William Barr Falsely Denies His Mueller Memo Makes the Case for Impeachment

William Barr has released his opening statement for his confirmation hearing tomorrow. While it surely is tailored to address the biggest concerns about his nomination, there’s a lot to like about it.

He suggests he’s not as big of a hawk on criminal justice as he used to be. He emphasizes the need to protect the right to vote. He seems to suggest a concern about rising hate crimes.

And — as most outlets have focused on — he affirms the importance of Robert Mueller finishing his work and being able to publish his findings.

First, I believe it is vitally important that the Special Counsel be allowed to complete his investigation. I have known Bob Mueller personally and professionally for 30 years. We worked closely together throughout my previous tenure at the Department of Justice under President Bush. We’ve been friends since. I have the utmost respect for Bob and his distinguished record of public service. When he was named special counsel, I said that his selection was “good news” and that, knowing him, I had confidence he would handle the matter properly. I still have that confidence today.

Given his public actions to date, I expect that the Special Counsel is well along in his investigation. At the same time, the President has been steadfast that he was not involved in any collusion with Russian interference in the election. I believe it is in the best interest of everyone – the President, Congress, and, most importantly, the American people – that this matter be resolved by allowing the Special Counsel to complete his work. The country needs a credible resolution of these issues. If confirmed, I will not permit partisan politics, personal interests, or any other improper consideration to interfere with this or any other investigation. I will follow the Special Counsel regulations scrupulously and in good faith, and on my watch, Bob will be allowed to complete his work.

Second, I also believe it is very important that the public and Congress be informed of the results of the Special Counsel’s work. For that reason, my goal will be to provide as much transparency as I can consistent with the law. I can assure you that, where judgments are to be made by me, I will make those judgments based solely on the law and will let no personal, political, or other improper interests influence my decision.

I’m most interested, however, in the way that Barr addresses the memo on the Mueller investigation he wrote last year. In comments also surely designed to reassure Democrats, Barr claims that the memo only addressed one theory of obstruction.

I would like to briefly address the memorandum that I wrote last June. I wrote the memo as a former Attorney General who has often weighed in on legal issues of public importance, and I distributed it broadly so that other lawyers would have the benefit of my views. As I explained in a recent letter to Ranking Member Feinstein, my memo was narrow in scope, explaining my thinking on a specific obstruction-of-justice theory under a single statute that I thought, based on media reports, the Special Counsel might be considering. The memo did not address – or in any way question – the Special Counsel’s core investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Nor did it address other potential obstruction-of-justice theories or argue, as some have erroneously suggested, that a President can never obstruct justice. I wrote it myself, on my own initiative, without assistance, and based solely on public information.

The claim that that’s what he addressed — which I correctly unpacked here — is important because, as Jack Goldsmith has since laid out, Barr’s views on that theory of obstruction fit solidly within OLC precedent.

Yet Barr makes a false claim in that paragraph: that his memo “did [not] address other potential obstruction-of-justice theories.” Indeed, before he finishes his first page, he addresses another potential obstruction-of-justice theory:

Obviously, the President and any other official can commit obstruction in this classic sense of sabotaging a proceeding’s truth-finding function. Thus, for example, if a President knowingly destroys or alters evidence, suborns perjury, or induces a witness to change testimony, or commits any act deliberately impairing the integrity or availability of evidence, then he, like anyone else, commits the crime of obstruction. Indeed, the acts of obstruction alleged against Presidents Nixon and Clinton in their respective impeachments were all such “bad acts” involving the impairment of evidence. Enforcing these laws against the President in no way infringes on the President’s plenary power over law enforcement because exercising this discretion — such as his complete authority to start or stop a law enforcement proceeding — does not involve commission of any of these inherently wrongful subversive acts.

It’s right there, on the bottom of his first page, another potential obstruction of justice theory.

As if his reference to Nixon and Clinton didn’t already make it clear, the rest of his memo describes that the proper remedy when the President engages in such crimes is impeachment.

And, as I have laid out, the public evidence (even before recent disclosures about how the FBI worried that Trump was literally taking orders from Russian when he fired Comey) provides strong circumstantial evidence that Trump attempted to impair the integrity and availability of evidence to the FBI, possibly including suborning perjury from Mike Flynn.

While Barr doesn’t presume to dictate whether Congress must judge such behavior adequate to sustain impeachment, he certainly sees it as an adequate basis for impeachment.

Which is why I find his statement troubling. He’s not only placating Democrats with this statement (and opposing any possibility that the President can be charged for criminal acts). He’s also backing off the clear implication of his memo, that if Trump engaged in witness tampering, it would be improper.

All that’s separate from the wisdom and ethics of writing 19 pages, as he did, on a theory based off a really skewed understanding of the evidence, or accepting a job after having done so in the scope of job considerations.

To be sure, if Barr really intends to let Mueller finish and ensure the right to vote, he may be the best Attorney General candidate we’re likely to get from Trump. But he still needs to be asked whether he backs the implications of his memo, which actually back impeachment.

Update: This is fairly batshit. In a letter to Lindsey Graham dated yesterday — the same day Barr released opening statements that say “Nor did [his memo] address other potential obstruction-of-justice theories,” he said that his entire memo was a different theory of obstruction of justice.

The principal conclusion of my memo is that the actions prohibited by section 1512(c) are, generally speaking, the hiding, withholding, destroying, or altering of evidence – in other words, acts that impair the availability or integrity of evidence in a proceeding. The memorandum did not suggest that a President can never obstruct justice. Quite the contrary, it expressed my belief that a President, just like anyone else, can obstruct justice if he or she engages in wrongful actions that impair the availability of evidence. Nor did the memorandum claim, as some have incorrectly suggested, that a President can never obstruct justice whenever he or she is exercising a constitutional function. If a President, acting with the requisite intent, engages in the kind of evidence impairment the statute prohibits – regardless whether it involves the exercise of his or her constitutional powers or not – then a President commits obstruction of justice under the statute. It is as simple as that.

As I disclosed last July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post. 

57 replies
  1. Ken Haylock says:

    Tricky. If he’s explicit & honest about his intentions (assuming he isn’t Trump’s stooge or compromised by the Russians himself), Trump will pull his nomination. There are probably a number of things that need to be on the record under oath, not least in regards to his views on the limits of executive power, but some things should surely go unasked, if Trump nominated him expecting him to quash the Mueller probe for him…

  2. Alan says:

    > But he still needs to be asked whether he backs the implications of his memo, which actually back impeachment.

    Impeachment is up to Congress, not the Attorney General, and it is my guess that Barr will elect to “stay in his lane” and not answer that question.

  3. NorskieFlamethrower says:

    He needs to be grilled on everything including his bowel habits. Not only do the Dems need to deconstruct his memo to the WH but they need to lay bare his history of obstruction of justice going back to George H W. After that they need to tell him that anything short of recusing himself of all things Mueller is unacceptable. They need to send a message that they aren’t playing and “collegial”. When he leaves his hearing(s) he should not be whistling a happy tune but should be asking himself why in dog’s name he even agreed to go through this. The Dems need to show the country what advice and consent and oversight mean. Namaste

  4. William Bennett says:

    OT but wondering what the smart people here made of Benjamin Wittes’s piece on Lawfare?

    Second, if it is correct that the FBI’s principal interest in obstruction was not as a discrete criminal fact pattern but as a national security threat, this significantly blurs the distinction between the obstruction and collusion aspects of the investigation. In this construction, obstruction was not a problem distinct from collusion, as has been generally imagined. Rather, in this construction, obstruction was the collusion, or at least part of it. The obstruction of justice statutes become, in this understanding, merely one set of statutes investigators might think about using to deal with a national security risk—specifically, the risk of a person on the U.S. side coordinating with or supporting Russian activity by shutting down the investigation.

    Starts from an assumption that I’ve expressed a number of times, that the one person who has worked most relentlessly, persistently and vociferously to nail down the perception that the investigation is all about Trump is… Trump. Whereas in reality it was from its inception about Russia. And that’s just really odd. The standard approach, supposing you were actually y’know innocent would be to make a big noise about cooperating and keep repeating how we need to get to the bottom of what our adversary has been up to. Instead he seems determined to position himself between that inquiry and its proper target in a way that I can’t imagine any other president doing.

    Anyway, I thought the argument that there isn’t in fact a distinction between the obstruction and collusion investigations was clarifying and worth posting over here. Apologies if it has been discussed and I’ve missed it–these threads can get pretty dense for a guy who’s needs to take some time off to get some work done on his day job occasionally.

    • Alan says:

      First, why is Wittes writing about “collusion”?  There is no FBI or Special Counsel investigation of “collusion”.  Second, a conspiracy between Trump and Russia to obstruct the investigation about coordination between Trump and Russia?  Possible, but is the dog chasing the tail or the tail chasing the dog?  Conclusion, that article is purely speculative and an exercise in mental masturbation by someone who like to hear himself talk.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Mr. Wittes seems to be a devoted conservative, a characteristic that should influence reading his comments.  His view of the law is as a political/national security commentator, not as a trained lawyer, which should also influence reading his comments. The establishment seems to consider him a safe pair of hands, enabling him to navigate the think tank and MSM forest at will.

      In this comment, Wittes seems determined to conflate obstruction and “collusion”.  He tries to characterize obstruction, for example, not as a “discrete [or separate] criminal fact pattern [and crime]” that would interest the FBI.  He tries to characterize the FBI’s interest in obstruction as a “national security threat,” really, a trail of bread crumbs leading to ConFraudUS with the Russians (Witte’s “collusion”).  The connection between the two is the supposedly new aspect of last weekend’s MSM news coverage.

      Wittes’s use of the word “collusion” is unfortunate: he knows the correct language but avoids it.  The larger point is that it is not necessary for the FBI to view “obstruction” as either a “discrete fact pattern” or as a gateway to ConFraudUS.  It can readily be both, and more.

    • Eureka says:

      If I am correctly phrasing what I recall, emptywheel did write about certain elements of (what e.g. Rudy posed as) obstruction constituting or being continuous with the alleged conspiracy.  I don’t have the link(s), but that’s part of why Wittes’ seeming to borrow one of her insights as a headline, while apparently broadening, mangling, and applying it differently, annoyed the eff out me the other day.  I say ‘apparently’ because- full disclosure- I have only relied on others’ snippet reviews of the Wittes piece to date.

      • Eureka says:

        I finally finished reading the Wittes piece.  1- What Willis said.  2-He should have disclosed at the outset that this torturous tour was to convince *himself* that Mueller had/has a legitimate basis for investigating ‘obstruction.’ 3- Godspeed to anyone who tries to pan this for gold.

  5. Rick says:

    I can only assume that Trump would require ‘loyalty’, and that it would be inforced by withholding damaging information.

  6. Peterr says:

    From Barr’s prepared remarks:

    In the past, I was focused on predatory violence. But today I am also concerned about another kind of violent crime. We are a pluralistic and diverse community and becoming ever more so. That is, of course, a good thing– indeed, it is part of our collective American identity. But we can only survive and thrive as Nation if we are mutually tolerant of each other’s differences – whether they be differences based on race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or political thinking. Each of us treasures our own freedom, but that freedom is most secure when we respect everyone else’s freedom. And yet we see some people violently attacking others simply because of their differences. We must have zero tolerance for such crimes. I am concerned that violence is also rearing its head in the political realm. In our system, political differences are to be mediated by free speech and elections. We must not allow political violence to supplant our political discourse, and I will make this a priority as Attorney General if confirmed.

    Hmmmmm . . . a question or two for the witness:

    Are you saying that African Americans who hold the political view that they are due the same respect and treatment given to white Americans, and who are treated violently because of these political beliefs by police and other law enforcement officers, deserve special attention from the Attorney General? Are you saying here that (pause, looks around the room, continues) Black Lives Matter?

    Asking for a friend.

  7. mister bunny says:

    “impairment of evidence”

    Would that include something like, say, taking the notes from a translator in a private meeting with Vlad?

  8. marksb says:

    In regard to William’s comment about why Trump is in the middle of this and not pointing at Russia: he can’t. I’ve worked for and with a couple of serious narcissists, one of which I considered about as malignant as it gets outside of an institution, and they could not stand to have anything going on that didn’t have to do with them. Anything at all that happened would be altered via boldfaced lies to have them at the center of the event. Even bad events, once involving the SEC with the malignant example, ended up with the narcissist at the center of the thing, according to him. It led to his downfall, thank goodness, and the collapse of his company. He could have pointed to the software, the 22 year old kid handling orders, anything, but nope, he had to be the key person (which of course he was). The weird thing is he took credit for the event, and yet blamed everyone else he could, all at the same time. It was like running two divergent realities at once.

    Trump actually runs a reality in his mind that he is not wrong, ever, and will be able to make people see it his way and he’ll once again get all the strokes and money.

    • Tom says:

      Perhaps I’m misunderstanding you, but I don’t agree with the school of thought that sees Trump as living in a separate reality or thinks that he really believes the lies he tells.    I think that Trump is perfectly able to distinguish objective truth from lies and distortion.    He lies–and knows that he lies–to serve his own ends, either immediate and of the moment (e.g., to avoid answering a difficult question from a reporter), or long term, such as denying any business dealings with Russia during the 2016 election in hopes of getting his Moscow Trump Tower built while running for the Presidency.    I do wonder, though, about his mental capacity (I can’t get over the fact that a man of his age has never discovered the pleasures of reading, but that could be due to a poor or deteriorated level of literacy), and the effects that stress, poor diet, and lack of exercise must be having on his ability to think straight.

  9. Peterr says:

    From Barr’s prepared remarks, cited above in the first blockquote of the post:

    Second, I also believe it is very important that the public and Congress be informed of the results of the Special Counsel’s work. For that reason, my goal will be to provide as much transparency as I can consistent with the law. I can assure you that, where judgments are to be made by me, I will make those judgments based solely on the law and will let no personal, political, or other improper interests influence my decision.

    A question for the witness . . .

    Where your judgments related to the Special Counsel’s work are overridden, will you follow the path of James Mattis and resign so that the President can have an Attorney General who shares his views? If ordered to act against your own judgments regarding transparency, will you follow the path of Elliot Richardson and William Ruckelshaus and refuse to engage in the acts you believe to be opposed to the transparency you believe is so important in this matter?

  10. Rugger9 says:

    However, with all GOPers it is what they do, not what they say (“stare decisis”, anyone, before Citizen’s United?).   Don’t put too much stock in what Barr says, and all the Ds can do here is highlight the previous published discrepancies and other peccadillos.

  11. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Like the president’s other powers, the president’s supposedly “complete authority to start or stop a law enforcement proceeding or stop legal proceedings” can be abused in an illegal manner.  Contrary to Barr’s unqualified claim, that manner of exercising the president’s authority would “involve commission of … inherently wrongful subversive [and illegal] acts.”

    Separately, Congress’s impeachment power is explicitly limited to removing a president from office. The offenses that justify that are intentionally broad, and include political as well as criminal abuses of power.

    It seems unlikely that removal from office was intended to be the final word on the matter in the expectedly rare circumstance where a president committed overt, serial, continuing, and threatening crimes for which the usual punishments are considerable prison time.

  12. Eureka says:

    For me, Barr’s repeated use of the familiar ‘Bob’ was an easy reg flag to ‘Watch what else I do while I try to sugar you up, Dems and or those concerned about justice.’ Add that, too, to the list of concerns about his judgment. We’ll see, I guess.

  13. Taxidermist says:

    Thank you Eureka! His use of ‘Bob’ comes off as unprofessional at best and manipulative at worst. Either way it is inappropriate.

    • Theresa says:

      Agree! Bugged me that he kept calling him Bob. Too familial. Barr just might be a pompous know it all in real life. He had to do some serious explaining and backpeddling on those memos he wrote.  I did enjoy his absolute shutdown of Rudy’s statement that the WH will review/correct the Mueller report. That was fun. Just my opinion, but I think at this point Individual1 is simply trying to save himself from criminal prosecution and has been assured by Barr that he will not challenge the standing theory that the president cannot be indicted. I heard Barr firmly state that, but he didn’t back off of the idea of impeachment if warranted. I find it inconceivable that trump could be pleased or reassured with much of Barr’s testimony, which makes me wonder if he knows that impeachment is the best he can get at this stage of the game because he understands that being indicted is an eminent threat to him now.

  14. Barry says:

    Off topic, I know, but can anyone provide a plausible explanation, other than dementia, to explain why Rudy keeps saying that Mueller is now wrapping things up by writing a report? I assume he is not demented but rather a rational guy who sees his job as promoting Roger Stone like fact-free PR. But if so, what is to be gained by saying a report is on the way when in fact what seems most likely to be on the way are further indictments?

    • DrFunguy says:

      Probably, he’s just repeating what he reads in WaPo, NYT, HuffPo, Policitico, and most media outlets that I’ve seen.
      This trope is repeated ad nauseum even though all the cool kids know, Mueller reports with his court filings ;-)

    • BobCon says:

      Part of it is that his prime audience is Trump, and anything but happy talk would get him in trouble.

      Part of it is also probably that he wants to send signals to the dumber pundits and congressional rank and file that everything is fine and there is no need to break ranks. There is still grift to be grifted, and the longer they can keep everyone together, the more they can extract.

      And then there is the question of what else can he say? He’s in a similar position as other spokespeople for Trump. If he’s not going to do the honorable thing and quit and tell the truth, he has to come up with some lie, and he may as well say Mueller is wrapping up with nothing major to report.

      • Tom says:

        Rudy also wants to create a false sense of expectation that the release of Mueller’s report is imminent, thus fomenting public disappointment when it doesn’t appear as predicted.    He knows that the longer people wait for Mueller’s report (or final indictments) the more they will expect really blockbuster revelations, and the more they’ll be let down when the investigation’s outcomes are not exactly as advertised.  The longer Mueller takes to complete his work, the more Rudy will complain that something must be suspect about the investigation, and he will claim that he certainly would have had it wrapped up by now.    His intent seems to be to undermine the process of the investigation and trivialize its results.

      • Barry says:

        Bobcon – I’ll go with your theory. His primary audience is Trump, and everyone close enough to know knows that Trump is an emotional IED that must be contained for his own good. This would fit with his previous attorneys talking confidently in 2017 that the investigation was nearing its end.

  15. Janet says:

    Bear in mind that as AG he would be privy to some mindblowing stuff. If he’s even borderline normal, it can’t helpbut be persuasive.

  16. Jose says:

    The truth of the matter is that Robert Mueller said it best: “If you have integrity, nothing else matters. And if you don’t have integrity, nothing else matters.”

    Let’s hope his friend Barr does have it, but it’s a much better thing to have him as AG than Big Dick Toilet Salesman who has already demonstrated many times (long preceding this episode or his involvement at DOJ during the Trump admin) that he lacks integrity.

  17. Cathy says:

    Interesting development in the House


    given that Mr. King’s messaging seems to have been a model for candidate, then President, Trump. Republicans in Washington grew more vocal in their repudiation of similar rhetoric from Trump as the 2016 election receded, but this action against Rep. King is more than rhetorical.

    My first reaction is that the results of the Midterms have reminded Congressional Republicans that two of their voting blocks – (1) suburban women and (2) voters tolerant of white nationalism – are able to coexist within a coalition under very limited circumstances: Trump’s election made the latter too visible for the former’s comfort and now R’s are trying to walk themselves back toward positions more appealing to Independents.

    The cited POLITICO piece notes that King’s removal from committee posts impacts the House Judicial Committee and how it might handle any subsequent push for impeachment.

    If Wm Barr might be seen as a hedge for processing out a irreparable President in a way that minimizes inevitable damage to the party, might the same end-game strategists want to stock the Judiciary Committee in anticipation of impeachment? Not to protect the President, but to survive him?

    • Trip says:

      Drama queen gonna drama.

      Will he cry, will he yell? How will the DQ chew up the scenery today, emoting “outrage”?
      William Shatner ain’t got nothing on the hammy Lindsay.

  18. harpie says:

    Barr Will Be Grilled About ‘Unusual’ Memo on Mueller’s Obstruction Probe Trump’s attorney-general nominee has written that a key aspect of the Russia investigation is “fatally misconceived.” https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2019/01/barr-faces-grilling-senate-confirmation-hearing/580381/ Natasha Bertrand 1/15/19; 6AM

    Barr, who reportedly interviewed to be Trump’s defense lawyer last year, shared the [June 2018] memo with members of Trump’s legal team around the time he submitted it to Rosenstein and Assistant Attorney General Steve Engel, according to a letter he wrote to Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham late Monday night

    <<< Natasha Bertrand has this letter. According to Matthew Miller:

     5:32 AM – 15 Jan 2019 So in addition to advocating before DOJ and sharing his views with WH counsel, Barr shared his memo with Trump’s personal attorneys (including Kasowitz’s firm), Kushner’s attorney, and Pence’s attorney. He was essentially a member of the president’s legal defense team.

    • harpie says:

      From Barr’s 1/14/19 letter to Graham:
      “[…] As I explained during our meeting, I frequently discuss legal issues informally with lawyers, and it is possible that I shared the memorandum or discussed my thinking reflected in the memorandum with other people in addition to those mentioned above, including some who have represented clients in connection with the Special Counsel’s work. At this time, I also recall providing the memorandum to, and/or having conversations about its contents with, the following: • Professor Bradford Clark • Richard Cullen • Eric Herschmann • Abbe Lowell • Andrew McBride • Patrick Rowan • George Terwilliger • Professor Jonathan Turley • Thomas Yannucci // The foregoing represents my best recollection on these issues at this time. I look forward to discussing these issues further with you and your colleagues at my upcoming hearing.

      • bmaz says:

        I do not know that Barr’s memo was that astoundingly “unusual”. I have sent memos/letters to the DOJ many times before. Obviously I will never be up for an AG post, but there is no evidence Barr thought he really would be either. The contents of  his memo are of note, not that he issued it.

        Of his distribution list, Abbe Lowell is fairly interesting.

        • harpie says:

          Huh…I had no idea lawyers send memos/letters to DoJ…never thought about it. The “unususal” came from Sen. Coons, for the length of Barr’s memo, and the amount of resources/time it would have taken to write. Matthew Miller has this to say about the distribution list:

          So in addition to advocating before DOJ and sharing his views with WH counsel, Barr shared his memo with Trump’s personal attorneys (including Kasowitz’s firm), Kushner’s attorney, and Pence’s attorney. He was essentially a member of the president’s legal defense team.

          I think I read that Lowell wasn’t Kushner’s attorney at the time…I find “Pence’s attorney” pretty interesting, too.

          • bmaz says:

            Yeah, it is not that uncommon to lobby DOJ. Although it is more common to send it in letter form through the OPA.

            Yes, Abbe had been Kushner’s lawyer for over a year by the date of Barr’s memo.

  19. Yogarhythms says:

    EW, Ty for the thread. WB should recuse because of 19 page unpaginated memo from all matters B3. I like WB’s characterization of B3 should be allowed to finish. I’m suspicious of his impending confirmation status compelling a B3 finish prematurely.

  20. Jockobadger says:

    EW Folk, This bit of his opener has bothered me since I read it yesterday (here, of course.)

    “I am concerned that violence is also rearing its head in the political realm. In our system, political differences are to be mediated by free speech and elections. We must not allow political violence to supplant our political discourse, and I will make this a priority as Attorney General if confirmed.”

    Does this puzzle or concern anyone else? Why was it tagged on? Is it intended to send a message to anyone/group in particular or was it just intended to sound SCJ’y? I’m probably just overly suspicious. Thanks (Saw you on MSNBC last night, Marcy. Good work.)

  21. Willis Warren says:

    On Wittes’ piece being ridiculous: I’m not a lawyer, but I have studied logic and Wittes seems to be begging the question. His claim is that “the obstruction is the collusion” although weakened with a ‘what if’

    Now, let’s say that “obstruction is the collusion” is coherent enough to tease apart logically. Obstruction and collusion (I know, bmaz) would constitute two separate investigations, a criminal and a counterintel, which he gives a very good explanation of before he trashes it with the last few paragraphs

    As Marcy has pointed out, the firing of Michael Flynn for “lying” and being an easy target of blackmail gets blown up if Flynn got his Kislyak orders from Trump at Mar a Lago via phone calls

    To Wittes, it seems the available evidence suggests that Comey’s firing wasn’t because he wouldn’t “let Flynn go” but instead because it’s a national security issue, or some shit. He really doesn’t seem to have any idea how to interpret the Trump campaign’s interactions with Russia, so he’s hiding behind some vague inchoate idea of “national security.”

    Having pissed on the floor for the past two years with the “obstruction” claims, Wittes is now trying to rewrite himself into the current narrative. He still doesn’t seem to understand that Flynn was fired because he could implicate the President, and probably already has. Comey was fired because he wouldn’t let Flynn go and the FBI/DOJ clearly believe this. The new AG probably doesn’t get this, either, but he will be briefed by Mueller soon

  22. Kathleen says:

    Been watching the hearing.

    Obsevations of the Barr hearing: What was up with Ambassador Friedmann being part of building up Trump’s defense team ? Was that part of his job description? This is when Barr said he “did not want to put his head in the meat grinder” Then he basically puts out his unasked opinion of the Mueller investigation (the Memo). Sure looks like he was applying for the AG job. Durbin got closer than anyone by asking “why do you want this job” I would have asked a similar question “if you did not want to put your head in the meat grinder then…why now” Clearly he wanted to be the “meat grinder” or in control of the “meat grinder”. Sure appears that Barr will pave the way for Trump to resign while ensuring that PT or Pence will pardon the Romanov’s. No one out here in real life believes the hooey about “no one is above the law” Barr is experienced in the pardon process Iran contra and all.

    William Barr refuses to recuse himself or resign if put in an untenable situation by Trump or associates.

    Clearly William Barr is no Elliot Richardson.

  23. Eureka says:

    One take-home I am getting from chunks of this hearing:  for all the fretful talk about Dem dinosaurs, Barr – as an exemplar of GOP ones- seems really frozen in time.  He comes off as well-meaning, and seemed like he was e.g. going to take Booker up on his request for an educative meeting about ~ criminal justice reform.

    I don’t know…Sessions’ policies always came off as racist, authoritarian, (insert other descriptors) GOP standards.  This guy is from another century.  I really hope he can – and is willing to- get up to speed.  Or is he just willfully ignorant, or chosen for that reason?

  24. Willis Warren says:

    fwiw, I kind of get the feeling that Barr is there to keep the party from tanking.  He’ll toss trump when the time comes, but he’ll keep most of it under wraps.

  25. HighDesertWizard says:

    And now for something completely different…

    Not that I’m certain the alternative interpretation of what is going on with William Barr is correct but I offer it up anyway.

    Marcy makes the case that William Barr has made the case for impeachment. William Barr is smart enough to know that.

    If you are a Reagan Republican you want Trump to go and if you’re William Barr you have the experience and knowledge to maneuver in ways others might not to achieve that objective.

    What would it take to maneuver himself into position to make a difference if he wanted to make a difference?

    He might write a note that appeared to be a defense of the president and his moronic attorneys, an attack on Mueller, even while he makes the case for impeachment.

    In watching the hearing today I got no sense that William Barr is a Trump supporter or ideologue. And he’s not about to put his head into a meat grinder. And you gotta figure that once Barr sees the evidence Mueller has and understands that the truth would eventually be out, he’s not going to put his reputation at risk by taking down the investigation.

    Not recusing himself gives him a view of the entire body of evidence against Trump. Would Barr betray his country to protect Trump? Being a cabinet member gives him a seat at the table of the small group of people who could end this nightmare faster than any impeachment process could and without the warning pardons might require.

    Being a cabinet member gives him reason for contact with that small group of people.

    Is it impossible that William Barr might be stepping up to try to make a positive difference?

    I read that his daughter works for Rod Rosenstein. Is that true?

    This explanation of what’s going on in William Barr’s mind is one that makes sense of three facts.

    He’s smart. Smart enough to know that he’s made a strident defense of Trump and a flimsy attack on Mueller while at the same time making the case for impeachment.

    One last thought about all the people Barr shared his memo with…

    Don’t many of them, if not all of them, want out of the nightmare they find themselves in too?

  26. Bay State Librul says:

    I wish Ray Bradbury (Fahrenheit 451) was alive to opine on this blazing fire.

    “The city looks like a heap of baking powder. It’s gone. I wonder how many knew it was coming? I wonder how many were surprised?”

  27. errant aesthete says:

    A lot to think about:

    “Barr spent decades building his reputation. Why would he throw it away now by becoming the guy who buried the Mueller report?” (WAPO OpEd)

    “When he [Barr] leaves his hearing(s) he should not be whistling a happy tune but should be asking himself why in dog’s name he even agreed to go through this.” (EW thread)

    “Would Barr betray his country to protect Trump?” (EW thread)

    “I kind of get the feeling that Barr is there to keep the party from tanking.  He’ll toss trump when the time comes, but he’ll keep most of it under wraps.” (EW thread) 

    “Is it impossible that William Barr might be stepping up to try to make a positive difference?” (EW thread)

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