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Wednesday, May 01, 2019
Analysis: Democrats' Dubious Barr Derangement is an Emotional Stand-in For Impeachment
A number of Democratic lawmakers are calling on Attorney
General William Barr to resign from office over his handling of the Mueller
report's release, and his answers before Congressional committees on the
subject. These demands are baseless, partisan nonsense.
comported himself properly and honorably, fulfilling the two core promises he relayed to Senators during his
confirmation hearings: First, that the Russia probe would be permitted to play
out without interference, and second, that he would make Mueller's findings
available to the public in the most transparent way possible. He's
betrayed neither of these promises.
Mueller completed his work without
any limitations, and 92 percent of his final report has been accessible to
the American public for weeks. The balance of the document is blacked out
with uncontroversial redactions, made in concert with Mueller's team, with
certain members of Congress having access to an even less-censored copy.
Bizarrely, the thrust of the fury at Barr is focused on
his original summary of Mueller's bottom-line findings, which has since been
supplanted by the report itself. Democrats have charged that Barr
misrepresented what Mueller found in order to establish a narrative that helped
President Trump -- a complaint they say was echoed by Robert Mueller in a leaked letter to Barr.
It's true that Mueller
expressed concerns about Barr's memo, which Mueller wrote did not "fully
capture the context, nature and substance" of the probe's results.
But Barr's letter was never intended to "fully capture"
anything; it was meant to convey the report's bottom line legal findings.
Nevertheless, as a result of the letter, Barr and Mueller spoke on the
phone, leading to this exchange, reported by the Washington Post:Mueller thought Media coverage was distorting the the obstruction
portion of the investigation.
In sworn testimony today, Barr
reiterated that Mueller was "very clear" that Barr's memo
was not inaccurate, instead stating his worries about the media narrative that
was taking root.
In that original letter, Barr stated that the Special
Counsel's report (1) did not find conspiracy or coordination
between any members of the Trump campaign and the Russians, (2) laid
out evidence on both sides of the obstruction of justice issue, and (3) did
not reach a determination on obstruction charges either way, adding that this
lack of a decision did not constitute an exoneration (a key distinction that
Barr included in his memo).
Remember, the disclosure of said report was totally at
the discretion of the Attorney General, who was Mueller's boss.
today that based on the necessary redaction process (undertaken alongside
members of Mueller's team, including portions of the document's executive
summaries), it was determined that there would be a "three-to-four week
gap" between his publicly-reported receipt of the report and a realistic
Rather than making the American people wait around for
a month -- which would certainly have raised a stentorian hue and cry -- Barr
exercised his judgment and chose to write his relatively short memo, as opposed
to releasing bits of the report on a piecemeal basis.
It's now clear that
this was not Mueller's preference, but it was also not Mueller's decision.
It was Barr's, and Barr's choices were entirely defensible.
Some overarching key points:
First, Barr's memo was
accurate. Even if one believes that he somehow "downplayed"
Trump's malfeasance, he did state that there was a fair amount of evidence
offered on the obstruction question, and that Mueller explicitly said that his
team offered no exoneration on obstruction (again, a quote Barr included
in his initial letter).
Second, due to Mueller's punt on
obstruction charges, that decision was left up to the Attorney General and his
top deputy, a man (Rod Rosenstein) who established and protected the Special
Counsel's investigation from its onset, often drawing the ire of the president
and his allies.
Barr and Rosenstein's call against a prosecution was
sound -- or at the very least, entirely defensible: The probe was not ultimately
obstructed, and there was no underlying 'collusion' crime to cover-up.
Criminal intent would therefore be very difficult to prove.
Finally -- once more, for the people in the back -- we
have the Mueller report.
If we were squabbling about competing
summaries of a document that remained shrouded in mystery, that would be one
thing. I'd be much more troubled, frankly. But that's not what's
happening here. Barr defenders can say that his original letter was
appropriate and accurate; Barr detractors can say the exact opposite. But
now we all have the full, lightly-redacted underlying
document to assess and analyze, and we've done so.
Toward the end of his prepared opening
remarks earlier, Barr stated the following: “From here on, the exercise of responding & reacting
to the report is a matter for the American people & the political process.”
This is absolutely right.
Mueller found no collusion, and reached no
conclusion on obstruction, effectively leaving that call to his superiors.
If Democrats are convinced that Barr's call was the wrong one, and that
the president is guilty of obstructing justice, they can get off their rear
ends and pursue impeachment.
House Democratic leadership has indicated no appetite for doing so. But that's a
political judgment and it's theirs to make, now that the legal questions have
been put to bed.
As for Mueller, here is Andrew McCarthy's fairly scathing review of his letter to Barr, and the
Attorney General Barr issued his letter outlining the special counsel’s
conclusions, Mueller was invited to review it for accuracy. Mueller
declined. After Barr explained that Mueller had not decided the
obstruction question, the press reported on this dereliction. Mueller
is miffed about the press coverage … but he can’t say Barr misrepresented his
findings. Like the Mueller investigation, this episode is designed to
fuel a political narrative. But we don’t need a narrative – we don’t even need
anyone to explain the report plainly. That’s because we now have the
report. We can read it for ourselves. The rest is noise.
Barr derangement — nonsensical claims of cover-ups &
“perjury” etc. — is a baffling fixation on the Left. One can’t help but wonder
if they’re trying to preemptively disqualify whatever damaging findings he may
uncover about elements of the original probe’s provenance.
This is also a relevant
reminder, in light of the supposed “outrage” du jour: Barr offered Mueller a
chance to review his summary memo prior to its release & Mueller declined.
Mueller later confirmed that Barr’s letter was not inaccurate.
Lastly, let's drill down on another important issue: Some Democrats are
claiming that Barr perjured himself in two previous exchanges before Congress.
He did not.
Rep. Charlie Crist of Florida asked him a very specific question
about frustrations aired in the press by unnamed Mueller associates.
answered that he didn't know what those specific frustrations were, which was
obviously and definitionally true because they were leaked anonymously and
He knew what Mueller's concerns were, as the two men
had spoken about them over the phone.
Rightly pleading ignorance about the
former category of gripes is not inconsistent with being fully aware of the
latter concerns. This not in the ballpark of perjury.
The other claim is that Barr said he didn't know whether
Mueller "supported" his conclusion on obstruction. There is no
contradiction here either. Mueller didn't comment on Barr's obstruction