Bill Barr’s Balderdash

I know. In my last post I wrote that Attorney General William Barr is a political hack. But I hoped I was wrong. I really did hope the Mueller Report would reveal that Barr’s four page letter to Congress had been a fair representation, that the Mueller Report would put to rest accusations against Donald Trump and that the nation would get on with its business.

But those hopes were dashed even before Barr released a redacted version of the 448-page report on the Department of Justice web site.  A few hours ahead of the release Barr called a “news conference” to put his own spin, for the third time, on what reporters, members of the public and the Congress had yet to read. Barr’s repetition of the “no collusion,” “no obstruction” company line must have been music to Trump’s ears.

My last bit of writing attracted more than a few Trump trolls. The Russians must have been busy. But before I report my own first impressions, let me quote someone else:

Fox News anchor Chris Wallace said Attorney General William Barr sounded like a counselor to the president during his press conference Thursday ahead of the release of special counsel Robert Mueller‘s report.

“The attorney general seemed almost to be acting as the counselor for the defense, the counselor for the president, rather than the attorney general, talking about his motives, his emotions,” Wallace told “America’s Newsroom” anchors Bill Hemmer and Sandra Smith.

“Really, as I say, making a case for the president,” he added.

That’s right. Chris Wallace, Fox anchor as quoted on the Fox web site, not exactly a left wing channel.

And as to first impressions of the report itself:

WASHINGTON—Robert Mueller’s long-awaited report outlined efforts by President Trump to curtail or shut down his investigation, but it also made clear why the special counsel didn’t pursue charges of obstruction of justice and why contacts with Russians by the Trump campaign didn’t amount to a criminal conspiracy.

The 448-page report, released Thursday with portions redacted, follows a nearly two-year investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and ties to Mr. Trump’s campaign. Mr. Mueller, explaining in the report why he didn’t pursue a charge of obstruction against the president, cited in part Justice Department guidance that a sitting president can’t be indicted.

That is the opening of the story written by Aruna Viswanatha and Sadie Gurman, of The Wall Street Journal, also not a publication one associates with left wing sentiment. The report compliments the Journal’s running series of analytical reports, the last entry headlined, “Trump Tried to Influence Law Enforcement but Aides Refused to Carry Out Orders, Report Says.”

Those are Trump’s right leaning champions!

I beg you, go read the damn thing. Get it here. Its free. It scrolls on your screen. You can take all the time you want. Don’t listen to me or to any of the talking heads or fingers. Make up your own mind. My biggest fear is that this report fails to change anyone’s mind, mostly because people are getting their sense of its content by listening to the voices of others on media outlets which are already aligned with their political leanings.

Bill Barr’s disgraceful performance hasn’t helped. Barr seeded the field with misstatement and exaggeration becoming of a Trump lawyer. But Barr is not a Trump lawyer, he is America’s lawyer and there should be a difference. Barr prejudged this investigation and should have recused himself.

No Collusion

This has been Trump’s mantra during the two years of the Mueller investigation. And it is as meaningless now as it was at the beginning. Mueller explains very clearly that he did not investigate “collusion” for the simple reason that there is no such crime.

The crime is “conspiracy” and as Mueller interprets it the statue sets a very high bar. The Mueller Report sets out six events in which Russians, who Mueller says actively worked to influence the 2016 campaign in favor of Trump, tried to reach out to Trump campaign officials.

The meeting at Trump Tower, June 9, 2016, attended by Trump’s oldest son, son-in-law and campaign manager, all eagerly expecting Russian supplied dirt on Hillary Clinton strikes me as a clear case of something improper. But Mueller says it does not rise to the level of conspiracy both because nothing came of it and because he did not think he could prove the participants knew what they were attempting would have been illegal.

I’ve always thought ignorance was not a valid defense but Mueller says here that at least for a conspiracy to be proven it is a necessary element of intent.

And look at what follows for an example of Barr’s misleading editing:

IMG_20190420_201815

Barr’s “Summary” quoted only the phrase underlined in red. Read the rest to get the context. 

No Obstruction

In his pre-release news conference Barr was asked if the reason Mueller did not make a determination of obstruction of justice charges was because of the long standing Department of Justice position that a sitting President cannot be indicted, Barr muttered, “No” and walked out. It is Barr who made the “no obstruction” determination.

I beg you. Go read the Executive Summary to Volume II of the Report, “Constitutional Defenses.” As I read it, Mueller is explicitly writing that the DOJ policy is exactly why he decided not to make a determination on obstruction. I also read it as an open invitation to Congress, which is not so constrained and did in fact raise obstruction charges against Presidents Nixon and Clinton, to look into the charges on its own. Read footnote 1,091. Really.

In reviewing the evidence, Mueller details at least ten events which could give rise to an obstruction charge. These include the firing of FBI Director James Comey, who, as I (and most of the nation) heard Trump tell Lester Holt on NBC television, was fired to stop the Russian probe into the Trump campaign.

The Report also details “multiple acts” where Trump ordered actions which could have been acts of obstruction but which members of his own staff refused to carry out. The special counsel’s office noted FBI director James Comey’s refusal to end an investigation into national security adviser Mike Flynn and White House counsel Don McGahn’s refusal to order the Justice Department to fire the special counsel.

So it appears Trump was saved by some of the people he now considers traitors. The irony is so thick you could cut it with a knife.

To impeach or not to impeach? That is one hell of a question. The story continues….

 

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