There are many things that not only bother me about the Barr Report Summary -- and keep bothering me even more the more I think about them. But at the center of them all is one thing that strikes me as foundational to the problems.
It's when Attorney General William Barr (R-Trump Towers) writes in his summary that a person can't commit Obstruction of Justice if there's no underlying crime. Now, I'm not only not a lawyer, I don't even play one on TV or in print -- and the moment I hear that it immediately struck that it couldn't be right, that it made no sense. A person can lie or cover-up and obstruct prosecutors if he or she doesn't want to talk about something that's perfectly legal (like having an affair, for instance, or It hurts their reputation, or they want to protect someone). So, I couldn't believe that the law the Attorney General said was true -- even though he's the Attorney General, and I type my various thoughts.
So, it was a great comfort to me and my non-existent legal degree that federal prosecutor after federal prosecutor all day yesterday came saying the same thing all day -- that Attorney General Barr was wrong, that there was no such legal principle. That anyone can obstruct justice for any reason, whether there is an underlying crime or not. The most innocent person, they all said, can obstruct justice. (Interestingly, many of these federal prosecutors used the same, famous example -- that Martha Stewart had actually committed no crime, but lied to federal prosecutors about her actions, committing obstruction of justice and going to jail for five months because of it.) That what Attorney General William Barr said is not the law, and he made the chimera up out of thin air and a large dose of obfuscation.
What bothers me so much about this and why I find it almost more problematic than any of the other transgressions in his summary (though it's a close race for #1) is not only because it's not just deceptive, but because he's the Attorney General of the United States and knows it's deceptive, and knows that every lawyer listening knows it's non-existent and deceptive (as well as many non-lawyers, including all those people who went to jail for lying and obstructing justice even though they hadn't committed an underlying crime) but also since the point Barr is making up is so central to the whole investigation. Obstruction of justice.
Obstruction of justice is no small matter here. Trump is on record for firing FBI Director James Comey -- the man in charge of the investigation -- specifically because of "the Russia thing." He fired most of the people he could who had subsequently been in charge at the FBI or had significant positions in the investigation. And when you fire the people who are investigating you, even if you haven't been convicted or just indicted for a crime, you are not only obstructing justice...but your obstruction might be the very reason that the people investigating you have been blocked and unable to conduct a proper investigation and get the actual evidence needed to indict you.
Indeed, obstruction of justice is perhaps the very reason William Barr is currently Attorney General, since he is the man who wrote a 19-page, unsolicited letter in an effort to get his job as Attorney General that argued it was not Constitutionally possible for a president to commit...(let's say it all together now...) obstruction of justice.
And there's the Attorney General lying, making up the most childish, non-existent legal doctrine that if you haven't been convicted of a crime, it's therefore not illegal to lie about it and obstruct justice to keep officers of the law from asking questions.
And it was from that core whitewash lie that Barr's entire manifest summary to protect Trump was built.
If only Martha Stewart's attorneys had known this legal principle at the time!! All her fellow inmates would have been spared the hell having to eat on doilies at every meal for the five months she was in prison.
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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