Bill Barr’s Past Statements Say Pardoning Roger Stone Would Be Obstruction

In a piece on Roger Stone’s sentence today, Politico questions how Bill Barr would regard a Trump pardon for Roger Stone.

How Barr would come down on a Stone pardon remains unclear. He’s a staunch defender of executive power and during his first stint as attorney general under President George H.W. Bush advocated for clemency on behalf of several Reagan-era officials caught up in the Iran-Contra scandal. He ultimately pushed for more pardons than the one Bush handed out to former Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger.

“There were some people arguing just for Weinberger, and I said, ‘No, in for a penny, in for a pound,” Barr said in an oral history to the University of Virginia.

The piece doesn’t examine Barr’s past claimed beliefs, though. And if Barr had a shred of intellectual consistency, he would view a pardon as a crime.

Start with the three times, in his confirmation hearing, where Barr said offering a pardon for false testimony would be obstruction.

Leahy: Do you believe a president could lawfully issue a pardon in exchange for the recipient’s promise to not incriminate him?

Barr: No, that would be a crime.


Klobuchar: You wrote on page one that a President persuading a person to commit perjury would be obstruction. Is that right?

Barr: [Pause] Yes. Any person who persuades another —

Klobuchar: Okay. You also said that a President or any person convincing a witness to change testimony would be obstruction. Is that right?

Barr: Yes.


Lindsey: So if there was some reason to believe that the President tried to coach somebody not to testify or testify falsely, that could be obstruction of justice?

Barr: Yes, under that, under an obstruction statute, yes.

Obviously, Barr already reneged on this view when, after reviewing the facts presented in the Mueller Report — which showed Trump’s team coaching witnesses to hew the party line in the context of pardons. It even showed Trump’s own lawyer, Jay Sekulow, helping to write Michael Cohen’s congressional testimony.

Perhaps Barr imagined that because Mike Flynn ended up cooperating with prosecutors, because Mueller didn’t use the word “directed” with Cohen, because a judge only found Paul Manafort lied while he was pretending to cooperate by a preponderance of the evidence standard, those wouldn’t count if and when Trump pardons them. Maybe he believes that because the investigation started in July 2016 was unfair, it’s no biggie if Trump pardons the people first investigated during the election, Flynn and Manafort.

Two things distinguish Stone, though. First, at a moment when he needed to pretend to care about the legitimacy of his intervention, he fully owned this prosecution.

BARR: Well, as you know, the Stone case was prosecuted while I was attorney general. And I supported it. I think it was established, he was convicted of obstructing Congress and witness tampering. And I thought that was a righteous prosecution. And I was happy that he was convicted.

Barr thought this prosecution, for obstruction and false statements, was righteous. It happened under him, not under Mueller. To say this, he buys off on the premise that Stone indeed did obstruct with his lies.

And, of course, Stone lied specifically to protect the president, to avoid explaining all those calls with Trump about WikiLeaks, to avoid describing what role Trump had in any success Stone had in optimizing the release of the John Podesta emails. He even told Randy Credico that he had to plead the Fifth because Stone couldn’t, because of his ties to Trump.

And perhaps still more significant, Roger Stone altered his testimony, in the form of his opening argument at trial, even after the Mueller Report came out to make it consistent with information Jerome Corsi made available while still protecting the secrets that would most implicate him and Trump. To HPSCI, Stone claimed he had one intermediary, who was Credico, at trial, his lawyers claimed he had two, but they both fooled the old rat-fucker about their ties to WikiLeaks.

Neither of those stories are true, they’re both crafted to protect Trump, Stone made the second lies after an extended discussion of how pardons equate to obstruction, and Barr has said Stone’s conviction for telling the lies is righteous.

Mind you, none of that is going to change the fact that Trump will extend clemency to Stone. It probably just means that Barr will invite some journalist he has known for decades and talk about tweets to distract from the fact that Barr is already on the record saying that what comes next is a crime.

42 replies
  1. Tom says:

    I’ve been wondering whether Barr is looking for a way out of the AG-ship that leaves him with a few dingy shreds of integrity. He may have concluded that the post-impeachment President Trump is not only a loose cannon but a whole ship-of-the-line broadside wildly karooming over the deck of the ship of state. In other words, Barr may have realized that Trump can’t be depended upon to keep mum while he, Barr, continues with his pet project of strengthening the executive branch and shielding the President and his friends from the consequences of their own criminal and unethical behaviour. Barr may have concluded that his reputation is going to be besmirched even more than it now is if he continues as AG, and that it is better for him to be resign on the grounds that the President has made his job impossible, as he has already claimed, or because he cannot agree with, say, pardoning Roger Stone, rather than be perceived as having been hounded out of his job by the thousands of his peers in the legal community who have publicly stated he’s unfit for his job.

    • Raven Eye says:

      Could Barr be seeing that Trump-Unplugged is the greatest risk to the Barr’s dream of the Unitary Executive / Imperial Presidency.

    • Vicks says:

      I think it’s important to remember there are people out there that Trump is truly afraid of, and Barr is paying lip service to those that are grumbling that he (Barr) is misusing his power, while at the same time putting Trump in his place.
      No matter what his motivation, Barr has the power and intellect and unfortunately the “Tool” to made the damage inflicted by the likes of dirty tricksters like Roger Stone look petty.

    • Stephen says:

      IMO: Nonsense. Barr did not say anything about quitting, nor did he object in any way to doing Trumpelstiltskin’s bidding. He only said that the constant impulsive tweeting was making his job more difficult. If you assume that “his job” includes obstructing investigations into the president’s various grifter associates, then he’s actually got a point! Plus, making these pseudo-independent “tough guy” assertions now will give him a mask of credibility when he testifies before Congress.

      • Tom says:

        I agree that Barr is willing to do Trump’s dirty work, but he’d prefer to do it as quietly and discreetly as possible. The President on the other hand–as Rachel Maddow said a few nights ago–wants to broadcast via tweet the news that his friends will be rewarded and his enemies will be punished.

  2. joelafisher says:

    Barr has nothing to do with anything. Trump will do what he wants, whenever he wants. He is definitely not in the Oval Office worrying about Barr’s conflicting opinions, public statements, or departure. I don’t even want to think about a 2nd term for Trump, however, I think the statute of limitations for a pardon/commutation related obstruction of justice charge (a la Pardon Me Ray Blanton) is 5 years from the date of pardon/commutation. Thus, commutation/pardon may at this time be a few weeks too late. In the revolting event of a Trump 2020 victory, a democratic takeover in 2025 could result in justice for the conspirators. Perhaps, charges could include earlier behavior if the earlier behavior was part of a continuing conspiracy.

  3. Rugger9 says:

    Barr will doubtless fall into line with whatever the excuse du jour will be for covering up the crimes.

    Barr’s a Republican and experienced in coverups, so any expressions of moral consistency is kabuki calculated to keep the courtier press in stenography mode. After all, Barr’s actions make it clear that any restraint of executive power must be rendered useless, and that’s why the pardon-palooza is important. The signals are clear and the investigations of the prior investigators (leaving out SDNY FBI HRC email team from the review is a serious tell here since those guys went all-in for the GOP campaign) mean the policy of the Palace is to “play ball” which is exactly what the GOP screeched that HRC was demanding during 2016.

  4. Tony el Tigre says:

    We live in an America where Stone may be pardoned before the sun rises tomorrow.

    I’m glad I didn’t have any kids.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      ABJ said that she sentenced Roger Stone for what he did, not for who his friends are, and characterized the president’s comments on the case as “entirely inappropriate.” [Indeed, commenting on an active criminal case (sub judice) would be prohibited in many jurisdictions.]

      “There was nothing unfair, phony or disgraceful about the [congressional] investigation or the prosecution,” Jackson said. “Witnesses do not get to decide for themselves whether Congress is entitled to the facts.”

      She also argued Stone’s disregard for the truth should worry all those who care about American democracy.

      “The dismay and disgust at the defendant’s belligerence should transcend party,” Jackson said.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      This comment from ABJ should be the lede in any commentary on Stone’s trial and punishment in the Age of Trump:

      “The truth still exists. The truth still matters,” Jackson said. “Roger Stone’s insistence that it doesn’t, his pride in his own lies are a threat to the very foundation of this democracy.”

  5. foggycoast says:

    expecting consistency or truthfulness from anyone in this administration is a pipe dream. at the very least i’d love to see Barr resign if/when Trump pardons Stone.

  6. Stephen says:

    So ABJ, after reading Stone the riot act (and going on record regarding his many sins) winds down to a 40-month sentence. Not sure how to interpret that. Maybe the shortest sentence she could justify times the longest sentence she thought she could impose without inducing instant presidential clemency?

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Bmaz can speak for himself, but I suspect he would say ABJ’s sentence is more in line with sentencing guidelines for a first-time white collar defendant who committed a non-violent crime than the original recommendation from prosecutors.

      It’s probably in the middle of that lower range. That makes it hard to reduce on appeal and harder still for Trump to gin up legitimate criticism of it. But he’ll think of something.

      By the standards of other industrialized western countries, American criminal sentences are excessive and sometimes draconian. In a nutshell, they grow from soil that is seeded with racism and chock full of Old Testament fire and brimstone. Reform is needed.

      • bmaz says:

        Guidelines calculations, recommendations by the parties, PO conclusions and resultant sentencing are very complex things. A short book could probably be written on just this case.

        That said, as said previously, I saw no problem with the APO recommending 84+ months. Their USSC Guidelines basis was not necessarily wrong. But I always thought 5 years, i.e. 60 months, was always the right sentence and that ABJ would not give more than that.

        She did not. In fact, ABJ deviated down even from that. There is no way in hell to say that 40 months was not a fair and lenient sentence. And I am fine with it, and hope others are, irrespective of whether he ever serves it.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        I did perceive a disconnect between the severity of her criticism of Stone’s conduct – and its systemic risk to the country – and her relatively short sentence.

        Personally, I would have thought Stone’s conduct and his complete lack of remorse – indeed his abusive disdain for judges, the law, and legal process – fully merited 48-60 months.

  7. JAFive says:

    The pardon presents an interesting strategic situation, though. Obviously, Trump sees some political cost or he would’ve done it already (he pardoned Arpaio pre-sentencing). So that suggests waiting until after the election (which exposes Stone to some hard time).

    If Trump loses in November, then there’s nothing stopping him from pardoning immediately. If he wins, then maybe he pardons, but the cost is still there and maybe just maybe he wouldn’t. So if you’re Stone or Flynn (or maybe Manafort), you want Trump to lose in November so nothing holds up your pardon, right? Could lead to some interesting incentives and behaviors.

    • Bobby Gladd says:

      As long as Stone remains out on bail, Trump can wait. Next up, new trial motion ABJ ruling. After that, appeal–which could stretch way out.

      But, Trump is feeling pretty frisky post-“acquittal.” Maybe he wants to show us his Chief Law Enforcement Officer “stones” with another finger in our eyes.

    • pjb says:

      It seems to me that win or lose, there is no political cost to Trump to pardon Stone, Flynn, Manafort, etc. post-election. He wins, he’s dictator. He loses, WTF. Of course, if Trump should need to distract the media for a day or two (like maybe June when SCOTUS rules on the 3 pending cases), he could issue a pardon then and not wait for the election.

      As far as hard time, I wonder if Stone will ever serve a day. He has moved for a new trial and he does not have to report while that is pending. Should he lose, he will undoubtedly appeal and seek a stay of reporting to jail. I suppose there’s a fair chance he will get the stay. I can only guess that pushes the calendar to the election.

  8. punaise says:

    Roger was a trolling Stone
    Whenever he lied through his hat it hit home
    And when he was tried, all he left us was a koan

    Hey Momma
    I heard Roger called himself a jack-of-all-trades
    Tell me is that what sent him to a creeky bunk bed
    Folks say Roger would beg, borrow, steal
    To pay his shills

    Hey Momma
    Folks say Roger never was much on thinking
    Spent most of his time chasing ratf*cks and drinking
    Momma I’m depending on you to tell me the truth
    Momma looked up with a tear in her eye and said, son
    Roger was a trolling Stone (well, well, well, well)

  9. earlofhuntingdon says:

    So Ric Grennell had to get a second job. Will he be double-dipping, collecting a salary as Ambassador to Germany and a second one as acting DNI?

    Grenell’s backgroun is exclusively PR, always as aide-de-camp to hard right principals (except for his two years as Ambassador to Germany). He is intensely partisan. He is also nakedly unqualified for a job that by statute requires deep experience in intelligence (gained in civilian or military jobs).

    That would mean Grennell will do for Trump what he has always done for his principals. In this case, he will a) to filter the intel the president sees, to keep him happy; b) select intel to be used against Trump’s enemies – that is, taxpayer-funded oppo research; and c) protect the president and piss on his enemies by releasing appropriate intel.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      If Trump hears that his latest Russian secret is out, he might be mad enough to fire one acting DNI and hire a worse one. Vlad must be pisssed, too. He does all the work and Trump can’t keep it a frigging secret.

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