Kaitlan Collins Ignores Bill Barr’s Role in the Effort that Framed Joe Biden

Kaitlan Collins did an interview with Bill Barr the other day, offering him a platform to make weakly-rebutted claims that Democrats were worse than a man who attempted to overthrow democracy.

The interview provided a remarkable opportunity to question Barr about his role in an important scandal that has become public since his last interview with Collins: the Scott Brady side channel to ingest dirt on Hunter Biden, a side channel that FBI informant Alexander Smirnov used to frame Joe Biden with false allegations of bribery. Not only didn’t Collins even ask Barr about his role in setting up that opportunity, but she allowed Barr to lie to her face, falsely claiming that Trump never demanded that Barr intervene in particular investigations.

Days after one such instance documented in Barr’s memoir, when Trump called Barr to yell about Hunter Biden, DOJ ordered prosecutors investigating Joe Biden’s son to pursue Smirnov’s allegations.

Since Barr’s last appearance, we’ve learned more about the Brady side channel

Not long before Bill Barr’s last appearance on Kaitlan Collins’ show last August, he made a little noticed intervention in the House inquiry attempting to substantiate something against Joe Biden.

On June 7, 2023 — the same day David Weiss and Hunter Biden’s lawyers settled on language that should have resolved all criminal investigations of him — in an on-the-record interview with Margot Cleveland, Barr accused Jamie Raskin of lying about what members of Congress had been told about an FD-1023 informant report, now known to be a fabricated report from Alexander Smirnov.

Barr told Cleveland that the investigation into the FD-1023 — an investigation that the Smirnov indictment identifies as a bribery assessment — wasn’t shut down in August 2020 but instead was forwarded to David Weiss to investigate further.

“It’s not true. It wasn’t closed down,” William Barr told The Federalist on Tuesday in response to Democrat Rep. Jamie Raskin’s claim that the former attorney general and his “handpicked prosecutor” had ended an investigation into a confidential human source’s allegation that Joe Biden had agreed to a $5 million bribe. “On the contrary,” Barr stressed, “it was sent to Delaware for further investigation.”

An anonymous source for the same article (often, reporters will give a source anonymity in an article where they are otherwise quoted) had knowledge that the lead to Smirnov didn’t come directly from Rudy Giuliani.

Not so, according to an individual familiar with the investigation who told The Federalist that the CHS and the FD-1023 summary of his statement were both “unrelated to Rudy Giuliani” and “not derived” from any information Giuliani provided.

Barr’s comments led House Republicans to pursue the FD-1023 even more aggressively. They pointed to it as yet another (subsequently debunked) claim that David Weiss had blown the investigation into Hunter Biden. This was the smoking gun that was going to take down Joe Biden and his kid!

That effort appears to have contributed to Weiss’ decision to renege on Hunter Biden’s plea deal.

On July 10 — just weeks after David Weiss’ office assured Chris Clark, on June 19, that there was no ongoing investigation into Joe Biden’s kid — Weiss told Lindsey Graham that there was an ongoing investigation into the FD-1023 he had been ordered to investigate 32 months earlier.

Then, on July 23, just days before Hunter Biden’s plea hearing was scheduled, Chuck Grassley released a leaked copy of the FD-1023 itself.

Three days later, in Hunter Biden’s plea hearing, when Maryellen Noreika asked Leo Wise about the scope of the immunity offered to Hunter Biden, he stated there was an ongoing investigation, one in which FARA charges might still be on the table; that claim directly conflicted with the assurances offered to Hunter’s attorney on June 19.

THE COURT: All right. So there are references to foreign companies, for example, in the facts section. Could the government bring a charge under the Foreign Agents Registration Act?

MR. WISE: Yes.

THE COURT: I’m trying to figure out if there is a meeting of the minds here and I’m not sure that this provision isn’t part of the Plea Agreement and so that’s why I’m asking.

MR. CLARK: Your Honor, the Plea Agreement —

THE COURT: I need you to answer my question if you can. Is there a meeting of the minds on that one?

MR. CLARK: As stated by the government just now, I don’t agree with what the government said.

THE COURT: So I mean, these are contracts. To be enforceable, there has to be a meeting of the minds. So what do we do now?

MR. WISE: Then there is no deal.

As Judge Noreika described in an opinion rejecting Hunter Biden’s claim that David Weiss had reneged on this deal, prosecutors “appeared to revoke the deal” at that moment. In the wake of the release of the FD-1023 and Barr’s claims that Weiss had been ordered to pursue that lead, David Weiss “revoked” the deal in order to chase allegations that might substantiate a FARA charge. In spite of the fact that Judge Noreika described that Wise appeared to revoke a signed deal, in spite of the fact that she had an uncontested claim before her from Chris Clark that Weiss’ office had told him on June 19 there was no ongoing investigation, Noreika did not conclude that Weiss had reneged on the terms of a deal.

On August 29, investigators working with newly-minted Special Counsel David Weiss interviewed Smirnov’s handler. They learned that Smirnov’s travel records were entirely inconsistent with the claims Smirnov had made. They should also have learned that a photo Smirnov shared with his handler in May 2020 was a long-debunked hoax first spread by Tucker Carlson in the same time period that Rudy Giuliani launched his 2020 disinformation campaign against Joe Biden.

Nevertheless, on August 29, the same day they should have realized they were chasing disinformation, Weiss’ prosecutors told Abbe Lowell they were chasing felonies against Joe Biden’s kid.

As they were doing so, more evidence about the side channel became public. On September 27, Gary Shapley released an email corroborating one thing Barr told Cleveland: DOJ had sent that lead over to David Weiss for further investigation. Pittsburgh AUSAs briefed Weiss’ team on October 23, 2020, just days before the election.

Two days later, on September 29, Weiss’ investigators interviewed Smirnov, only to find him beginning to change parts of his story while claiming to know of another disinformation campaign, involving high level Russian spies, targeting Joe Biden in 2024. At this point, it wasn’t just a hoax. It might be a Russian-backed hoax.

It should have been clear years earlier, but by that point, it was clear that Smirnov, someone who belatedly informed his FBI handler about ties with Russian spies, had exploited the Brady side channel set up to ingest dirt Rudy Giuliani solicited overseas, including from known Russian spies, to frame Joe Biden.

On October 23, Brady provided far more details about that side channel in testimony to Congress, testimony that was available almost immediately (but which few mainstream outlets chose to read).

Barr came up, by name, 33 times, such as when Brady described updating the Attorney General on his efforts, in person, twice. Or when describing not what Brady’s actual instructions from Barr were, but what Barr had publicly said his instructions were (the logging of the assessment as a bribery assessment discredits Brady’s claims about his task). Or when Brady got caught falsely claiming the effort wasn’t secret until Lindsey Graham blew the secret after Trump was acquitted for demanding such bribery allegations from Ukraine. Or when questioned about whether Barr was included among the people who “Would feel more comfortable if [Brady] participated,” in an interview of Rudy personally, “so we get a sense of what’s coming out of it.” Or when trying to explain why he reached out to the FBI’s Legat in Ukraine to ask for help from Ukraine’s Prosecutor General. Or when Brady offered several of his never-plausible explanations of something that remains among the most important questions about this scheme: how his team came to focus on a single line in an informant report about Mykola Zlochevsky and, from that, decide they had to interview Smirnov directly.

Q According to public statements by Attorney General Barr, your office in vetting the information provided by the CHS for the FD-1023, you went back and developed more information that apparently had been overlooked by the FBI.

Is that an accurate statement?

A I can’t say “overlooked.” I don’t know that I agree with that characterization because I don’t know what — again, because this was referenced in a previous CHS report, I don’t know what the focus of that investigation was. So it might have been ancillary information that wasn’t directly related to what they were looking at in 2017. But it had not been developed. It’s fair to say that it had not been looked into or developed any further.


Chairman Jordan. Okay. January 3rd, 2020. And then what I am understanding is, right, throughout the winter and spring, you’re asking the FBI for information they have regarding Ukraine and Hunter Biden, you’re requesting that you get information they may have?

Mr. Brady. We’re trying to identify investigative leads, and from the information we had received from the public, including information about Hunter Biden and Burisma, and then asking the FBI — and we were also tasked with coordinating this is public from Attorney General, Attorney General Barr, how to coordinate also with intelligence services. And so we were interfacing with them relating to that tasking. It wasn’t everything that they had because certainly Delaware with the grand jury investigation would have had a lot of information relating since it began in 2019.

Bill Barr was, according to the guy he tasked with it, Scott Brady, all over this side channel. Even Bill Barr claims he knew the circumstances of how Brady sought out an informant used in an investigation that had only weeks earlier been shut down by DOJ to shift the focus, away from Zlochevsky’s suspected bribes, and onto the man he might have bribed, Joe Biden.

Bill Barr set up a side channel, during an impeachment of Donald Trump for demanding that Ukraine investigate the Bidens for corruption, that tried to find basis to investigate the Bidens for corruption.

Nothing about Brady’s pursuit of Alexander Smirnov — digging to find a one-line mention of Joe Biden’s kid and from that demanding to interview the informant — matches the public explanation of the side channel: accepting and vetting information from the public, first and foremost from Trump’s personal lawyer. These are all things that Kaitlan Collins had a unique opportunity to query Barr on. Bill Barr claims to know that the Smirnov tip didn’t come from Rudy. How does he know that? Where did it come from? How did Brady and Barr come to decide to interview the FBI informant who happened to be floating false claims of bribery based on already debunked hoaxes? Were Brady and Barr witting participants in the effort to frame Joe Biden, one made in 2020 and renewed for the 2024 campaign, or did they just get used? If they got used, do they owe Biden an apology?

That would have been a laudable use of CNN’s exclusive interview with the former Attorney General.

Bill Barr lies to Kaitlan Collins’ face

Collins did none of that. Instead, among the other lies Barr told (a few of which CNN’s panel debunked after Barr left), she let Barr tell this lie — that Trump never pressured him directly, but instead only pressured Barr by tweet — uncorrected.

Did Trump expect his A.G. to go easy on his friends?

BARR: I don’t know. I don’t know what he expected.

COLLINS: What was your experience?

BARR: My experience was by the time I came in, he did not — he did not push me to do one thing or another, on these criminal cases. Now, he tweeted, and made his public views on things known. But he never talked to me about them directly.

COLLINS: So, he did not have you in his pocket, you would argue?

BARR: It’s not a question of arguing. I did what I thought was right.

COLLINS: And you never felt any direct pressure from him, on what investigations the DOJ was carrying out.

BARR: No. He did not directly pressure me. Yes, as I say, he was out there tweeting and doing things that were embarrassing, and made it hard for me to run the department.

COLLINS: That sounds like pressure. [my emphasis]

Barr’s own memoir describes Trump pressuring him directly, just days before Richard Donoghue, acting as PADAG, ordered David Weiss’ team to accept a briefing from Scott Brady.

In mid-October I received a call from the President, which was the last time I spoke to him prior to the election. It was a very short con-versation. The call came soon after Rudy Giuliani succeeded in making public information about Hunter Biden’s laptop. I had walked over to my desk to take the call. These calls had become rare, so Will Levi stood nearby waiting expectantly to see what it was about. After brief pleasantry about his being out on the campaign trail, the President said, “You know this stuff from Hunter Biden’s laptop?”

I cut the President off sharply. “Mr. President, I can’t talk about that, and I am not going to.”

President Trump hesitated, then continued in a plaintive tone, “You know, if that was one of my kids—”

I cut him off again, raising my voice, “Dammit, Mr. President, I am not going to talk to you about Hunter Biden. Period!”

He was silent for a moment, then quickly got off the line.

I looked up at Will, whose eyes were as big as saucers. “You yelled at the President?” he asked, confirming the obvious. I nodded. He shook his head in disbelief.

Barr’s memoir is largely transparent CYA, especially for his efforts to protect Rudy’s information operations (descriptions of which in the memoir do not match public records), so this may simply be an attempt to spin damning notes Levi took of the call. But it undoubtedly counts as direct pressure from Trump regarding the Hunter Biden investigation.

Plus, Trump’s pressure on DOJ to investigate Hunter Biden was not a one-off. According to contemporaneous notes from Donoghue, Trump harangued Jeffrey Rosen and Donoghue about the Hunter investigation in the December 27, 2020 call otherwise focused on demanding DOJ support for his false election claims, the call where Trump first floated replacing him with Jeffrey Clark.

Rather than hard questions about Barr’s role in an effort that framed Joe Biden, then, this false claim went uncorrected.

Bill Barr is not a hypocrite; he fully backs criminalizing Democrats

The aftermath of all this was stunning.

Some of the panelists Anderson Cooper had on after the interview fact checked some of Barr’s false claims. Both Cooper and Carl Bernstein noted, for example, that crime has gone down under Biden.

But they nevertheless fawned over what they claimed was Barr’s moral compass.

Bernstein, citing a speech in which Barr used a right wing view of religion to attack progressives, hailed the former Attorney General as “a real moralist;” Cooper agreed.

Bernstein described that Barr was “dedicated to the rule of law” but exhibited hypocrisy for choosing Trump over someone who abides by it.

It’s a kind of hypocrisy. Attorney General, dedicated to the rule of law, and then he talks about how Trump has no dedication to the rule of law.

Karen Friedman Agnifilo claimed that Barr’s loyalty to the far right was a newfound thing, one that replaced care for law and order.

[H]e’s really not thinking about things that really mattered to him before, like law and order.

This is not a new thing! Barr cares about authority — the kind of authority that sends federal agents across the country to police protests blocks removed from federal property. But Barr sees the law just as Trump does, as a means for partisan gain, a tool to use to defeat his hated “progressives.”

Bill Barr interfered in the Lev Parnas investigation to prevent it from incorporating Rudy’s solicitation of known Russian spies for campaign dirt, then set up a way that Rudy could share that dirt in a way that might get funneled into the investigation into Joe Biden’s kid. That effort ended up framing Joe Biden. And CNN doesn’t seem to care, or perhaps even know that.

CNN has largely circumscribed the effort to frame Joe Biden

Ultimately, Kaitlan Collins is not entirely to blame that she let Bill Barr lie to her face rather than grilling him about his role in framing Trump’s opponent.

I think she actually makes more of an effort to be personally informed than a number of her peers. But she’s always reliant on the prep that CNN’s own reporters do. And on this story, they’ve been remarkably incurious about the role that Barr’s decision to set up a way to ingest Rudy’s dirt led to the framing of Joe Biden.

For example, here’s how CNN described the process months after these details were first available, in the wake of Smirnov’s arrest.

In June 2020, the Pittsburgh-based US attorney at the time, Scott Brady, was tasked by Justice Department officials with helping to review information from the public “that may be relevant to matters relating to Ukraine.” As part of their review, FBI Pittsburgh opened an assessment into the document that memorialized Smirnov’s 2017 discussion with Burisma executives.

It is at this point, prosecutors allege, that Smirnov first made the explosive allegations about the Bidens. Smirnov told the FBI that Burisma executives admitted to him in 2015 and 2016 that they hired Hunter Biden to “protect us, through his dad, from all kinds of problems,” and that they had paid $5 million to each Biden.

The FBI asked Smirnov to hand over documents to determine whether the information he provided was accurate. Prosecutors say that two months later, the FBI members and DOJ leadership concurred that their assessment of Smirnov’s claims be closed.

But, according to his own private testimony last year to the House Judiciary Committee, Scott Brady claimed he was “able to corroborate certain information that was represented by the CHS and is memorialized in this 1023,” including through some travel records that Smirnov had provided.

Prosecutors now say that Smirnov’s travel records are going to be used as evidence against him in his criminal case, proving that he lied about his meetings with Burisma executives.

Brady said he believed that there was a “sufficient indicia of credibility” into aspects of the 1023, and briefed Weiss on the document, according to the interview transcript. Brady said he asked the FBI to give the document to Weiss’ office.

Weiss apparently kept that investigation open through July 2023, when the FBI approached his team about “allegations related to” Smirnov’s claims. By then, Smirnov’s allegations, though not publicly attributed to him, were thrust into the political spotlight by Republicans who relentlessly promoted his Biden bribery story. [my emphasis]

CNN pitches this as a problem inherent to using informants, and not a problem created when the Attorney General sets up a dedicated side channel to search for dirt on the son of his boss’ rival.

Barr, Seth DuCharme, and Richard Donoghue are systematically excluded from this description, first by use of the passive voice to describe who tasked Brady, and then claiming that Brady asked to brief Weiss rather than that part of his tasking was making recommendations. It ignores how Jeffrey Rosen’s office intervened to force this information onto David Weiss. And it ignores Barr’s public dispute — which conflicts with the Smirnov indictment — that everyone concurred in the decision to close the investigation.

And by ignoring Barr’s intervention, it ignores Barr’s role in stoking the focus on the Smirnov allegation last year.

Likewise, while it describes Brady’s claims to have used travel records to vet Smirnov’s claims one paragraph before describing that prosecutors claim travel records prove Smirnov lies, CNN doesn’t lay out the significance of that conflict. Days after this story, Jerry Nadler referred Brady’s representations to (at least) DOJ IG for investigation.

And CNN simply punts on the problem with this whole story: that Weiss was ordered to investigate Smirnov’s tip in 2020, and then after pressure from Republicans (including Barr), reneged on a plea deal and obtained Special Counsel status so he could investigate it again. It ignores how that makes Weiss a witness in the effort to frame Biden, one whose conflicts prevent him from asking the questions that Collins didn’t either: How did Brady find Smirnov and did anyone know he was spreading obvious disinformation?

CNN’s coverage of Hunter Biden’s claims of how it affected the plea deal likewise misses the 2020 orders to share the tip.

The most newsworthy thing Bill Barr has done since Collins’ last interview with him was help someone claiming high level ties with Russian spies frame Joe Biden. But CNN, including Collins, has no interest in that. They even let him lie, uncorrected, about a directly relevant point!

Rather than explore whether Barr wittingly helped to frame Joe Biden or simply got used by a guy now claiming high level ties to Russian spies, CNN instead chose to portray Barr as a man of law and order who simply sold out purported values out of partisan gain.

And that’s why it was so easy for Barr to use CNN to spin his false claim about caring about the rule of law.

75 replies
  1. pdaly says:

    I was hoping you saw this interview!
    Collins seemed to be on a roll at first, so I was disappointed when she failed to ask Barr about any part in the back channeling/stovepiping effort to investigate/frame Joe Biden.

    Nevertheless, Barr’s Freudian slip of calling political rivals “enemies” makes me wonder how far he’d go to protect his vision of the country.

BARR: [snip] “The President does not have the authority to wage a coup against the Constitution of the United States. He doesn’t have authority to kill enemies, I mean, to kill rivals, and so forth.”


    But does Barr think the President and the AG have the authority to frame Biden with manufactured dirt?

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Their attitude is that they create whatever authority they need by doing what they want. Several members of the S.Ct.’s majority do not seem to have a problem with that.

  2. pdaly says:

    And Barr’s noncommittal agreement to Collins’ expounding how the state AGs are free from political pressure from the President is ironic when keeping in mind the backstory of the investigation of the Bidens under Barr’s watch that emptywheel documents so well.

COLLINS: Well, I mean, he has claimed multiple times that this case is being brought, essentially by President Biden. I mean, you know how this works and how the breakdown in this works. Presidents don’t have any role, in what a local District Attorney, what case they bring.

    BARR: That’s normally true. And I don’t — and I’m not suggesting Biden is involved. But I think what they’re saying is that this former federal official, who’s gone up to try the case that this somehow shows a link. I don’t know whether it does or not.

    COLLINS: Yes. But do you agree — I mean, you worked at — you were the Attorney General.

    BARR: I–

    COLLINS: Prosecutors leave and go work in other places all the time.

    BARR: That’s right. I think the impetus for this came from the New York prosecutors. I think that they’re behind the case.

    COLLINS: And not President Biden?

    BARR: I don’t know. I don’t know.

    That would have been a perfect time for Collins to pivot to questionning Barr’s (and then-Pres. Trump’s) role in the Biden investigation.

    • Just Some Guy says:

      That’s rich from Barr considering the Republican Attorneys General Association paying for robocalls intended to urge people to attend January 6th, 2021.

        • Just Some Guy says:

          Right. In the context of what he’s quoted saying above, I find it disingenuous because he’s saying Bragg’s prosecution is linked tenuously to the Biden DoJ, implying that Republican state AGs during TFG’s administration (of which he was of course the last confirmed AG) would never let partisanship from the DoJ influence them. It’s absurd and disgusting considering that RAGA played an active part in influencing what happened on January 6th.

        • Just Some Guy says:

          My point has nothing to do with whether Bragg’s prosecution is “just” or not. That’s for a jury to decide.

        • originalK says:

          Yes – Barr is the poster boy for hypocrisy. He appears to be halfheartedly dog-whistling that because Alvin Bragg at some point worked as an assistant AG in the Southern District of NY that Joe Biden is behind the Manhattan prosecution.

          Trump types also like to go after Mark Pomerantz (who was deposed by the House Judiciary Committee about the case) and invoke George Soros in relation to Bragg.

          Everyone in NYC knows that Trump is a fraud and a crook, but until the Russia stuff, took it as seriously as any idea that he was a celebrity, a style icon or a self-made man.

    • Brad Cole says:

      He’s been a disgrace to every office he’s inhabited. He has no shame, will imply anything for his particularist gain. That he would never stoop to political meddling but the demon worshipping Ds do it all the time. Or so some say.

  3. wa_rickf says:

    The former USAG must think his recent rehabilitation tour as “a defender of the Constitution” was successful, and that decent Americans have forgotten, from Iran-Contra to Donald Trump, Bill Barr is about as corrupt as they come.

    Least we forget, Thursday, January 26, 2023, the New York Times dropped a bombshell titled, How Barr’s Quest to Find Flaws in the Russia Inquiry Unraveled. The expose revealed, among several previously unknown allegations, that then-Attorney General Bill Barr and his special counsel, John Durham were handed apparent evidence of suspicious financial acts by disgraced former POTUS Donald Trump, and proceeded to create a false public narrative that Durham’s investigation found evidence of “suspicious financial dealings” related to Trump, suggesting it was on the part of the FBI, not the president, in order to protect the former president.


  4. David F. Snyder says:

    In the supposedly-moral speech by Barr at Norte Dame that Marcy links to, Barr quotes Edmund Burke: “Men are qualified for civil liberty, in exact proportion to their disposition to put chains upon their appetites.” By such measures, Trump should be in jail, as well as Barr. But these religious hypocrites are too morally feeble to pluck the plank from their own eye rather than insist on poking my eye to get some mote they delusionally see in mine.

    So what is this PR campaign about? Keeping himself out of jail? And shame on Anderson Cooper for joining in on the whitewashing. Ugh.

    • Savage Librarian says:

      Anderson Cooper covered for Chris Licht, too, when Licht had Caitlin Collins interview Trump. So, double ugh.

        • David F. Snyder says:

          Sometimes, a misspelling is deserved, even if unintentional.

          Anderson is best at interviewing musicians, not so much at catching and calling out hidden agendas.

  5. Old Rapier says:

    It’s early but I think Trump’s dumping on him after Barr came as intending to vote for Trump makes Barr my certain winner of Quisling Of The Year award.

  6. Upisdown says:

    Rudy and Derkach collaborated on a bogus documentary series that aired on OAN in Dec, 2019.


    Barr greenlighted Brady in early 2020.

    By September 10, 2020 the Treasury Dept made public that Derkach was a Russian asset, but the White House, including Bill Barr and Wray, had been briefed possibly as early as Dec 2019.


    So, why were Barr and Brady accepting anything from Rudy Giuliani during that time period, and why would they leave the Smirnov tip open and active for Weiss to deal with? That almost demands an investigation into possible crimes by Barr, Giuliani, and possibly Brady.

  7. omphaloscepsis says:

    A high school classmate, later the poet laureate of Fort Lee, vouches for the adolescent Barr, sort of:


    “The two most famous graduates of the Horace Mann School for Boys, class of ’67, were Barry Scheck, of O.J. Simpson ‘dream team’ fame, a lawyer who became expert in the use of DNA evidence in criminal defence cases, and William P. Barr, Trump’s nominee for attorney general. He previously held the post under the late George H.W. Bush.

    Barry and Bill at the age of 14 were almost entirely recognisable as the adults one reads about or watches on TV. . . .

    Bill was then, as now, a pleasant-faced, pillowy-looking boy. What made him stand out, in my memory, is that he wore very conservative three-piece suits and always had a copy of William F. Buckley’s National Review at hand (much as the vice president, Mike Pence, carries his Bible around). I would like to tell you he was a loathsome boy because I detested his politics, then as now, but he was anything but. He had a cheerful, rather aloof mien, very much one apart. He was polite. He regarded most of the rest of us, the majority of whom were from Upper West Side, Jewish, decidedly liberal families, as deluded naifs, spoiled brats, condemned to engineer our once great nation into a series of social, economic and foreign policy catastophes.”

    • gmokegmoke says:

      Here’s an account of another Horace Mann School classmate of William Barr which is not so complimentary.

      Barr and his brothers were known, according to a Vanity Fair article, as “the bully Barrs” at Horace Mann and Barr bragged about helping police roust protesters at Columbia University in 1968 according to Politico (source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/06/09/so-this-is-why-bill-barr-is-such-bully/).

      Barr’s father, Donald Barr, was the headmaster of the Dalton School who hired Jeffrey Epstein and the Horace Mann school was rife with its own sex scandals at the time the Barr brothers attended, see Great Is the Truth: Secrecy, Scandal, and the Quest for Justice at the Horace Mann School by Amos Kamil and Sean Elder, although I have seen no evidence and do not believe that Barr was involved. When you think about it, modeling elite prep school education on the British boarding school system makes it more than likely that casual cruelty and sexual perversion of many sorts would become an almost necessary rite of passage for the privileged children attending those institutions. As someone who also attended “the little Ivy League” around NYC and recently found that one of my teachers there was a predatory pedophile and ephebophile, I consider myself lucky that my inner radar was strong enough to avoid his company and am furious that my young self was exposed to such danger especially when I consider that Donald Barr became headmaster of my prep school alma mater years after I graduated.

      This is, of course, another story but it is a story and an idea which should be more publicly acknowledge and explored if we ever want to deal with the pathologies of our political, economic, and social “cultures,” such as they are.

      Note to moderators: I have no idea what you consider my original email but I used the oldest one I have although other considerations have made me also use, from time to time, @theworld.com or TheWorld.com. If you let me know which one you prefer, I will be happy to use it.

      [Moderator’s note: world.std.com is the oldest one you used going back to at least as early as 2009. Please stick with it; we do not require a valid/working email address, only that you use the same one each time you comment. /~Rayne]

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        The contrasting comments illustrate how Bill Barr has always been a chameleon on the outside. But the inside never changes.

        • timbozone says:

          It would not be surprising if Barr had been a dirty trickster in the lead up to the 72 election. Was he buddies with William Casey at all? Anyone know?

  8. harpie says:

    TYPO: “wasn’t shut down in August 2023 [sb: 2020] but instead was forwarded to David Weiss to investigate further”

  9. Soundgood2 says:

    The problem is people like Bill Barr will not be interviewed by anyone who knows enough to really challenge them. You need to have the kind of detailed granular knowledge that Marcy has but there is no way he would ever be interviewed by Marcy or anyone he thought he couldn’t manipulate. There is no value in giving them airtime to spread their propaganda if you are not going to take the time to truly prepare to confront them. Mitch McConnell on Meet the Press this morning is a good example. Kristen Welker questioned him about the recent votes against the isolationists in the party. McConnell said he thought the party was turning away from the isolationists but he would still support Trump. She never confronted him with the reason it took so long to get the vote done and Trump’s involvement. She just accepted his response that he had to vote for whomever was on the Republican ticket.

    • emptywheel says:

      I think Collins is actually hitting a stride with her show. Her bookers are bringing in unique guests and her questioning is getting better.

      That’s why I pointed out the underlying problems with the CNN coverage. She’s not an investigative journalist and if those who are at CNN — or beat reporters who’ve been wooed by Barr — she’s not going to be prepped for this.

      • soundgood2 says:

        I agree. She is getting better and the only one doing extensive interviews. She just can’t do it alone and I don’t think cnn is giving her enough research support to really do the job she is capable of doing

        • David F. Snyder says:

          She’s learning and I have high hopes for her. She did press Barr on Trump’s use of execution language (e.g. Franklin Square); with an erratic mentality like Trump’s, it shouldn’t be accepted so easily that it won’t go beyond just words (especially after “siccing his dogs” on Pence). So it’s good to see she can press when she has the info. .

  10. JustAPerson says:

    People forget that Collins got her start working for Tucker Carlson’s “The Daily Caller” – would you expect anything more from her today?

    • timbozone says:

      I expect people to change and grow. Sometimes that happens in a more positive manner, sometimes not.

  11. creu_28APR2024_1730h says:

    Thank you for this reporting and always valuable insights. I am so cynical that it does not ever surprise me that someone like Barr and, frankly, most Republicans blithely tell lies and impugn others in the never-ending effort to hide their fraud and criminal behavior. Barr is probably worse because he’s supposed to be about law and order for the nation, but no one believes anything he says, ever.

    [Welcome to emptywheel. Please choose and use a unique username with a minimum of 8 letters. We have adopted a minimum standard to support community security. Because your username is far too short it will be temporarily changed to match the date/time of your first known comment until you have a new compliant username. Thanks. /~Rayne]

  12. dopefish says:

    OT: I just stumbled on an NYT opinion piece by David Brooks [skip paywall] from two months ago, where he describes the Republican party of the 1920’s through the 40’s as a party “steeped in pessimism, and that pessimism showed up as it often does: as nativism, isolationism and protectionism.” Its an interesting reminder that Trump didn’t originate the GOP’s turn away from engagement with the world and with actual facts, he just noticed and capitalized on it. Though he owns the party now, he began by meeting the GOP base where it was already at (which traditional Republican elites were not recognizing in 2015).

    It turns out that some political tendencies never really die; they just lie dormant for a few decades, waiting for the emotional mood to change. It’s conventional to say that Trump destroyed the postwar Republican establishment. That’s not quite right. The Tea Party’s extreme disgust with the course of American life was already flowing by 2009. The Pew Research Center detected a surge in American isolationism back in 2013. In 2004 only 8 percent of Republicans thought the United States’ power in world affairs was declining. By 2013, after Iraq and Afghanistan, 74 percent of Republicans thought American was in decline. By 2021, nearly a third of Republicans thought violence might be necessary to save America.

    Of course a big part of the problem is the relentless propaganda pushed by RWNM that constantly tells Republicans their America is being destroyed by radical communist Democrats.

    • Just Some Guy says:

      David Brooks is the RWNM. His porous-brained observations about past Republican Party behaviors does nothing to undo the damage he’s caused and causing in the here and now.

      • dopefish says:

        Yes, but he’s not wrong that there was already a cancer growing within the GOP when Trump came on the scene. He just accelerated and metastasized it.

        • Just Some Guy says:

          He’s not “wrong” per se but it’s an incredibly obvious and facile observation for someone who is presumably paid quite well for his political insights. I mean I knew as much about the Republican Party when I was 5 years old, but the difference between Brooks and anyone else is that he has spent most of his working life aiding and abetting that same political party.

        • timbozone says:

          Brooks seems to be consistently, convivially wrong about how cool Leonard Leo is.

  13. harpie says:

    Marcy: “Barr’s memoir is largely transparent CYA […]
    so this may simply be an attempt to spin damning notes Levi took of the call.”

    I think we can assume the Special Counsel knows what those notes say.
    And that TRUMP knows he knows.

    Liz Cheney recently wrote about that issue:

    The Supreme Court Should Rule Swiftly on Trump’s Immunity Claim https://www.nytimes.com/2024/04/22/opinion/trump-immunity-supreme-court.html
    April 22, 2024 [< We can now be fairly certain how that will turn out.]

    […] As a criminal defendant, Mr. Trump has long had access to federal grand jury material relating to his Jan. 6 indictment and to all the testimony obtained by our select committee. He knows what all these witnesses have said under oath and understands the risks he faces at trial. That’s why he is doing everything possible to try to delay his Jan. 6 federal criminal trial until after the November election. […]

    • harpie says:

      Here’s a comment thread with those notes from 12/27/20 and 12/29/20

      Handwritten notes of Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue of call with President Trump on Dec. 27, 2020 and call with White House on Dec. 29, 2020 https://www.emptywheel.net/2021/07/28/doj-unimpressed-by-mo-brooks-kickass-conspiracy-defense/#comment-898720

      From page 4:

      *- I made some bad decisions on leadership there, but I was laboring under [illegible] illegal investigation – Special [illegible]. Should never have been [commenced?]

      *- You figure out what to do with H. Biden – people will criticize the DOJ if he’s not investigated [illegible] for real.

      I couldn’t figure out a way to do this at the time, but the second entry there is like a SUB-entry to the first one.

      Also, the “H” looks like it’s added later.

    • emptywheel says:

      Different notes.

      In this case, it would serve to backstop damning notes that might be turned over under FOIA (like the ones American Oversight did) or might be part of an OPR review of all this. Such notes might get reviewed as a result of the DOJ IG referral.

      Point being: There’s good reason to believe Barr’s actions wrt Ukraine much more closely resemble what Trump was demanding of Zelenskyy than even I lay out here. There’s good reason to believe Barr was pitched by at least two Russian spies, which he brackets under the Durham investigation. There’s good reason to believe he got–and used–Hunter’s laptop.

      • harpie says:

        OH! Thanks so much for clarifying that for me.
        [I’ll read Nadler’s letter [linked above] now.

        And, I know you’ve been laying all this out for a long time, but…

        Wow! to this very succinct summary here…!!!!!

        12/14/19 BARR to Levi [“Me”]: Super

        • harpie says:

          uggg…that should be:

          12/14/19 12:47 PM

          LEVI [to BARR]: Laptop on way to you.

          BARR [“Me”] [to LEVI]: Super

  14. zscoreUSA says:

    Is it credible that Brady didn’t know the focus of the investigation related to the 2017 report? Or more likely he know but doesn’t want to say?

    “…don’t know what — again, because this was referenced in a previous CHS report, I don’t know what the focus of that investigation was. So it might have been ancillary information that wasn’t directly related to what they were looking at in 2017. But it had not been developed. It’s fair to say that it had not been looked into or developed any further.”

    • emptywheel says:

      And then there’s this bit:

      Q Okay. And so, in the actually, in the first and second hours, you said pretty extensively that your role was to vet information provided from the public, correct?

      A Correct.

      Q And so the 1023, the original 1023, was not information provided from the public, correct?

      A That’s correct

      Q Okay.

      A yes.

      Q But it came up because you’d received information from Mr. Giuliani and, in your vetting of that information, you ran a search?

      A Correct.

      Q Okay.

      A And just to clarify, I don’t remember if we asked the FBI to search for “Burisma”

      Q Right.

      A or “Zlochevsky.”

      Q Understood.

      • zscoreUSA says:

        The needle in the haystack.

        And did Rudy have direct contact with Smirnov, or someone else who did? Here’s some timeline about Rudy and Smirnov.

        1/31/20: FBI agent email Brady office “I just spoke to Rudy who is in Florida and he spoke to the original source [name redacted]… I do not know the nature of the new information as Rudy did not want to talk over the phone.”
        Source: Nadler letter linked here https://www.emptywheel.net/2024/03/03/the-still-unidentified-big-guys-in-the-alexander-smirnov-saga/

        2/4/20: Rudy refers to Zlochevsky as “big guy” who bribed Biden; spoken awkwardly like he is trying to get the phrase out there, that he is aware of something involving Biden and “big guy” and Zlochevsky
        Source: Bo Dietl podcast

        10/14/20: after NY Post reports on Mac Isaac laptop, Rudy says on his channel “He’s [Brady] interviewed one witness [Smirnov?], really a meaningless witness and done nothing”
        Source: https://youtu.be/RZasrHQeKiY

        10/16/20: Rudy interview with the Daily Caller about the laptop says he is dealing with 4 “confidential informants”, including 2 who he doesn’t even want to tell about, that reveal FARA violations
        Source: https://youtu.be/X7ziEwfWghA?si=4W-OckXO4WecrEI0

        • zscoreUSA says:

          This last interview is really interesting to watch.

          The Daily Caller reporter does a surprisingly good job at times on questioning Rudy, who then flips out at proper questions. The reporter shows skepticism that this story came out through Rudy of all people.

          Rudy comes across as being really familiar with Mac Isaac’s timeline but does make contradictions. Including that Costello went down to Mac Isaac to validate and spent a week, when the official story is email and phone contact then FedEx the hard drive. And that Mac Isaac reached out after the laptop was “abandoned at that point by about 6 months”, which would be October 2019, way off from official story.

    • dopefish says:

      Hard to have any respect for Pope Francis after two years of his refusing to clearly condemn Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, and making occasional comments favorable to them.

      Like in March, when he suggested Kyiv “shouldn’t be ashamed to negotiate” with Russia, or last August, when he praised “the legacy” of Great Russia to a group of youth in St. Petersburg.

      Meanwhile, Russia continues to kill civilians in Ukraine, commit war crimes in Ukraine, and send its own troops to fight and die while killing Ukrainians. That war could end tomorrow if Russia would stop attacking a neighboring country and withdraw its troops. Why won’t Pope Francis tell Russia to cease its aggression and bring its troops home?

      • bloopie2 says:

        Good points all. Maybe we don’t respect the man but rather look at individual actions. Oh well I’m sure the Greeks discussed this stuff to death 2,000 years ago; maybe if I read them I’ll know better how to act and think.

        • ecsCoffee says:

          The Pope and the Vatican *are* calling for Russian aggression to end.

          I think Francis views the role of the Pope as one philosophically opposed to advocating for war at all (so, he hesitates to encourage the Ukrainians to defend their country to the last fighter) and I think he is trying to maintain opportunities for persuading the Russian church and Russian people. It’s not that he doesn’t understand whose fault the fighting is.

          I don’t think his outreach efforts are working at all, and as Ukraine and its western allies can only see them as offensive or morally weak, I tend to wish he’d abandon them. But then, I have never been a pacifist, and I will never be Pope.

          I enjoyed the link, bloopie.

  15. rattlemullet says:

    Needles to say, as always great work, thank you. Any chance that Kaitlan Collins is aware of or reads Emptywheel? It certainly would behoove her to do so.

  16. MsJennyMD says:

    “I think it’s my duty to pick the person I think would do the least harm to the country, and in my mind, that’s — I will vote the Republican ticket.” Bill Barr, Fox News, April 2024

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      For Bill Barr, the least harm comes from not allowing even a fractured democracy to continue.

    • MsJennyMD says:

      And in May 2023 Bill Barr said: “You may want his policies, but Trump will not deliver Trump policies. He will deliver chaos and, if anything, lead to a backlash that will set his policies much further back than they otherwise would be.”

      • timbozone says:

        Basically, Barr is the type of person that throws a lot of shit out there and then lets the people that like to (or are paid to) sift through his shit figure out what he is or is not actually going to do. His public comments at any given moment are generally made to immediately benefit himself personally, either politically, financially, and/or legally regardless of the actual facts of any matter he is associated with or embroiled in.

  17. zscoreUSA says:

    Questions about the EDNY/Donoghue/DuCharme role. Apologies if this is basic or has been answered previously.

    On 1/17/20, days after Brady schedules Rudy for any interview, DOJ orders all Ukraine related matters to go through EDNY/Donoghue.

    Was the Smirnov information supposed to be referred to EDNY to further investigate? From Barr’s POV, why did this effort fail? The Brady interview details efforts to get Weiss to look at the Smirnov stuff. But why wasn’t there more emphasis on getting the stuff to EDNY instead of Weiss?

    On 7/10/20, less than 2 weeks after FBI receives the new information from Smirnov, Barr swaps DuCharme with Donoghue. Was Donoghue not willing to cross a line that DuCharme was willing to cross? If so, why did DuCharme not investigate the Smirnov information, as EDNY would be referred all Ukraine related matters?

    • originalK says:

      I am not as detail-oriented as you and EW, but have read the Brady transcript and her latest here, including re: DuCharme’s supposed use of discreet for discrete (which she links in her post).

      My impression has been that there wasn’t much “investigation” going on during these several years, only the attempt to gather and push information, especially to where there might be grand juries and subpoena power (and that was probably complicated by the ongoing pandemic). Contrary to EW, I have posited that Weiss was investigating HB, but was pushing back in order to preserve a working relationship with his prosecutors and not jeopardize his case (She is more familiar with any evidence for that, of course.)

      Her piece on the the Scott Brady deposition highlights some back and forth between Brady and Berman in SDNY – Berman was fired in June 2020 – and describes Donoghue’s role in EDNY as gate-keeping re: Ukraine (like the “catch-and-kill” of the DOJ set, I guess.). She references that Jerry Nadler was on the trail of this just following Trump’s acquittal in the Senate for impeachment #1.

      • zscoreUSA says:

        Brady refers repeatedly to Weiss ability to investigate further due to access to a grand jury.

        Did EDNY also have an ability to investigate Hunter/FARA/Burisma further through use of a grand jury?

        From the Article Nadler was on the trail:

        Because the Donoghue Ukraine news (and the suggestion that Donoghue may be overseeing an investigation into the Bidens) got so much attention…

        And the memo from Rosen states about EDNY

        The Department has assigned Richard Donoghue, the U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of New York (EDNY), who currently is handling certain Ukraine-related matters, to coordinate existing matters and to assess, investigate, and address any other matters relating to Ukraine, including the opening of any new Investigations or the expansion of existing ones…

        Any and all new matters relating to Ukraine shall be directed exclusively to EDNY for investigation and appropriate handling. Unless otherwise directed, existing matters covered by this memorandum shall remain in the Offices and components where they are currently being handled, subject to ongoing consultation with EDNY. Any widening or expansion of existing matters shall require prior consultation with and approval by my office and EDNY.

        • originalK says:

          I’ve read a few more posts – and I’m not sure where I got the idea that EW didn’t think Weiss had an active grand jury related to HB or wasn’t involved in Barr’s frame-up in 2020 (He just resisted the FD-1023?). I did a search on the site for “Donoghue” and one of the more interesting ones started with Gary Shapley’s complaints to Congress but ties in Donoghue’s role in Fall 2020.

  18. Savage Librarian says:

    Barr’s Wits and Witnesses

    Ukraine spitballing in his head
    And just like the guy whose feats
    are too big for his dread
    He can’t seem to quit
    Yes, Ukraine spitballing in his head
    Still spitballing

    Did he just do him some stalking
    of Joe’s son?
    Did he tell Weiss: I don’t like the way
    you dropped the gun,
    pleading on the job…
    So, Ukraine spitballing in his head
    Still spitballing

    And there’s one thing he knows
    The news they meant to beat him
    won’t unseat him; It won’t be long
    ‘til backstops check laptops completely

    Ukraine spitballing in his head
    But that doesn’t mean
    Weiss can’t renege on what was pled
    Lying’s still for him
    ‘Cause now Smirnov’s covered up
    Brady still is shady
    But he’s scot-free
    So, nothing here to see

    It won’t be long
    ‘til backstops check laptops completely

    Ukraine spitballing in his head
    But that doesn’t mean
    Weiss can’t renege on what was pled
    Lying’s still for him
    ‘Cause now Smirnov’s covered up
    Brady still is shady
    But he’s scot-free
    So, nothing here to see


    “B.J. Thomas “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” on The Ed Sullivan Show”

  19. Tburgler says:

    Not to defend the press who should be doing their jobs, but who among Dem politicians is pushing the narrative laid out here? Republicans have put Hunter Biden on the press agenda. I don’t see democrats doing the same.

    Is there a smart reason they are not?

    Eta: Ack! The “er” at the end of my username cut off when I thought it auto filled. Apologies.

    [FYI – username fixed. /~Rayne]

  20. LaMissy! says:

    Heather Cox Richardson brings a slightly different lens to this same interview, as is the wont of a historian.

    “Just to be clear,” Collins said, “you’re voting for someone who you believe tried to subvert the peaceful transfer of power, that can’t even achieve his own policies, that lied about the election even after his attorney general told him that the election wasn’t stolen.… You’re going to vote for someone who is facing 88 criminal counts?”

    “The answer to the question is yes,” Barr said. “I think the real threat to democracy is the progressive movement and the Biden administration.”

    The contention of the former attorney general—who had been responsible for enforcing the rule of law in the United States of America—that a man who has demanded the execution of people he dislikes is a better candidate for the presidency than a man who is using the power of the federal government to create jobs for ordinary people, combat climate change, protect the environment, and promote health and education, illustrates that Republican leaders have abandoned democracy.


    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Bill Barr’s version of democracy has more in common with Henry Kissinger and Vladimir Putin’s than Joe Biden’s. For Barr, democracy let’s only the right people win and hold power. By definition, it does not hold power to account, but rewards the endless seizing of greater power, because that’s necessary to keep those without power without it.

      Bill Barr’s is a church of medieval popes and cardinals. Everyone else is a hired hand, whose job is to put out and shut up. Is there any wonder why he was general counsel for a major telecomms company?

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Trump would call for executions on other occasions. “He would say things similar to that on occasions to blow off steam. But I wouldn’t take them literally….Because at the end of the day, it wouldn’t be carried out and you could talk sense into him….I don’t think he would actually go and kill political rivals.”

      What Bill Barr hopes you’ll believe is that, in a second term – when the guardrails, along with Dick Cheney’s infamous gloves, are off – an unhinged and probably demented Donald Trump wouldn’t mean it.

      Odds are that he would mean it. Even if he changed his mind, he would have only hired Kash Patels, Stephen Millers and Jeff Clarks, who would assume he meant it, and promptly followed their orders.


    • Scott_in_MI says:

      “[H]ave abandoned democracy” seems overly generous. “[H]ave abandoned reason for madness” feels closer.

    • harpie says:

      Thanks for posting that…I very much look forward to Richardson’s Letters every day. This one struck me as especially important.

      I agree with Scott in Mi. about the “Republican leaders have abandoned democracy” phrase…my thought was that Republicans have long been ANTI-democracy.

      • harpie says:

        [This was linked to by @lolgop]

        Conservative Legal Philosophy Was All a Lie, Too
        The textualists and originalists have taken off the mask. https://www.thebulwark.com/p/conservative-legal-philosophy-was
        Jonathan V. Last Apr 26, 2024

        [re: Stuart Stevens book It Was All a Lie.] His thesis was that the dogma conservatives had professed for 60 years—the love of small government and free trade; the desire for robust foreign policy; the belief that character and accountability mattered—turned out not to be values but rationalizations.

        In Stuart’s view, conservatives had a bunch of groups they disfavored and then worked backwards to concoct an ideological framework to support these prejudices. […]

        The preponderance of evidence that has emerged since 2020 has buttressed his case.

        Yesterday the Supreme Court hinted that maybe conservative legal theory was always a lie, too. […]

    • harpie says:

      After the “Republican leaders have abandoned democracy” line, Richardson continues with BARR’s 11/15/19 speech to the Federalist Society, where:

      Barr ignored the Declaration of Independence, which is a list of complaints against King George III, to argue that Americans had rebelled in 1776 not against the king, but rather against Parliament. In the modern world, Barr argued, Congress has grown far too strong. The president should be able to act on his own initiative and not be checked by either congressional or judicial oversight.

      ie [and no surprise]: BARR argued for the “Unitary Executive” theory.

      She then introduces one of the people who, in 1986
      was intimately involved in the origins of that theory…
      …none other than OLC lawyer and future In-Justice Samuel ALITO!

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Yep, for Bill Barr, democracy itself is the existential threat to what he holds dear, including his immunized status in the world.

        His argument that today’s Republicans support “democracy” more than Democrats fares about as well as the one that Donald Trump defends it more than Joe Biden.

    • harpie says:

      This is Richardson’s reference about signing statements:

      Presidential Signing Statements and Their Implications for Public Administration James P. Pfiffner, George Mason University https://pfiffner.gmu.edu/files/pdfs/Articles/Signing%20Statements,%20PAR.pdf

      […] During the Reagan administration in the 1980s, executive branch lawyers made a concerted effort to enhance the authority of the presidency through signing statements. […] and it ushered in the era of more active use of signing statements to challenge the constitutionality of laws.

      The Reagan administration began its systematic campaign to use signing statements in a strategic manner for several purposes:
      1] to get signing statements institutionalized and accepted within the executive branch, 2] to get them seen as legitimate sources of legislative intent, 3] to allow the president to use them to instruct executive branch subordinates, and 4] to raise challenges to the constitutionality of parts of statutes to which the president objected (Alito 1986; Kelley, forthcoming). [numbers added]

    • harpie says:

      [This will make more sense, I hope, when the previous comment is out of the pokey…SORRY about causing issues today.]

      And here’s a pdf of the 2/5/86 ALITO OLC memo Pfiffner cites above:

      Memorandum to the Litigation Strategy Working Group, Re: Using Presidential Signing Statement [ sic ] to Make Fuller Use of the President’s Constitutionally Assigned Role in the Process of Enacting Law


      […] In 1987, president Ronald Reagan issued a signing statement to a debt bill, declaring his right to interpret it as he wished and saying the president could not be forced “to follow the orders of a subordinate.” [<ie: CONGRESS]

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        How typical of Fascist Bill Barr to define Congress, a co-equal branch of govt – acting in its core legislative capacity – as subordinate to his god-king president.

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