On Bill Barr’s Last Day, Trump Commits the Crime Barr Affirmed in His Confirmation Hearing

In Bill Barr’s confirmation hearing, he affirmed on three different occasions (each time with lessening force) that it would be a crime to offer a pardon for false testimony.

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.

In Bill Barr’s resignation letter, he explained he would “spend the next week wrapping up a few remaining matters important to the Administration and depart on December 23rd.” Barr stopped off at the White House yesterday for a short visit. He and his spox wrote his good-byes during the day and then left DOJ in charge of Jeffrey Rosen.

And then after all that, Trump pardoned Paul Manafort and Roger Stone. The Manafort and Stone pardons — for which the paperwork must have been done ahead of time but held until Barr was no longer Attorney General — only cover the crimes for which they’ve been found guilty. That means both men would ostensibly remain under investigation for their coordination with Russian Agents during the election (and both men assuredly did coordinate with Russian Agents during the election.

If Bill Barr didn’t find a way to permanently end that investigation.

The question now is whether Bill Barr, cover-up artist, managed to cover his tracks this time as well as he did in Iran-Contra.

36 replies
  1. Dunnydone says:

    Chris Voss would be very proud of that calibrated ‘No’ question by Leahy… Barr didn’t just say ‘No’ he said ‘No, it would be a crime’

    Dr. Wheeler thank you for all you do. If you haven’t been to the Guinness factory yet, when things calm down make sure you have a pint on the top floor… it’s beautiful 360* view of downtown Dublin and nectar is straight from the source

    • emptywheel says:

      My mother-in-law, who rarely drank and never drank beer, took me on a Hop-On Bus Tour of Dublin years ago, one what ended up being one of just two sunny days in that entire summer. She said she’d always wanted an excuse to do so, so she was going to take the opportunity of a visit from her first d-i-l to do that tour (spouse wasn’t with me on that visit). She had a half-pint that day.

      I of course, joined her in a pint.

      • Zinsky says:

        That sounds delightful. A bicycle tour of Ireland is on my wife’s and my bucket list. I hope that the pandemic ends someday and I stay healthy enough to make it there and see the beautiful countryside! Cheers and Happy Holidays!

        BTW – the Trump pardons of everyone in his inner circle during the 2016 presidential campaign EXCEPT Rick Gates and Michael Cohen couldn’t more clearly define what his intentions were – to reward the people who didn’t squeal and poke the ones who did. Count on a pardon of Allen Weisselberg, the long-time Trump Organization CFO who has to know where a LOT of bodies are buried. As a retired CPA and financial auditor myself, I can tell you that no one is more important in a criminal enterprise than a crooked CFO or Controller, who can recharacterize, reclassify and hide financial transactions in ways that are very, very difficult to identify. Weisselberg served as a trustee on Trump’s hugely corrupt Inaugural Committee. Weisselberg also would have had to review and sign off on all of the tax returns filed by Trump over the years. He would be an invaluable witness in a fraud trial against Donald J. Trump. Count on a sweeping pardon for him.

          • Spencer Dawkins says:

            Given a choice between Federal prison and New York state prisons, I know who I’d rather be convicted by …

            • bmaz says:

              You been into any of them? Not all federal BOP facilities are the “Club Fed” joints of long popular myths. In fact, some are pretty nasty.

              Also, other considerations, such as proximity to family and the way release time is calculated and applied are often far more important than federal versus state facilities.

            • vvv says:

              If you are implying the Fed might be better, remember also the little green men in Portland, drawn from those institutions.

  2. Trevanion says:

    “That would be a crime”
    Today’s NYT normalizing euphemism in (digital) headline: “Trump continued to chip away at the work of the Mueller investigation.”
    How learned it must feel to come up with “chip away.”

    • BobCon says:

      I’d get a laugh out of how the Times apologist who showed up a few days ago would try to spin that.

      This is a good deep dig into how badly the Times all the way up the food chain of editors screwed up their Caliphate disaster:


      For completely unfathomable reasons the Times top editors have been letting one of their teachers pets, Michael Barbaro, run interference for the Times and his podcast crew, to the point of hassling reporters who are digging into the story

      If there is any wonder why they use the framing here of “Chip Away” it’s because it is clear the rotten editorial side — which writes the headlines — is completely incapable of serious reflection or thought beyond superficial politics. The institution doesn’t allow it.

        • BobCon says:

          It’s standard at papers for an editor to choose headlines, although the Times seems to have made an art of writing the soggiest, trivializing, hedged ones possible for the benefit of conservatives.

          Every once in a while reporter unhappiness bubbles up over the spin that editors put on their articles with awful headlines. Probably the best known case is Eric Lichtblau, who cited the infamous 2016 “No Clear Link to Russia” headline that went over his byline as one of the reasons for his leaving the paper.

  3. Peterr says:

    I’ve been refreshing the DOJ’s page that shows all of the pardons issued by Trump, but none of the two big bunches of pardon docs have been posted there. I’ve been anxious to see them, so glad you put these here.

    Very very interesting that unlike Flynn’s very expansive pardon, Manafort and Stone’s pardons are (as you note) limited only to the crimes for which they were convicted. This only ramps up the importance of Biden’s choice of AG, as well as the AAGs and other senior DOJ typs and various US Attorneys.

    I also wonder what this means for potential pardons for unindicted but worried people like Don Jr., Eric, Ivanka, and Jared. Or lawyers like Bill Barr, who have aided this crime.

  4. PeterS says:

    I can see that the Biden administration might be constrained in going after Stone and Manafort from a criminal standpoint, to establish what they were covering up in 2016, but what about from a national security standpoint? Whatever they were doing back then could surely be relevant to what is still happening now, and will happen in 2021. Not that I understand how a national security investigation would work in uncovering the truth…

    • Peterr says:

      Not “could surely be relevant” but “is absolutely relevant”.

      And at a level below the political appointees, I have little doubt that the national security folks have been trying to dig into this and pull it out from the weeds, telling themselves “Let the lawyers argue about criminal charges, but we’ve got a different job to do.”

        • Peterr says:

          Not directly; not without involving the lawyers and the courts. And they’re not going to go there until after January 20th, if then.

          But that doesn’t mean they’re not still investigating this to uncover the truth.

  5. viget says:

    Very interesting about Stone and Manafort. I think you are right Marcy, Barr was writing these pardons. Something changed with Barr right after the Flynn pardon, he reappeared from exile and started publicly contradicting Trump. These pardons look lackluster in comparison (and I assume were part of his last few things he had to tie up).

    I think there is plenty of room for a Biden DOJ to resurrect investigations into Stone and Manafort, unless the evidence has gone missing. Honestly, I would rather see these prosecutions than Trump’s, Trump was just a player in all of this, but Stone and Manafort were the architects and know more about the GOP writ large than does Trump….

    • Chris.EL says:

      **Gotta love the digital permanent record we have!**

      From Twitter …”Tom Wright
      Dec 22, 2020
      Mitch McConnell in Senate Hearings in Feb 2001 on Bill Clinton’s pardon of Marc Rich:

      “While the president alone possesses the power to pardon, it’s important to remember that he is not personally exempt from federal laws that prohibit the corrupt actions of all government officials.” …”


  6. OldTulsaDude says:

    “Do not count on the gratitude of deeds done for people in the past.; you must make them grateful for things you will do for them in the future.” – Omerta by Mario Puzo

    • Chris.EL says:

      Great quote by Mario Puzo; omerta to live by?
      (or as the dude Rod Serling would say, drolly: “… for your consideration…”):

      **Interesting argument put forth in The Atlantic**

      “The Traditional Interpretation of the Pardon Power Is Wrong

      Properly understood, the commutation of Roger Stone’s sentence is unconstitutional.
      JULY 13, 2020
      Corey Brettschneider
      Professor of political science at Brown University
      Jeffrey K. Tulis
      Professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin”

      Excerpt from The Atlantic: …”The impeachment charges against President Trump focused mainly on his alleged withholding of foreign aid from Ukraine to pressure the Ukrainian president into digging up dirt on Hunter Biden that could support Trump’s reelection campaign, and on his refusal to cooperate with the congressional investigation of this matter. But the articles of impeachment also explicitly invoke his “previous invitations of foreign interference in United States elections” and “previous efforts to undermine United States Government investigations into foreign interference in United States elections.” According to our interpretation of the pardon clause, that would mean he can’t use the pardon and reprieve power to commute the sentences of those charged with crimes related to Russian interference in the 2016 campaign—including Stone, who was convicted of lying to Congress and obstructing its investigation into Russian election interference. This obstruction impeded the ability of Congress to gather information that could have been vital to the impeachment inquiry, benefiting Trump.” …

      • PhoneInducedPinkEye says:

        There are lots of interesting takes on pardon power and any possible limits across the internet. The one that really matters is the stacked SC, and the tag next to the name of the pardon issuer. If anything the Roberts court will establish a right to free speech, life, and tax-free dividends for the now-sentient paper the pardon is written on. Again, if it’s tagged right.

  7. Fran of the North says:

    I wonder whether Trump’s insistence on Xmas presents for the inner-caba….er… circle wasn’t the predicate for Barr’s 12/23 exit.

    “I’ll do the paperwork as long as you don’t execute until I’m officially off the clock.”

    Barr ultimate goals and intentions are highly suspect, but he’s extremely good (if not downright evil) at his job. He no doubts remembers his grilling at the confirmation hearing too, and realizes that this action crosses the rubicon, and might be a bridge too far.

    Dirty deeds, indeed.

    • Peterr says:

      If the pardons are part of a conspiracy to obstruct justice, saving the signing of the pardons until after Barr left office won’t do Barr any good legally if he had a role in drafting them in the first place.

      But it does make for some good PR to try to burnish his reputation with those who are swayed by news releases.

      • skua says:

        Barr left the day before a mass of problematic pardons were released.
        Barr put his signature to an historically sycophantic resignation letter.

        I’d like a motivation that fits both. Or to understand why different motivations applied.

  8. N.E. Brigand says:

    If the attorney general is on record as saying that it could be a crime to issue a pardon like that issued yesterday to Manafort, what responsiblility did the government attorney who was asked to actually write Manafort’s pardon have to first determine whether or not the pardon was actually being issued as part of a quid pro quo? Is this a situation in which it’s OK to just follow orders and pretend not to know what’s going on?

  9. Zinsky says:

    One other comment, if I might. I think the occasion of Paul Manafort’s pardon is a perfect time for people of conscience to point out again the deep and corrupt ties between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence operatives in 2016. The messaging should include a major press release reminding people that Paul Manafort was over $18 million in debt to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska and was being pressured to make good on those debts:


    Authorities even have e-mails of Manafort offering face time with Trump to try to reduce some of this debt:


    And Trump and his minions still have the audacity to refer to the charges of Russian collusion as a “hoax”. Clearly it was a criminal conspiracy and the American people need to know that. I would guess most Americans have no idea we have documentation of Manafort trying to sell out American political information to Russian interests. One has to wonder if Manafort still owes Deripaska a boatload of money and what Deripaska may still do to Manafort as payback? Pauly might have been better off in the Greybar Hilton rather than trying to avoid being the next polonium poisoning victim.

  10. Peacerme says:

    This continues to be my point. Our Democracy depends on people, the majority, clearly understanding this truth. Too many people voting democrat do not understand the very simple but highly effective way that Putin nearly destroyed the most powerful “representative democracy” on earth. It’s imperative that this reality is accepted by the mainstream or we cannot protect ourselves in the future from similar vulnerabilities. One way or the other the story must be told and accepted.

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