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Calm down: Bill Barr too late to tell the truth about Trump

Former Lic. General William Barr has been in a tear lately. He is suing his former boss for possible criminality and obstruction amid evidence that Donald Trump absconded from the White House with boxes full of government documents, including the most classified kind.

Barr’s truth is welcome, especially since so much of it is happening on Fox News, whose audience generally doesn’t understand much about Trump. However, candor would have been more welcome when Barr was in power, when it would have mattered more.

For the record:

9:47 a.m. September 10, 2022An earlier version of this article said that Donald Ayer was then Atty. Assistant to General William Barr in the Justice Department during the George HW Bush administration. The two worked together in the department, with Ayer being the deputy attorney general, but Barr not yet the attorney general.

Sometimes Fox hosts seem barely able to hide his shock as Barr debunks all of Trump’s claims against the Justice Department in the wake of the FBI’s court-approved search for Mar-a-Lago. “People say this is unprecedented. Well, it’s also unprecedented for a president to take all this classified information and put it in a country club, okay?” Barr told Fox viewers last Friday.

opinion columnist

jackie calm

Jackie Calmes brings a critical look to the national political scene. He has decades of experience covering the White House and Congress.

then and as has said that Trump repeatedly “cheated” and “manipulated” the government while trying to recover his property for more than a year. He can’t think of a “legitimate reason why” Trump took the documents. He scoffs at Trump’s claim to have declassified everything, conjuring a wizard waving a magic wand over the boxed secrets.

As to whether a special teacher should review the material before the feds continue their investigation, as Trump had a Trump-appointed judge ordered, Barr saying the New York Times, “It’s a load of shit.” He said the Justice Department should appeal, as it did on Thursday, and predicted he would win.

“There is no legal scenario under which the president can keep government documents, whether they are classified or unclassified,” Barr. said Wednesday, again on Fox News.

All this is for the good. But the damage he caused as attorney general remains.

For most of Trump’s last two years in office, Barr turned the Justice Department into the president’s personal law firm. If Barr hadn’t misled the nation in 2019 about the results of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into pro-Trump Russian interference in the 2016 election, particularly the many ways Trump allegedly tried to obstruct investigators, Trump could have been held responsible for his abuse of power at this point, and humiliated rather than emboldened.

Three years later, Barr’s talk of Trump’s guilt simply smacks of a way to save his legacy (and sell his book).

Good luck with that.

Donald Ayer, who served with Barr in the Justice Department during the administration of President George HW Bush when Ayer was deputy attorney general, wrote a scathing takedown from his former colleague in 2020: Barr had been “a great threat to our legal system and public confidence in it. He does not believe in the central principle of our system: that no person is above the law”.

Ayer and other conservative lawyers joined liberals in criticizing Barr for numerous sins. Among them:

Undermine the oversight and appropriations powers of Congress. Dispatch of law enforcement officers across the country after Trump called for a repression of protests for racial justice. supervising the forced eviction of peaceful protesters near the White House to allow a Bible-wielding Trump to stage a photo op. echoing Trump’s pre-election claims about vote rigging. Reduction of a recommended prison term for Trump’s lackey, Roger Stone, despite prosecutors’ objections. dismissing the case against Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who has twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI on Russia. Opening of a criminal investigation within Russia’s investigation, which, due to the machinations of barr, survived the Trump administration, but has almost failure

And only now does Barr see Trump as a threat to the rule of law?

Thanks to Barr, Mueller’s damning report has been mostly forgotten, except as what Trump regularly dismisses as the “Russia, Russia, Russia Hoax”. From there, the fantasy that the “deep state” wants to get Trump ensures that all other accusations against him (that he extorted a foreign leader to investigate his political rival or incited an insurrection) are not instantly believed. for more than a third of the population. American people.

It is worth briefly recalling what Mueller actually concluded. Yes, his investigation found that Trump and his campaign did not conspire with Russia to interfere on his behalf in the 2016 election, although the Trump campaign actively welcomed the help. Barr, in his four page distortion from Mueller’s 448-page report, omitted that last part.

Mueller also outlined nearly a dozen ways Trump could be guilty of obstruction of justice in his efforts to impede the investigation. They included pressure on Trump from his first attorney general, Jeff Sessions, to protect him; firing him from the director of the FBI; his effort to get his White House lawyer to fire Mueller and then deny it to investigators; and his display of pardons before witnesses, presumably to elicit friendly testimony.

Given the Justice Department’s policy of not impeaching a sitting president, Mueller said it was up to the department and Congress to consider further action.

For more than three weeks after Mueller delivered the report, Barr did not allow Americans to see it, only Barr’s summary that allowed Trump to falsely state that he was “fully exonerated.” Barr did not contradict him, although he knew Mueller had written this: “While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it does not exonerate him either.”

Now Barr wants to lead the charge against Trump? Better late than never. But Barr’s legacy remains the same, and it’s not the one he wants.

@jackiekcalmes


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