President Trump led the charge. He claimed Mueller was conflicted since he hired Democratic party advocates and Clinton donors who hated Trump. The presidential tweets and Fox News blasts got harsher and angrier by the day. Comey, Clapper, Brennan, the lovers and others were called criminals. They wanted to jail Rod Rostenstein. Daily, if not hourly, they yelled epitaphs such as “witch hunt”, “hoax”, “conflicted, angry democrats”, “dirty dossier” and more.
Trump and his defenders demanded an investigation. They’ve insisted upon fairness and the truth be revealed because the Democrats, Clinton and Comey were the real colluders, not Trump.
The Mueller investigation continued and perhaps cut short without a conversation with the key witness, Donald Trump.
We know the outlines of the rest of the story. Donald Trump hired an acting AG and the Sessions replacement, both who had attacked the investigation. The report emerged and Mueller stated he had insufficient evidence on conspiracy. Questions linger as to whether Bob Mueller had legal power to find a crime even if he could not indict. At the very core of the investigative process was whether the evidence collected was done fairly, accurately and professionally or as Trump and his advocates assert, the federal government through the FBI and DOJ were so corrupted that regardless as to the outcome, the report could not be trusted. Trump’s defenders have been adamant that the Mueller report could not be believed because those investigating were biased against the President.
I agree that some of the complaints asserted against the Russia investigation are legitimate. We need to know what motivated the federal government to surveil, if any of it was done unfairly or unlawfully and if politics rather than concerns about Russian interference in our elections prevailed.
But, if underlying investigation requires pristine hands, not influenced by outside influences and biases, wouldn’t the same exist for the investigation into the investigation? To me, the answer is obvious. It must be “yes”.
Sadly, in my opinion, I simply cannot see any possibility that the investigations overseen by Attorney General Barr can be fair. No doubt, there is an urge for revenge and it might be justified. But, that does not grant the administration the right to conduct a counter-investigation that is not totally pristine. Worse, if the upcoming scrutiny is not fully trusted, it will be discarded as being politically motivated, just as Trump has perceived the inquiry by Mueller. This country needs certainty, not confusion which only breeds chaos.
- With sincere desire that Barr’s investigations be fair and unbiased, here are just some of the reasons I cannot see that occurring:
- We know Trump sought his Roy Cohn. He wanted his attorney general to stop the investigation and made Jeff Session’s life hell, in full public display. Should Barr not carry Trump’s water, given Trump’s tweet history, how can we expect the AG not be impacted by the fear of public humiliation?
- He had a significant bias entering the job as we all know about his pre-employment memo, hoping somebody from the White House would read it.
- After the media has blasted him for what it perceives as covering for the president, Barr recently told us that he felt his role was to protect the presidency. His own words. He did not say his role was to protect the American people and ensure that justice and fairness prevailed. Right there, one must inquire, how much of that obligation to protect the presidency went into his decisions to find no obstruction? How can the American people be convinced that the primary motivation for his conclusions are based upon his comprehension of the facts and his interpretation of the law, versus reaching an result to benefit the presidency or this president?
- He testified that a president who feels that he is unfairly treated has the right to terminate an investigation. This is profound and extremely troublesome because it undermines our entire judicial system. By logical extension of the facts presented in Mueller’s report, Barr is saying that a president has the right to tell his subordinate to lie, to conceal information from the special prosecutor and even to suborn a witness.
- Barr intentionally used the word and flaunted the use of spying knowing this is not what is normally done by someone in intelligence or in the judicial system. Even the FBI director said that would not be the words he would use. Despite the angry criticism against his use of the term, he continues to use that same term instead of a more legalistic and acceptable term such as surveillance.
- He claimed there was spying occurring, but corrected himself only after being confronted that he has no proof.
- He told the public that Mueller had said that the Justice Department rule about presidential prosecution immunity did not play a role in Mueller’s decision not to prosecute. Mueller in his report and last week in his statement clearly states otherwise. In fact, Mueller said he did not think it would be fair to Trump to announce a crime if he could not indict. He felt the president could not defend himself. Barr, now, after the fact, claims Mueller could have still state Trump committed a crime yet not indict.
- Barr totally misstated the Mueller report. He said Mueller weighed both sides and could not reach a conclusion. False. The special counsel was not even attempting to make a conclusion on obstruction as he thought that if he could not exonerate, Congress had the right and power to do so.
- Barr claims that obstruction did not exist but an astounding number of prosecutors disagree (roughly 1000).
- His recent TV interview is most troubling. Barr stated, “Mueller has spent two and half years, and the fact is, there is no evidence of a conspiracy. So it was bogus, this whole idea that the Trump was in cahoots with the Russians is bogus”. This is a stunning and frightening statement uttered by the Attorney General. Robert Mueller and his team produced dozens of pages of evidence that conspiracy might have by the Trump campaign, by Roger Stone, by Manafort (we still don’t know why Manafort gave that Russian the poll results). Claiming “no evidence” instead of using the term Mueller precisely used “insufficient evidence” is either the ultimate in judicial sloppiness or a lie. A law student taking evidence 101 knows “insufficient evidence” does not equal “no evidence”. No evidence means none. Insufficient evidence could mean more than a preponderance but not “beyond a reasonable doubt”.
- By Barr’s saying it was bogus conclusively means he has already determined that the investigators were motivated by improper dealings. At no time has Barr indicated that perhaps the federal government was motivated by their fear that Russia was interfering in the elections and that there were signs (even if no absolute proof), that members of the Trump team including the president could be involved. After all Mueller has stated that the campaign did have dozens of meetings with Russians despite claiming they had none.
- Barr repeated Trump’s defense that the President “fully cooperated” with the special counsel. This is so false, in my opinion, it is patently fraudulent. Indeed, Trump did allow his staff to be interviewed, did provide million pages of documents. He absolutely should be given great credit for following his attorney’s advice to be forthcoming. But, the key piece of evidence on “conspiracy” and “obstruction” would be Trump’s testimony, which he fought against mightily. Whether Trump was justified in refusing out of a allegation of “perjury trap”, is of no moment. He did not testify. Thus, there is no way possible Mueller could get all of the information he needed. Without direct questions and responses, there would be no way legally possible that Barr could state with confidence that Trump did not have criminal intent. In fairness, it also makes it exceedingly difficult for Mueller to prove the requisite intent. The main fact is this--Trump absolutely did not “fully comply”, and I believe Barr is not telling the truth to the American people by echoing Trump on this issue.
- Mueller acknowledged that motivations for obstruction can arise for a variety of reasons. A person can cover-up to protect his own or his family’s criminal or civil liabilities. Mueller said it could be protect against disclosures of personal embarrassment. Do we know why Trump and others failed to tell the truth about those meetings, his Trump Moscow project, the Trump Tower meeting? No. But, we do know that according to Mueller, any one of those could be the reason there could be a coverup. Barr claims a person cannot obstruct unless they committed the crime. Tell that to Martha Stewart. Also his office is currently prosecuting a case in which the person being charged with obstruction did not commit the crime.
- In the recent interview, Barr fed into Trump’s claim that his opponents acted treasonously. Barr said he did not think they committed treason in a “legal sense”, but he then claimed that they might have acted in a way that was tantamount to treason (just not legal treason). Barr’s propagation of this allegation is dangerous. In making this claim, he has done so without producing a single fact. He has polluted the environment by suggesting the worst motives possible. That comment is simply reckless. And just think, Trump supporters have blasted Mueller for an eight minute reread of his own report, the only major public comment in two years.
- Barr in the recent interview claimed that it is not Trump who is “shredding” our norms but it is those who have questioned his actions and motives. He is stating that Trump has done nothing wrong. The significance of his statement is profound. By that single statement, it absolutely appears that Barr unquestionably accepts everything Trump and his campaign has done as being right. Likewise, he appears to be claiming that everything others did to protect this country was wrong. Barr seems to believe that nobody should be concerned about Trump’s refusing to agree with his entire intelligence team about Russian intrusion and that he believes Putin over his own intel. This is not Trump shredding our norms? Barr seems to claim that it is proper for a President to eviscerate his former Attorney General in public, to repeatedly publicly attack media investigating him as they would anybody else in like circumstances, “enemy of the people”. Barr seems to believe it is appropriate for his employer to demean members of his cabinet on twitter, it is appropriate to claim no meetings with Russians despite facts showing dozens of them. Trump came into power as a person who would shake up our institutions, but the man who will be investigating these institutions is now claiming that it is not Trump, but everybody else who are shredding our norms?
I am totally convinced, unfortunately, for these reasons and others, Attorney General Bill Barr has completely and totally shown that he accepts Trump’s word and version of all of the facts despite now thousands of documented lies and false statements to the contrary. He absolutely appears to be stating that Trump had every and total right to act in any way he wanted, possibly even telling witnesses to lie or to cover-up, because the president claims to have felt wrongly accused.
How ironic and hypocritical it is to see Trump’s protectors and his Congressional supporters to complain vehemently against bias by the federal government in an investigation of Russian interference in our elections, yet not be in the least concerned about the statements and actions by the man leading an investigation of our sacred institutions. But why should we be surprised considering his pre-employment memo and Trump’s insistence that he longed for his Roy Cohn?
Let’s be honest. Trump and loyalists were appalled at the 17 angry Democrats. They said it would be an injustice to our country to allow an investigation as such to proceed. They questioned and cursed all court findings and dismissed any claim that would be hurtful to the president. Yet, they applaud Barr and feel that he is in no way prejudiced, is in no way dishonest and is in no way hurtful to our judicial system.
If this country really wants to get to the truth, then, we need a prosecutor who has no preconceived notions and will examine the facts free of political or other biases. Bill Barr is Trump’s Roy Cohn. He cannot conceivably be the impartial arbiter seeking justice rather than advantage. Those complaining for two years of prosecutorial overreach citing that Mueller was conflicted because he hired democrats and had a golf dispute and allegedly wanted the FBI director job as Trump claims might have some grounds for their complaints. But, given what Barr has said and done in a few short months of completely exonerating his own boss both legally and morally, please tell me how he can possibly ever be fair?