When Bill Barr first appeared before the Senate for his confirmation hearings, he was given the benefit of the doubt. Everyone knew that he is “conservative” but few were shouting out that he is a political hack. To the Contrary, he was given some respect. And there was hope that Barr would play a critical role in ending the Mueller investigation in a credible fashion so that the American people understood what happened in the 2016 elections.
Barr dropped a nuclear bomb on his reputation when Mueller gave his final report in to him. Instead of handing it over to Congress — as he should have done — he held onto it for a few days, and then released his own summary of the principal conclusions reached in the report. Surprise, surprirse, Barr wrote that Mueller found that Trump did nothing wrong. The key phrase is “Barr wrote that Mueller found …”.
While the country had placed its faith in Bob Mueller, now Bill Barr was essentially saying “Forget Mueller. Trust me.”
Boom. Wile Donald Trump danced a jig in the White House, everyone else scratched their heads. Barr’s conclusions simply do not mesh with (1) what we already know ourselves about what happened, and (2) the fact that Mueller’s investigation went on for 2 years and his report is over 400 pages. And there are probably an additional 300 pages of grand jury evidence. How could Barr have knowledge of all that after reading the report over the weekend? And isn’t it funny that Trump’s newly appointed attorney general has come out saying Trump did no wrong?
And now it comes out that Barr is a trickster. He is pulling a trick that he pulled before when he worked in the Department of Justice during the George HW Bush era. That time, Barr wrote a memo to the White House that justified the FBI arresting foreign leaders abroad without local government consent. The leader he had in mind was sitting in Panama at he time — Manuel Norriega. News of the memo leaked out, caused a stink, and Congress asked Barr to hand it over. He refused. He gave instead … a summary of the principal conclusions. Years later the actual memo came out, and it was discovered that Barr’s summary grossly misrepresented what he wrote. It took the political sting out of the content. But by then, most people had forgotten about the incident. In short, Barr got away with it.
It is difficult to resist the temptation to conclude that Barr is at it again. That, in my humble view, explains why Barr now will take the extraordinary step today of holding a press conference BEFORE he even gives his REDACTED Mueller report to Congress. And Mueller — the guy who knows the most about what Barr will talk about — is not invited. Nor is his team. Barr is desperately trying to control the message as long as he can.
Is there a chance that I am wrong, and Barr is accurately representing what the report says? It is impossible to know until we see it, or if Mueller himself or his team members tell us what is actually in the report. In the meantime, we know enough to suspect that Barr is not the innocent victim of partisan infighting. And I, for one, will not excuse Barr even if it comes out that his summary is correct or remotely close to the truth. Why not? Because his actions have had the reverse effect that the Mueller investigation was supposed to have. Instead of informing the public and putting the matter to bed, Barr has made the affair ever more toxic in terms of public trust. And he is demonstrating gross disrespect to Congress.
BTW, there is ye another issue. It has also come out that he Justice Department has briefed he White House on Mueller’s report before releasing it to Congress. There would be no reason to do his, except if the Justice Department wanted to provide political assistance in coping with the conclusions. In other words, Barr is acing as Trump’s lawyer rather than as the attorney general should act — as the nation’s lawyer. You might wonder whether the Justice Department will make a habit or practice of consulting with the targets of their investigations about their findings before taking action on them.
Very peculiar, I would say!
Here are he key questions — if Barr is telling the truth, why hasn’t he released to the report as it is to Congress? And why is he interjecting his own conclusions instead of letting the report speak for itself? In fact, there is no reason for Barr to be interjecting his views at all. Only Congress has the power to do anything about the report, and in order to maintain the Constitutional balance of power between Congress and the Executive, Congress needs to know WTF is going on. It does not need Barr’s grandstanding or Barr’s own legal judgment. Congress needs to make its own decisions.
The nasty thing is that Barr evidently thinks he can get away with this. He is likely to have redacted out as much sensitive aspects of the report so that his reporting on it looks almost ok. And he will probably fight like a tiger to block access to the unredacted report and underlying grand jury evidence, hoping to delay that as long as possible.
Meanwhile, he also is likely crossing his fingers that Mueller himself and his team will not go public with contrary testimony to Congress about their work. And so what will Mueller do? Good question. Mueller is going to do what he thinks is right. And he is a team player. He may refuse to comment on Barr’s actions. And he may agree that redactions should be made in certain areas. But it is difficult to believe that Mueller would support the notion that Congress cannot see — even behind closed doors — the full report and grand jury evidence.
Stay tuned! We are watching a huge story unfold, and like other things in Trumpland, it appears to be unsavory.