorney general, to be sure, has a duty to follow the law and reflect fidelity to the Constitution, it’s wishful thinking to view the position in this administration or any other, for that matter, as taking on the character of a champion of the “people.”

There should perhaps be such a position, or more, in the federal government, but it’s not this one. Those throwing barbs at Barr should get realistic and not create more myths in a situation that already abounds with them.

Marshall H. Tanick, Minneapolis

The writer is a constitutional law attorney.

MUELLER REPORT

Written for us, it’s our duty to read it

I’ve gotten many questions from my fellow citizens who spotted me carrying the Mueller report.

Last night I finished reading the report. In answer to the questions I got from my fellow citizens: Yes. Yes, it was good. Yes, I learned a lot. Yes, it is very much worth reading.

And yes, it was very telling. Surprisingly telling. Appallingly telling. I thought I learned a lot from Volume I, until I read Volume II.

You asked me what I think. Here’s one thing I think: I encourage you read the Mueller report yourself. Read it to the end, even the footnotes in tiny print. Make up your own mind. We are the people Mueller wrote the report for. It’s part of citizenship to read it.

Sue Plaster, Edina

PLACE NAMES

Let historians guide naming choices

I am neutral on the renaming of Lake Calhoun. However, after reading Gary Bruggemann’s fact-filled commentary (“Fort Snelling name offers insight,” May 17), I have a suggestion for all local and national committees contemplating changes in traditional geographical and public places or symbolic art and statuary: Invite at least one historian to serve on the deliberating board.

Mary Ritten, Minneapolis

• • •

The commentary defending the names Calhoun and Fort Snelling was full of interesting historical tidbits but missed the deeper truth that a great crime happened in this area. Using indigenous names to refer to these places is one small gesture toward acknowledging this truth.

Matthew Byrnes, Minneapolis

GAS TAX

Gas prices fluctuated on my short trip, but none went to Minn. roads

On Friday, May 17, I drove from Maplewood to North Branch, Minn. The price of unleaded gas went up exactly 20 cents in that short span of 50 minutes.

The three counties, several towns and the state of Minnesota did not receive one penny of that increase to fix any portion of that road or all the others leading to it (The Minnesota Legislature’s budget deal did not include Gov. Tim Walz’s proposed gas tax hike; “Compromise is imperfect, welcome,” May 20).

My efficient car used two gallons of gas for the round trip. I would have gladly paid 40 cents more for that trip to keep the roads smooth and safe.

Charlotte Brooker, Maplewood

ABORTION

Right to life, with the death penalty?

Some of the states with greatly restrictive abortion laws: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio. Some of the states that support the death penalty: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio. Any incongruity there?

Mary Markes, Apple Valley

• • •

A recent letter writer counsels Democrats, “don’t take the bait” as to some Southern state legislatures’ recognition of prenatal human life (“Democrats, don’t take the bait here,” May 18). The writer contends that, actually, the issue is “not about ‘life,’ ” but about “control of women” and Republicans getting elected in 2020.

Human life begins at conception. Denial of this fact conveys a lack of education and/or ideological delusion.

The issue is a simple one. Does a human have the right to take the life of another human?

Gene Delaune, New Brighton

TRASH PICKUP

Thank you and goodbye to a beloved neighborhood business

I was saddened to read of the closing of Ken Berquist & Son Disposal trash-hauling service, especially the nastiness and stress at the end that accompanied it for the owners (“Kicked to the curb by change,” May 19). I was one of their customers, choosing to leave a large, out-of-state company that had given me poor customer service and changed its rates frequently without warning.

I was in favor of organized trash hauling but mightily hoped I would get the Berquists assigned to my neighborhood. Whenever I called them, which was not often because their service was near flawless, they were kind, friendly and helpful. Unfortunately, I did not get their business assigned to my neighborhood.

I hope Jim, Bonnie and Mike Berquist can find peace with this closing and know they ran a superb business, and that the sour taste of the debacle they experienced will be sweetened by knowing they were much appreciated by their long-time customers.

Karen Jeffords-Brown, St. Paul

CLEAN STREETS

A runner with an armful of trash

This morning as I strolled down my neighborhood street, a jogger casually ran by me with an armful of dirty plastic bottles and grimy wrappers. I can only surmise that he had picked them up off the street as he ran.

To my neighbor — and everyone else who selflessly picks up garbage in an effort to keep our city a little more beautiful — I say thank you.

Jack Uldrich, Minneapolis