Attorney General William Barr lied in his April 9, April 10, and May 1 appearances before Congress. There is no way around this. Have we really gotten to the point at which Saturday Night Live’s Michael Che — playing NBC News anchor Lester Holt during the infamous Donald Trump interview, upon hearing Trump admit he fired FBI Director James Comey because of the Russia investigation — exclaimed the following: “Wait! So did I get him? Is it all over?” Then Holt (Che) repeats the producer’s response coming through his earpiece: “Wait, no, I didn’t? Nothing matters? Absolutely nothing matters anymore?” (scroll down for full article)
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“I previously sent you a letter dated March 25, 2019, that enclosed the introduction and executive summary for each volume of the Special Counsel’s report marked with redactions. … Accordingly, the enclosed documents are in a form that can be released to the public consistent with legal requirements and Department [of Justice] policies. I am requesting [again] that you provide these materials to Congress and authorize their public release at this time.
“As we stated in our meeting of March 5 and reiterated to the Department [of Justice] early in the afternoon of March 24, the introductions and executive summaries of our two-volume report accurately summarize this Office’s work and conclusions. The summary letter the Department sent to Congress and released to the public late in the afternoon of March 24 did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this office’s work and conclusions. We communicated that concern to the Department [of Justice] on the morning of March 25. There is now public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation. This threatens to undermine a central purpose for which the Department appointed the Special Counsel: to assure full public confidence in the outcome of the investigations.”
(Mueller, Robert, Russia investigation special counsel; confidential letter to Attorney General William Barr; 3/27/2019 [released 5/1/2019].)
[REP. CHARLIE CRIST (D-Fla.)]: “Reports have emerged recently, general, that members of the Special Counsel’s team are frustrated at some level with the limited information included in your March 24th [four-page summary] letter, that it does not adequately or accurately necessarily portray the report’s findings. Do you know what they’re referencing with that?”
[ATTORNEY GENERAL WILLIAM BARR]: “No, I don’t.”
(U.S. House Appropriations subcommittee hearing, after Barr’s 4-pg. summary to Congress, after Mueller’s March 27 letter to Barr, before release of full Mueller report; 4/9/2019.)
[SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-Md.)]: “Did Bob Mueller support your conclusion?”
[ATTORNEY GENERAL WILLIAM BARR]: “I don’t know whether Bob Mueller supported my conclusion.”
(U.S. Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearings, after Barr’s 4-pg. summary to Congress, after Mueller’s March 27 letter to Barr, before release of full Mueller report; 4/10/2019.)
[SEN. PAT LEAHY (D-Vt.)]: “Mr. Barr, I feel your answer was purposefully misleading, and I think others do, too.”
[ATTORNEY GENERAL WILLIAM BARR]: “When I talked to the special counsel about [my four-page summary] letter, my understanding was his concern was not the accuracy of the findings in my letter but that he wanted more out there [about] why he didn’t reach a decision on obstruction.”
(U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, after Barr’s 4-pg. summary to Congress, after Mueller’s March 27 letter to Barr, after release of full Mueller report; 5/1/2019.)
“James Mattis, the former secretary of defense, resigned over principle, a concept so alien to Mr. Trump that it took days for the president to realize what had happened, before he could start lying about the man. … It takes character like Mr. Mattis’ to avoid the damage, because Mr. Trump eats your soul in small bites. …
“Of course, to stay, you must be seen as on his team, so you make further compromises. You use his language, praise his leadership, tout his commitment to values.
“And then you are lost. He has eaten your soul.”
(Comey, James, former FBI director; “James Comey: How Trump Co-Opts Leaders Like Bill Barr”; The New York Times; 5/1/2019.)
Attorney General William Barr lied in his April 9, April 10, and May 1 appearances before Congress. There is no way around this.
Have we really gotten to the point at which Saturday Night Live’s Michael Che — playing NBC News anchor Lester Holt during the infamous Donald Trump interview, upon hearing Trump admit he fired FBI Director James Comey because of the Russia investigation — exclaimed the following: “Wait! So did I get him? Is it all over?” Then Holt (Che) repeats the producer’s response coming through his earpiece: “Wait, no, I didn’t? Nothing matters? Absolutely nothing matters anymore?”
A timeline refresher is in order to make sense of these events, especially as we consider Robert Mueller’s previously unknown communications with Attorney General Barr:
— 3/5/19: Special Counsel Bob Mueller informs AG Bill Barr that the report’s introductions and executive summaries need minimal redaction and should be released to the public immediately upon submission of the full report to Barr.
— 3/22/19: Mueller submits full report to Barr, who announces it will take time to redact before public release.
— 3/24/19: Mueller again instructs Barr to release the report’s introductions and executive summaries.
— 3/24/19: Barr submits his public four-page summary to Congress, refusing Mueller’s instructions.
— 3/25/19: First confidential letter from Mueller to Barr expressing dismay at Barr’s mischaracterization of report conclusions and requesting immediate public release of introductions and executive summaries.
— 3/27/19: Second confidential letter from Mueller to Barr, amplifying dismay at Barr’s mischaracterization of report conclusions and requesting immediate public release of introductions and executive summaries.
— 3/27/19: Phone call from Barr to Mueller, in which Mueller repeated his amplified dismay at Barr’s mischaracterization of report conclusions and, again, requested immediate public release of introductions and executive summaries.
— 3/29/19: Barr submits public letter to Congress stating he did not intend for his March 24 four-page summary to be a “summary.”
— 4/9/19: Barr testifies before House that he didn’t know what the leaked complaints from Mueller’s team (about the four-page summary) referred to.
— 4/10/19: Barr testifies before Senate that he didn’t know if Mueller supported his conclusions in the four-page summary.
— 4/18/19: Barr conducts misleading press conference on Mueller report conclusions, followed by the public release of redacted Mueller report to Congress.
— 4/30/19: Mueller’s March 27 confidential letter to Barr leaked to The Washington Post.
— 5/1/19: Barr testifies before Senate, continues to obfuscate and prevaricate, perpetuates the lie that Mueller was not dismayed with Barr’s misleading four-page summary.
— 5/2/19: Barr reneges on commitment to testify before House; he objects to planned questioning by House committee staff attorneys, which has been common practice on both sides in other hearings for decades.
Barr’s Senate Testimony, May 1, 2019
At yesterday’s Senate hearing, Attorney General William Barr continued his obfuscation and prevarication in obsequious deference to Donald Trump. His modus operandi is frighteningly similar to the president’s: go so far over the top with the frequency and intensity of your mendacious muddling of the facts that it is at first shocking, then subsequently, ultimately seems normal. The public can only take so much cover-up and lying before they become desensitized completely. The next thing you know, the bulk of casual news consumers are saying things like, “Well, both sides lie, both sides are crooked.” They are led to say this even though only one side consistently lies crookedly.
The Tuesday leak of Mueller’s March 27 letter to AG Barr has fully exposed Barr as a Trump sycophant. Any lingering benefit of the doubt has been erased. It’s crystal clear to anyone who reads Barr’s March 24 four-page summary, Mueller’s March 27 letter, and the Mueller report executive summaries — the operative word being reads.
William Barr admitted he hasn’t read the complete Mueller report. He admitted he hasn’t examined any of the underlying evidence. He admitted he never consulted with any of the prosecutors. He decided March 24 that there was no prosecutable obstruction of justice, the day he wrote and sent his four-page summary completely clearing the president. In less than 48 hours to digest the 448-page report, and after zero discussion with any members of the Mueller team, Barr decided there was “no collusion, no obstruction.”
As former Justice Department spokesman Matt Miller summed it up after Wednesday’s Senate hearing, Barr’s assessment of Trump’s “innocence” was predetermined, a foregone conclusion. Others might say the fix was in.
After Mueller’s March 27 letter to Barr was leaked Tuesday, Barr and the DOJ must have felt compelled to release it Wednesday morning. At that day’s Senate hearing, even with the letter accessible to questioners and the public, Barr still lied about how his conclusions in his four-page summary and the nature of Mueller’s dissatisfaction with that summary.
Barr testified that Mueller was “very clear with me that he was not suggesting that we had misrepresented his report.” Rather, Barr said Mueller was complaining about the “media coverage.” Read Mueller’s March 27 letter. In it, Mueller never mentioned media coverage; he only mentioned dissatisfaction with Barr’s “summary.”
Other Barr Senate Testimony Highlights
— Barr repeated Trump talking points and language regarding “spying,” “falsely accused,” “FBI bias,” “no collusion” (even though Mueller never addressed collusion), etc.
— Barr split hairs saying “firing” Mueller might have been bad, but “removing” him (as Trump allegedly worded it) was any president’s prerogative.
— Barr said that Trump trying to compel a witness (Don McGahn) to lie does not constitute obstruction.
— Barr said that Trump publicly threatening a witness’ family does not constitute obstruction.
— Barr said he uses the word spying regularly to denote intelligence surveillance, and that it has no negative connotations. Justice system experts disagree, saying that word is almost never used by lawyers at the DOJ due to its negative connotations.
— Barr maintained the president “fully cooperated” with the investigation in spite of attempting repeatedly to have Mueller fired, influencing witnesses to lie, discouraging witnesses from testifying by threatening their families and other means, dangling pardons to witnesses for not cooperating, refusing to testify himself, and constantly defaming Mueller and the investigation. Barr saw no conflict between these actions and the term fully cooperated.
— Barr belittled the amount and significance of evidence that launched the investigation.
— Barr said, “I don’t recall” when asked if he had discussed any of the 14 ongoing Mueller-referred probes with the White House.
— Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) told Barr, “You lied to Congress.” She also said he had “chosen to be the president’s lawyer,” and he should “never have been involved in supervising the Mueller investigation.”
— When asked if the president had suggested criminally investigating others (i.e., political opponents), Barr split hairs about the meaning of suggested and said, “I don’t know … I don’t know.”
— Barr implied the FBI was biased during the investigation.
— Barr denied Mueller intended for Congress to pick up oversight after the report was released despite Mueller’s report stating this very point more than once.
— Barr said a president can end any investigation he wants to if he feels “falsely accused,” and that this wouldn’t comprise “corrupt intent.”
— Barr said it’s OK for a presidential campaign to accept help from a foreign government.
— Barr said Mueller should have made a call on presidential obstruction of justice — rather than just laying out the evidence — which totally ignored Mueller’s adherence to the DOJ’s OLC opinion that a president cannot be indicted.
— Barr supported the theory that Hillary Clinton might have been the real Russian colluder.
— Barr said if Mueller wasn’t willing to determine presidential guilt or innocence on obstruction of justice, he never should have completed the investigation: “That was the time to pull up.”
— Barr said Mueller is not really a career prosecutor. This was before he avoided saying if he had ever seen such a rebuke to a DOJ supervisor like Mueller’s March 27 letter to Barr.
— Barr accused Mueller of being overly sensitive to media criticism.
— Barr said Mueller’s March 27 letter was “a bit snitty” and probably written by “one of his staff people.”
“Before, Barr was known as the attorney general to President George H. W. Bush and an éminence grise of the Washington legal community. Now he is known for betraying a friend, lying to Congress, and misrepresenting the Mueller report in a way that excused the president’s misbehavior and let Russia off the hook. …
“Barr rejected Mueller’s requests to release more of the report to clear up the confusion. ‘At that point, it was my baby,’ Barr told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. ‘It was my decision how and when to make it public, not Bob Mueller’s.’
“It was his baby, and he smothered it — thus allowing Barr’s misrepresentation of Mueller’s report (characterized by Trump as ‘total exoneration’) to harden. Barr’s mistreatment of Mueller is all the more appalling because, during his confirmation hearing, Barr boasted that the two men and their wives were ‘good friends’ and would remain so. Barr reportedly told a senator privately that he and Mueller were ‘best friends,’ that their wives attended Bible study together, and that Mueller attended the weddings of Barr’s children. If so, Barr’s betrayal reminds us: If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.”
(Milbank, Dana; “Barr Reminds Mueller: If You Want a Friend in Washington, Get a Dog”; The Washington Post; 5/1/2019.)
Sickening, Shocking, Depressing, Frightening
Attorney General William Barr’s performance yesterday before the Senate was, in a word, sickening. Make that two words: sickening, shocking. No, three — no, four!: sickening, shocking, depressing, frightening.
Yesterday’s hearing was a frightening spectacle, put on by an arrogant bastard who for some reason has chosen to sacrifice his reputation completely in furtherance of Trump corruption, criminality, and amorality. It’s overwhelming. It’s astonishing. This is no exaggeration: Bill Barr has chosen to shirk the duties of an attorney general but use that office’s authority to act as the ultimate Trump defense attorney.
The letter of rebuke from Special Counsel Mueller to AG Barr was extraordinary. No legal expert, including Barr himself, can remember anything like it ever happening before. Chuck Rosenberg is a former U.S. attorney, former acting head of the DEA, and current cable news legal pundit. He says that in DOJ circles, they call it “going to paper.” Chuck says that any disagreements between prosecutors and supervisors always are worked out through discussions whenever possible. You only go to paper (memorialize the disagreement) in the most extreme circumstances, as a last resort.
People in the know, on both sides, regard William Barr as a brilliant lawyer. If only he would use his powers for good instead of evil. Through his letters and “summaries” to Congress and his appearances before congressional committees, he has shown the skill for which Donald hired him: the ability to lie blatantly while avoiding legal perjury. It was a good hire. Barr was exposed yesterday. But Republican legislators don’t care. Barr himself does not care.
Bob Mueller expressed his intentions to AG Barr — that his report’s introductions and executive summaries be released to the public — on March 5, March 24, March 25, and twice on March 27. Barr ignored Mueller and concocted his own completely misleading summary (which Trump used to exclaim “TOTAL EXONERATION!”), knowing that the three weeks between his summary and the report’s release would weaken, if not decimate, the full effect of the truth about Trump. Then he lied, repeatedly, denying Mueller ever expressed dissatisfaction with Barr’s handling of the report.
We know what we need to know about William Barr.
Below, I reprise former FBI Director James Comey’s full The New York Times op-ed. It is the best description I have seen so far of Trump’s effect on the people around him and, in turn, our country.
“James Comey: How Trump Co-Opts Leaders Like Bill Barr”
(The New York Times; 5/1/2019.)
People have been asking me hard questions. What happened to the leaders in the Trump administration, especially the attorney general, Bill Barr, who I have said was due the benefit of the doubt?
How could Mr. Barr, a bright and accomplished lawyer, start channeling the president in using words like “no collusion” and FBI “spying”? And downplaying acts of obstruction of justice as products of the president’s being “frustrated and angry,” something he would never say to justify the thousands of crimes prosecuted every day that are the product of frustration and anger?
How could he write and say things about the report by Robert Mueller, the special counsel, that were apparently so misleading that they prompted written protest from the special counsel himself?
How could Mr. Barr go before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday and downplay President Trump’s attempt to fire Mr. Mueller before he completed his work?
And how could Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, after the release of Mr. Mueller’s report that detailed Mr. Trump’s determined efforts to obstruct justice, give a speech quoting the president on the importance of the rule of law? Or on resigning, thank a president who relentlessly attacked both him and the Department of Justice he led for “the courtesy and humor you often display in our personal conversations”?
What happened to these people?
I don’t know for sure. People are complicated, so the answer is most likely complicated. But I have some idea from four months of working close to Mr. Trump and many more months of watching him shape others.
Amoral leaders have a way of revealing the character of those around them. Sometimes what they reveal is inspiring. For example, James Mattis, the former secretary of defense, resigned over principle, a concept so alien to Mr. Trump that it took days for the president to realize what had happened, before he could start lying about the man.
But more often, proximity to an amoral leader reveals something depressing. I think that’s at least part of what we’ve seen with Bill Barr and Rod Rosenstein. Accomplished people lacking inner strength can’t resist the compromises necessary to survive Mr. Trump and that adds up to something they will never recover from. It takes character like Mr. Mattis’ to avoid the damage, because Mr. Trump eats your soul in small bites.
It starts with your sitting silent while he lies, both in public and private, making you complicit by your silence. In meetings with him, his assertions about what “everyone thinks” and what is “obviously true” wash over you, unchallenged, as they did at our private dinner on Jan. 27, 2017, because he’s the president and he rarely stops talking. As a result, Mr. Trump pulls all of those present into a silent circle of assent.
Speaking rapid-fire with no spot for others to jump into the conversation, Mr. Trump makes everyone a co-conspirator to his preferred set of facts, or delusions. I have felt it — this president building with his words a web of alternative reality and busily wrapping it around all of us in the room.
I must have agreed that he had the largest inauguration crowd in history because I didn’t challenge that. Everyone must agree that he has been treated very unfairly. The web building never stops.
From the private circle of assent, it moves to public displays of personal fealty at places like Cabinet meetings. While the entire world is watching, you do what everyone else around the table does — you talk about how amazing the leader is and what an honor it is to be associated with him.
Sure, you notice that Mr. Mattis never actually praises the president, always speaking instead of the honor of representing the men and women of our military. But he’s a special case, right? Former Marine general and all. No way the rest of us could get away with that. So you praise, while the world watches, and the web gets tighter.
Next comes Mr. Trump attacking institutions and values you hold dear — things you have always said must be protected and which you criticized past leaders for not supporting strongly enough. Yet you are silent. Because, after all, what are you supposed to say? He’s the president of the United States.
You feel this happening. It bothers you, at least to some extent. But his outrageous conduct convinces you that you simply must stay, to preserve and protect the people and institutions and values you hold dear. Along with Republican members of Congress, you tell yourself you are too important for this nation to lose, especially now.
You can’t say this out loud — maybe not even to your family — but in a time of emergency, with the nation led by a deeply unethical person, this will be your contribution, your personal sacrifice for America. You are smarter than Donald Trump, and you are playing a long game for your country, so you can pull it off where lesser leaders have failed and gotten fired by tweet.
Of course, to stay, you must be seen as on his team, so you make further compromises. You use his language, praise his leadership, tout his commitment to values.
And then you are lost. He has eaten your soul.
(Comey, James, former FBI director; “James Comey: How Trump Co-Opts Leaders Like Bill Barr”; The New York Times; 5/1/2019.)
Trump Corruption Chronicles — We Must Never Forget