American Democracy Needs Better Reporters than Pete Williams

Bill Barr made big news yesterday saying intemperate things in what has charitably been called an “interview” with NBC’s Pete Williams. Those comments have distracted from other details of the so-called interview, which deserve further attention for the way that Williams was utterly useless in guiding the interview towards any of the questions that needed to be answered. Given Barr’s assault on the rule of law, garbage interviews like this undermine the Constitution.

Williams helps Barr continue to cover up his role in the Ukraine investigation

First, consider the exchange that Williams and Barr have to exonerate the Attorney General in involvement in Rudy Giuliani’s Ukraine conspiracy.

Williams: Were you ever asked by the White House to talk to anybody in Ukraine about an investigation of Joe Biden? (18:40)

Barr: No.

Williams: Are you concerned that Ukraine has a missing server from the Hillary Clinton emails?

Barr [searching look]: Fortunately I haven’t gotten into the Ukraine thing. I don’t know. I’m not even sure about the nature of these allegations.

Williams: What about the allegation that it was the Ukrainians who meddled in the election, not the Russians. Are you satisfied that’s not the case?

Barr: I am confident the Russians attempted to interfere in the election. I don’t know about the Ukrainians. I haven’t even looked into it, frankly.

Williams: What was your involvement in the Department’s decision not to investigate the President’s phone call to Ukraine?

Barr: We put out a statement that explained the process, which was the Criminal Division made that decision and in the process consulted with the senior most career employees who are the experts on campaign finance laws and that process was supervised by the Deputy but I’m not going to go beyond what we’ve already said about that process.

Williams: Well, were you satisfied that everything that was done–

Barr: Absolutely.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Williams were using a script DOJ gave him, because Williams asks none of the questions that remain unanswered about DOJ’s role in the Ukraine investigation, such as why they didn’t do the bare minimum of connecting the dots implemented after 9/11, why the didn’t refer the complaint to the FEC, why they didn’t abide by the whistleblower protection act, why (on demand, apparently) they issued a statement exonerating the President, or who the three Ukrainians that DOJ admitted have been fed into John Durham’s investigation are.

Instead, Williams lets Barr ignore his question about his role in reviewing the whistleblower complaint and claim — as the person who knew of the Lev Parnas investigation that also knew of the whistleblower complaint — he has no role in the Ukraine thing. This exchange raises more questions about Barr’s involvement, but Williams instead allows him to claim a clean bill of health.

Williams allows Barr to pretend bypassing MLAT is normal

Perhaps the most alarming part of this so-called interview is how Williams let Barr claim that entirely bypassing the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) process in requesting law enforcement assistance from other countries is normal.

[Why he went to three countries] The presentation of that in the media [laughs] has been silly. The person running the investigation is John Durham. But this is a very unusual circumstance where we are going to foreign governments where we are asking them to assist and cooperate including some of their sensitive materials and personnel. A US Attorney doesn’t show up on the doorstep of some of these countries like London and say, Hey, I want to talk to your intelligence people and so forth. All the regularities were followed. I went through the — my purpose was to introduce Durham to the appropriate people and set up a channel where he could work with these countries. At the request of these countries — I went through the Ambassadors of each country, and the governments wanted to initially talk to me to find out, what is this about, what are the ground rules, is this going to be a criminal case, are you going to do a public report. They wanted to understand the ground rules before I met with Durham and I met with them and I set up appropriate channels. This was perfectly appropriate. (14:37)

This issue goes to the core of the problem with Trump’s Ukraine conspiracy. Barr’s nervous answer suggests he knows bypassing normal process might implicate him in a criminal conspiracy.

And Williams, supposedly a DOJ beat journalist who should know better, just lets this bullshit answer sit there, unchallenged.

Williams allows Barr to lie about techniques used by the FBI

Barr’s attack on the FBI is based on a lie about how it operates. The FBI has what’s called the Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide. The entire point of it is to make sure paperwork is filed before any investigative steps are taken. Barr turns that on its head when he complains that the FBI opened an investigation before taking an investigative step.

They jump right into a full-scale investigation before they even went and talked to the foreign officials about exactly what was said the opened an investigation of the campaign

The DIOG lists what an agent can do at each of three levels of investigation — assessment, preliminary investigation, and full investigation. It permits the government to use Confidential Human Sources — the basis for most of Barr’s complaint about “spying” on the campaign — at the Assessment level (which is basically a tip).  Thus, in spite of what Barr says, the fact that FBI opened this as a full investigation (which DOJ IG found to be proper) had nothing to do with the FBI’s ability to use informants.

Suggests the investigation shouldn’t have been sustained once it got opened (0:20)

There has to be some basis before we use these very potent powers in our core First Amendment activity, and here, I thought this was very flimsy (2:18)

The Department as a rule of reason, … Is what you’re relying on sufficiently powerful to justify the techniques you’re using

What are the alternatives … When you step back and ask what was this all based on, it’s not sufficient (2:48)

they used very intrusive techniques they didn’t do what would normally be done under those circumstances, which is to go to the campaign and certainly there were people in the campaign who could be trusted including a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the governor of New Jersey (5:13)

Anyone covering DOJ has an obligation to point out that this is a lie, especially because Barr has never in his history leading the DOJ complained about such techniques being used with others, especially minorities, when exercising their First Amendment rights. Indeed, Barr’s DOJ currently investigates not only Muslims in mosques (which has been going on under both parties), but people protesting Trump’s immigration policies or legally representing immigrants. Barr’s DOJ used a wiretap in a garden variety leak investigation when it already knew the leaker this year. Williams has an obligation with calling Barr out for his very selective concern about the First Amendment.

But that’s not the only complaint about process. Barr keeps demanding not just that the FBI give Trump a defensive briefing (one of the subjects of the investigation, Mike Flynn, attended his first campaign briefing, and that was within days of the time Flynn inked his deal to become an undisclosed agent of Turkey), but that they just waltz to the campaign and start asking questions.

From day one they say they’re not going to talk to the campaign, they’re going to put people in there, wire them up, and have these conversations with people involved in the campaign because that way we’ll get the truth (8:44)

Barr would never let FBI approach any other investigation like this, starting by allowing the subject of the investigation to excuse their actions.

Note, one of the people Barr thought FBI should have asked — Jeff Sessions — ultimately came to be a subject of this investigation.

Barr takes this so far that he complains that John Brennan and Barack Obama tried to limit an ongoing Russian attack that was going on whether or not Trump’s flunkies were involved. 

What I find particularly inexplicable is that they talked to the Russians but not to the Presidential campaign. On August 4 Brennan braced the head of Russian intelligence, he calls the head of Russian intelligence, … they go and confront the Russians, who clear are the bad guys, and they won’t go and talk to the campaign and say what is this about (5:51)

He’s basically complaining, here, that Obama tried to keep the country safe from hostile interference in the election.

And Williams just sat there looking at his list of questions like a child.

Williams lets Barr minimize what happened in the Russian investigation

Predictably, Barr minimizes what the Russian investigation showed. He claims that what has subsequently been explained to be a suspected Russian asset with ties to both sides of the Russian operation, Joseph Mifsud, telling George Papadopoulos they were going to drop emails that later got dropped was not worthy of investigation.

In May 2016, a 28 year campaign volunteer says in a social setting … a suggestion of a suggestion that Russians had adverse information from Hillary that they might dump in the campaign (3:24)

Barr then claims there was no evidence of “collusion,” something Williams agrees with.

There never has been any evidence of collusion … completely baseless (2:57) [Well, it doesn’t turn out that way at the beginning, at the start ]

According to Mark Meadows’ definition of “collusion,” it was proven by the guilty verdict in the Roger Stone trial. Moreover, the Mueller Report makes it clear there was evidence not just of “collusion,” but also conspiracy, just not enough to charge. In this case, Williams affirmatively adds to the disinformation on this point.

Barr conflates the investigation into Carter Page and everyone else

Barr did something that the Republicans have been doing all day: conflating the investigation into Carter Page with the investigation into Trump’s other flunkies, in spite of the fact that the investigation of each individual was also individually predicated and that the investigation into Page was based off stuff going back years before he joined the Trump campaign and most of the investigative activities took place after he was fired from the campaign. In one comment, Barr literally conflates Carter Fucking Page with the President himself, and ignores that the President was only investigated after he tried to obstruct the investigation into Mike Flynn.

At that point [when FBI talked to Steele’s source], when their entire case collapsed, what did they do? They kept on investigating the President well into his administration. (10:26)

He repeats that claim a second time.

Their case collapsed after the election (13:57)

Barr not only does that, but ignores the incriminatory evidence against Page, so as to be able to claim that the investigation should never have started.

From the very first day of this investigation, which was July 31 … all the way to September 2017, there was not one bit of incriminatory evidence to come in, it was all exculpatory. The people they were taping denied any involvement with Russia, denied the very specific facts that the FBI was relying on, … the FBI ignores it, presses ahead, withholds that information from the court, withholds critical exculpatory information from the court  (9:07)

Barr made an interesting claim — that the sole reason the FBI got a FISA (including a physical search FISA, which allows them to obtain stored communications like email) was to access his comms from the campaign.

I think going through people’s emails, which they did as a result of the FISA warrant, they went through everything from Page’s life. … his emails go back. The main reason they were going for the FISA warrant initially was to go back historically and seize all his emails and texts … that’s exactly why they got the FISA (12:30)

That may be true (obviously, the FBI would have wanted to know why Page went to Moscow during the campaign), but DOJ imposed minimization procedures to limit dissemination of those materials.

The final PMPs restricted access to the information collected through FISA authority to the individuals assigned to the Crossfire Hurricane team and required the approval of a DAD or higher before any FISA-derived information could be disseminated outside the FBI. In normal circumstances, the FBI is given more latitude to disseminate FISA-derived information that appears to be foreign intelligence information or evidence of a crime. Evans told us that he believed these added restrictions were warranted here because of the possibility that the FISA collection would include sensitive political campaign related information.

Barr’s conflation of Page with the campaign as a whole and Trump himself was all a ploy, and a journalist could have noted the game Barr was playing in real time. Williams did not.

Williams lets additional Barr bullshit go unquestioned

In addition to those general problems, Barr made a number of other bullshit assertions. For example, Barr claimed the investigation into Trump was the first counterintelligence investigation into a candidate even though that’s what the Hillary email investigation was.

Greatest danger to our free system is that the incumbent use apparatus of state to spy and effect outcome, first time in history this has been done (1:14)

Later, Williams lets a renowned authoritarian to claim not just that he cares about civil liberties, but that his primary job is protecting them.

[In response to Williams’ suggestion that this authoritarian cares about civil liberties] I think our nation was turned on its head for three years based on a completely bogus narrative that was largely fanned and hyped by an irresponsible press … the Attorney General’s primary responsibility is to protect against the abuse of the law enforcement and intelligence apparatus and make sure it doesn’t play an improper role in our political life. That’s my responsibility. (18:06)

Barr poo poos the regularity of illegal foreign money coming into campaigns.

In most campaigns signs of illegal foreign money coming in (2:01)

Don’t assume campaign is acting in league with foreign powers, there has to be some basis (2:13)

This makes me, for the first time, concerned about how DOJ rolled out the Andy Khawaja indictment.

Finally, Williams asks, but doesn’t follow up on his question about whether it was appropriate for Durham to make a comment.

[After Williams mentions the grand jury] I think it was definitely appropriate because it was necessary to avoid public confusion. … Durham’s work was not being preempted, Durham was doing something different, (15:33)

Interestingly, Barr effectively confirmed Williams’ insinuation this was now a grand jury investigation, which would amount to sharing grand jury information.

I have been pointing out increasingly often that many members of the press seem uninterested in defending the parts of the Constitution that don’t directly affect press protections. The duty to uphold the rule of law is particularly important for DOJ reporters, who should know enough about how investigations work to identify when something is abnormal (as Barr’s direct involvement, generally, is, to say nothing of his international field trip).

Williams was not up to the task in this interview.

95 replies
  1. Phaedruses says:

    Are you saying Dick Cheney’s former press secretary might not be the best person to get the truth out of Bill Barr?

    • MB says:

      Also, let us not forget after Cheney ascended to the Sec’y of Defense position under Bush Sr., that Pete Williams became the Press Secretary for Defense Dept. I remember seeing him on TV all the time during the Bush admin’s invasion of Panama in 1989 to remove Noriega. When Clinton won the presidency in 1992, Williams transitioned from politics to journalism. Since Bill Barr was also atty general during the Bush Sr. admin, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they haven’t maintained some kind of friendship since then. Just sayin…

  2. Andy says:

    Absolutely agree. The worst interview. No attempt to make Barr answer important questions. Just more access journalism drivel. Williams should watch how Irish journalists question their politicians. It is absolutely outrageous how obsequious and subservient Williams was towards Barr.

    • Ruthie says:

      It’s likely no accident that Williams was chosen among all his colleagues on the DOJ beat to conduct this interview.

  3. Peterr says:

    Pete Williams is pretty good when it comes to explaining a breaking SCOTUS decision to the broader world, but his approach to digging into stories, conducting interviews, and reporting on what he has gathered is more along the lines of “he said/she said” journalism with a hefty dose of access journalism. “See? I got Barr on camera – isn’t that great reporting?”

    Uh, no. Not if you don’t ask the right questions, challenge obvious falsehoods, and push back with the right followup questions.

    For example, in the section about Ukraine above, an obvious followup to Barr’s response that he was never asked by the WH to get into the investigation the WH wanted Ukraine to undertake would be to ask Barr what he thought when he learned that the WH had told Ukraine that they should work with Rudy and AG Barr. Is it Barr’s position that Trump told Ukraine to work with Barr but didn’t tell Barr to work with Ukraine?

    This interview reeks of “Beat Sweetener” to me.

    • BobCon says:

      The crazy thing about beat sweeteners is that they don’t do anything to fix the transactional imbalance. There is a stupid assumption somewhere (everywhere) in the NBC newsroom that there is a bargain to be made with these people, or there is some bump in public interest in NBC News coming from this.

      Barr is still not going to be giving him any real news when Williams wants it, and nobody is going to be impressed that Williams got this interview a day from now.

      • Peterr says:

        The Villagers are impressed. It’s how they measure importance in DC. The prospect that Pete receives invitations to the better holiday parties have gone up, and the prospect that he’ll be cornered for conversations with The Best People at those parties is damn near certain.

        This is the land of St. Tim Russert we’re talking about here.

        • BobCon says:

          Oh, sure, and the dumb thing is these people know they’re not even competing for talk of the village, they’re hoping to be the talk of the part of the village in the wrong side of the tracks.

          Network reporters are always lower in status than the big print outlets, barely higher than Ron Burgundy. And all of the DC politics corps knows they’ll never measure up to Hollywood and the big time authors like Robert Caro.

          The only reason to get into political journalism is if you actually care about the substance, and the vapor heads like Williams and Wolf Blitzer are always going to be chasing something they know they’ll never really get.

    • Deborah says:

      Pete is right-leaning, former Cheney mouthpiece. Need I say more? Barr knew he would be friendly, not objective.

  4. Jenny says:

    Thanks Marcy. This is probably why Barr agreed to the interview with Pete Williams, soft questions. Agree with your last line, “Williams was not up to the task in this interview.”

  5. viget says:

    Crazy idea I had, emptywheel—

    Might not the significance of the physical search FISA on Page and getting emails be that it revealed a whole treasure trove of emails among campaign staff (and possible foreign influencers) that the campaign had thought it already scrubbed from its servers and campaign staff’s personal devices? Those emails could have led them to focus more on Flynn (and maybe Manafort/Gates?) and obtain evidence that they otherwise wouldn’t have known to obtain?

    If so, I can see why the frothy right is so infatuated with the Page FISA, but for that email access, they might have gotten away with significantly more than they have already.

      • P J Evans says:

        A lot of the “lawyers” in the R side of the Senate (and some of the Ds, too) seem to be the kind of that would plea-bargain a jaywalking citation into intentional vehicular homicide. /s

  6. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Foreign money (like corporate money) flows into major American elections the way malware wants into your computer. If you haven’t installed a decent firewall and anti-malware in general, it will come in. Period. You have to take steps to stop it. In the case of Trump, he invited it in – and it came.

    Bill Barr is not only a current and former AG, he worked for the CIA and was general counsel for a large telecomms company. He has worked in Metro DC his whole career. He knows the lay of that land. He was lying his abundant ass off to Williams and expects to get away with whatever he does to protect Trump. It’s up to the next Democratic president to prove him wrong.

  7. earlofhuntingdon says:

    It strikes me that being a journalist is a little like being a therapist, in the sense that for talk therapy to work, the therapist must be at least as smart as the patient. Otherwise, the patient’s defensive mechanisms will run rings around the therapist’s attempts to work through them. Williams does not seem cut out for this work, except as a stenographer.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Williams’s background at Stanford and public affairs work for then SecDef Dick Cheney, means he knows exactly what he was doing in his interview with Barr. That puts him in the same shitbasket as Baloo Barr.

      • Mitch Neher says:

        I can easily see Pete Williams as a sloth bear.

        But I see Barr as mostly just a really short Bar Bar.

        Or a Bar Kat. Like a Stutz–with chain drive.

        • Mitch Neher says:

          Drat! I posted too quickly, yet again.

          Baloo taught Mowgli The Law of the Jungle.

          So . . . Given that Trump simply must be Shere Khan, it follows that Mowgli is . . . Mick Mulvaney. No?

  8. Mitch Neher says:

    P. G. FUBarr really brings out the best in Ms. Marcy Wheeler.

    (What are the chances that P. G. FUBarr would ever “sit” for an “interview” with Ms. Marcy Wheeler???)

  9. Sela says:

    Speaking of bad journalism, I need some help. I’ve read this Rolling Stone story by Matt Taibbi about the Horowitz report:

    I don’t trust Matt Taibbi at all. I know he is promoting some kind of anti-anti-trump narrative, and that for some reason he became invested in discrediting the Mueller investigation. And he does a lot of cherry picking when trying to push his straw-man arguments. So I don’t take anything he write at face value. But in this specific case, I haven’t read the Horowitz report yet so I can’t really tell how much of what he writes there is true, and how much is bogus.

    • drouse says:

      Matt Taibbi has an affinity problem. He spent his lost decade as an ex-pat in russia. Fond remembrances have colored his outlook ever since. To the point of being a useful idiot.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        By all accounts, Taibbi was pretty much a high-testosterone ugly American while there, and he hasn’t changed since returning home.

      • Sela says:

        This could explain it. I had some serious head-scratching moments when reading some of his writings on the Mueller investigations in the past, but I couldn’t figure out where he’s coming from.

        But previously, I knew enough about the topic to figure out why he’s wrong.

    • Sela says:

      Ok, so I did some work myself, cross-checking one of the central point Taibbi made: he claimed the the Horowitz report corroborates the “Nunez” memo. He even linked to a WaPo piece calling it a “joke” and a “sham” in an effort to discredit Wapo. Unfortunately, it looks like he didn’t read the WaPo piece beyond the headline. Sargent and Waldman don’t dispute the fact of this memo. They call it a “sham” because it was hyped as a memo that would discredit the entire Russia investigation. The reporters don’t dispute any of the facts in the memo, but say that the memo is paper-thin when it comes to support the claims it was purported to support.

      So now the Horowitz report corroborates the claims in the “Nunez memo” that were never disputed in the first place. And this answers my own question.

  10. dwfreeman says:

    The background of any person engaged in political and legal reporting is relevant. And so, Pete Williams background is relevant. He worked for Dick Cheney and George H. Bush before he ever worked for the network. Williams is a pretty straight shooter. But he has never been a guy who pushes the envelope on political stories. He is an explainer. He likes interpreting stuff for the public, not challenging the status quo. He is not a disruptor. He will break stories but he’s not a guy who pushes the story for his own benefit. That’s just not in his personal makeup. Yeah, he wants to get the story first, but he is not about challenging a Republican official to get it or make the case. Of all the reporters in the NBC fold, Pete Williams is one of the most conservative. In fact, he would be better off working for CBS. His reporting has always seemed to fit their news mold.

    • PieIsDamnGood says:

      “He is an explainer.”

      Well he failed in this interview. Letting Barr spout his nonsense and contributing disinformation of his own doesn’t explain shit to the American people.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Simply giving an interviewee the opportunity to sell his talking points is not journalism, it’s PR. That’s also Williams’s background. Nor is it “interpreting.” That requires asking harder questions and providing context interviewees shy away from or refuse to submit to. Williams does more than not challenge the status quo, he builds it.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Bill Barr was Attorney General when Williams was Dick Cheney’s top public affairs guy at DoD. He knew exactly who to call for a favorable interview.

      • bmaz says:

        This is right. Pete Williams is better than slavish CNN DOD mouthpiece and stenographer Barbara Starr. I would argue by a noticeable amount, but there is a reason they are still in the same conversation

  11. Katherine M Williams says:

    Corporate media is working 24/7/365 to normalize the fascist Trump regime. It’s working, too. He won’t be convicted in the Senate an he and the corporate press will scream “Total vindication!” And people will believe it.

      • timbo says:

        No, that’s not entirely true. The GOP is playing the media and the media is letting it continue unabated. The fact is that many newsrooms are being forced to report both sides of an issue, that is ‘reality’, that only has one side. I was gratified the other day to see that some of the PBS Newshour folks were starting to crack under the strain and start to get snippy at GOP hacks that come on PBS to bald-face lie to their electorate. Hopefully this becomes a growing trend in the main newsrooms of the country. They need to stop allowing these lies to go unchallenged. And the media, the frontline journalists, the newsroom producers and managers, etc, need to stop playing the GOP’s game here. Otherwise, the Trump regime may end up being permanent.

  12. harpie says:

    New in the Impeachment Chronicles:
    2:33 PM – 11 Dec 2019

    JUST IN: Schiff has submitted classified evidence to the judiciary committee ahead up tonight’s impeachment markup. it’s the letter from the Pence aide who filed additional evidence after her testimony. Schiff says the office of the vice president has declined to declassify it. [screenshot]

    • Eureka says:

      Yes, bmaz, I just saw your tweet and wanted to send sympathy and empathy to your missing Kiki today. Our big dog baby was 15 yrs, 5m, and 1day when she died– and that was seven years ago, and I still count that day. It’s so hard… harpie said it best.

  13. P J Evans says:

    Following live-blogging of the HJC committee, marking up (as if) the articles.

    I think that all the R members need to take a mandatory class on the Constitution and impeachment, for a CLE credit, to be taught by Obama and Clinton, with Michele Obama sitting in the chair. So many of them seem to be clueless or liars – and a few appear to be both.

    • Eureka says:

      I can’t figure out the conclusion/summary of events. Thanks to your link I know it concluded ~ 1037pm, but all I get after that is a a furious batch of tweet/retweet snippets coming out of account.

      [I’ve had cspan2 on but it is re-running right now, Doug Collins is yelling a lot, hard to think through all that]

  14. Scott says:

    American democracy? What is it about reality that you people don’t get? Your democracy (to the extent you ever had one) officially went out the window with Citizens United.

    [Welcome back to emptywheel. Please use a more differentiated username when you comment next as we have several community members named “Scott” or “Scot.” Thanks. /~Rayne]

    • P J Evans says:

      “You people”? Where are you? (And if you’re in Canada or the UK, deal with your own problems in democracy.)

      • Arj says:

        Here in rainy Cornwall I did my bit to remove the egregious Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson bright & early this morning; hoping plenty of others do the same. It’s everywhere folks…

        • Arj says:

          Appreciated. Relentless wet weather is a real factor in this deeply rural area. That & ingrained conservatism.

        • Cathy says:

          Constant vigilance!

          You and your neighbors take in daily stride an onslaught that would quell a Texas heart and we’re pretty proud of our weather (and our conservatives) – we wear as a badge of honor those things we survive…

          Many years ago we tourists tried to hear Shakespeare over the chattering of our teeth at a summer production at the Minack ( This despite our hostess providing ample blankets, rain slickers, and a thermos of hot chocolate. You lot appeared to be enjoying it for what it was: a pleasant summer evening outing.

        • Arj says:

          You say sooth. What dunt kill us makes us stronger, as we say after a country walk. Hoping our liberals are tougher than the Tories today.

          My most recent Shakespeare experience was in Central Park: The Tempest, complete with real rain. Felt perfectly normal to me, and luckily the ppl to my left had sugary things they were happy to share. Minack is right on the edge; I used to work for the National Trust in North Cornwall – could always see where the rain was coming from, out on them there cliffs.

    • Rayne says:

      This American democracy has always been in a state of improvement from day one when persons of color, indigenous, women, and LGBTQ+ were not assured the same rights as white cis-het males.

      Your Canadian democracy suffers from the same challenges…oh, wait. Canada’s still a federal parliamentary constitutional monarchy which isn’t a full-fledged democracy. Not to mention Canada’s system continues to piss all over the people of First Nations.

      Mind the mote in your eye, neighbor. The problems on this side of the border fomented by Putin are already affecting Canada, like growing white nationalist terror, with a Canadian twist like les Gilet Jaunes.

    • bmaz says:

      And, hi there “Scott”. This is a shallow and silly take. Citizens United is not the problem, it is (even if an unnecessary one) an affirmation of First Amendment law. The problem, instead, is the precedent long before CU, i.e. in 1976, Buckley v. Valeo.

  15. Eureka says:

    “Fortunately”, he says:

    Barr [searching look]: Fortunately I haven’t gotten into the Ukraine thing. I don’t know. I’m not even sure about the nature of these allegations.


    Oh, look — there’s that “attempted” word (again), like Sen. Kennedy’s “tried”:

    Barr: I am confident the Russians attempted to interfere in the election. I don’t know about the Ukrainians. I haven’t even looked into it, frankly.

    Maybe these incompetent reporters who are not acting as journalists need a new safeword: let’s use _risotto_.

    Because beyond those other lies like the Russians “tried” to hack, they also keep the story to the “DNC Server,” a compound inanimate — one which is given the most ‘life’ by other propaganda, such as Trump and co. using highly negative associative words paired with “DNC”, “Democrats”, “Liberals”, etc. at every opportunity at talk. And they have plenty of opportunities at unscreened and widely-broadcast talk because most in MSM just let it fly.

    So sure no one cares about the likes of John Podesta, apparently. But what about those poor DCCC staffers?

    Etc., and there is much that could be added.

    I am so sick of members of the press furthering all manner of relentless propaganda and outright gaslighting.

    **Yells** RISOTTO, PEOPLE– stop *dehumanizing* and otherwise blandifying what the Russian gov did, along with perpetuating the other lies about what they did to US and our elections! Especially as they continue to “interfere,” and all signs from Trump and the GOP are but warm embraces.

    Marcy, this is one of those days and weeks where I don’t know how you do it. And I thank you for doing it here, as always.

      • Eureka says:

        Tx for the emotional support comment, Cathy. I am *having a day” today.


        Adding: I am being a bit tongue-in-cheek re ’emo support comment’ (as per prior comments of yours and the emoji menu, an option that eludes me), not to undercut the *intellectual support* ;)

        • Cathy says:

          We may not have units of measure with which we can define a short term exposure limit (STEL) or even an Immediately Dangerous to Mental Health (IDMH) concentration of gaslight. Its effects are corrosive and debilitating.

          Our best defense may be the truth. Yet our truly best personal protective equipment (PPE) is each other, fending off the noxious fumes, supplying fresh perspective and reaffirming that, “Yes, *this* is true,” and “Yes, *this* is right and over there, *that* is wrong.”

    • Eureka says:


      Link *with contextualized comments* re Sen. Kennedy:
      and as I understand it, he went on in this vein during subsequent interviews.

      Also I am hella pissed about what appears to be going down in the House re nominal impeachment. All I can think of is Rayne’s extensive History’s Rhyme series, and how — with as much work as she had already done (and purloined by NYT, at that) — there still wasn’t space and time for all of the High Crimes and Misdemeanors. Come on, House of Reps, WTF?

      • Eureka says:

        For Rayne’s series, just search KW history’s rhyme. Here is the most recent post, which should link via tags to priors in the series:

        History’s Rhyme, Part 5: Bad Faith, Unauthorized Acts and Crimes Against Humanity

        Obviously, the current nominal impeachment, the media’s role with Barr and related propaganda as per EW in the current & previous posts, the sunken Mueller findings, etc. are all one of the same piece. Hence my topical outrage.

      • Cathy says:

        From @Popehat’s avatar @TwoArticleHat:
        /8 A theme of all of Trump’s legal troubles is that it’s difficult to prove intent when someone constantly acts that way. Synapses fire in that wad of cheese he has for a brain and things fall out of his mouth. Did he understand or know whether they are true or not?
        8:16 AM – 11 Dec 2019

        I realize real-life context makes this observation really bleak, but glad to find someone so able to put his finger on the Gordian knot of this Administration: this President’s most hazardous attribute is also his best legal defense. **AARGH!**

        I apologize for taking the observation out-of-thread, but pause for a moment to marvel how well it stands on its own. [h/t to @emptywheel for retweeting another pearl on this thread earlier today]

        • P J Evans says:

          There should be something like “incompetent to do the necessary work” as a reason to impeach – or permanently remove from office via the 25th.

        • Eureka says:

          That’s a great thread. Thank goodness we are each and all not so socially powerful nor individually moored as POTUS that we would each regularly behave in public such that we would meet the law(s) like he does.

          It would make for life in our republic to be nasty, brutish, and short.

        • bmaz says:

          Agree with Ken, Strzok has a potential claim, but not a particularly good one. Mostly because the damages are so iffy that it would make it an extremely expensive and ill advised adventure. I do, however, disagree with both Conway and Ken that Strzok is necessarily a “public person” so as to demand actual malice. To any extent Strzok and Page are publicly known, it is because of malignant bellicosity by Trump and his faction, not because they ever intended to be “public”. This is mostly irrelevant, and interesting only for discussion, as I do not expect either Strzok or Page will pursue any such claim.

  16. klynn says:

    Thanks for this post EW. I really liked your tweet with the list of things Pete Williams failed to do.

    Do you have a list of questions you would Have asked Barr?

    I think getting those questions on placards and in the hands of some folks who might walk around with them outside DOJ, might create some needed press.

  17. mospeck says:

    >garbage interviews like this undermine the Constitution.

    Yes. Absolutely. Pete Williams comes off looking like an idiot. He makes Chuck Todd look good.

  18. Ckymonstaz says:

    Hate to say it but not sure why any of this matters…even if the supreme Court upholds the rule of law and instructs the douche bag in chief to turn over his tax returns and insists witnesses must testify they will still just ignore and Barr will do nothing to uphold the rule of law…the battle is over, we lost long ago

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