Reading for the Barr
A day after writing about Trump claiming that doctors and parents who the bring a baby to birth and then decide whether or not to "execute" it, it's difficult to build up the same amount of outrage over Attorney General William Barr receiving a letter written by Special Counsel Robert Mueller complaining about Barr having misrepresented his two-year report. And so I won't express the same outrage.
But make no mistake, this is reprehensible and will likely have deep ramifications.
It's not that Mueller and Barr are compatriots. William Barr is in fact Robert Mueller's boss, moreover heading the Justice Department. And so Mueller reprimanding Barr is profound.
Robert Mueller is incredibly tight-lipped, without a slip or even a leak in two years of his investigation. And so Mueller not only speaking out at all, let alone so critically -- albeit in private -- but it getting leaked is profound.
William Barr, having given his intention to not testify before the House, prompting the need for him to perhaps be subpoenaed, coming just days after the release of a letter from Robert Mueller criticizing him, is profound.
Learning of William receiving a letter from Mueller criticizing him just days being scheduled to testifying before the Senate days is profound.
Transcripts which now show William Barr not telling the truth during his earlier Senate testimony -- that came after he had received Mueller's letter which we now know contradict some of his testimony -- is profound.
This is not small matter.
Indeed, this is outrageous. All from the top law enforcement official in the country.
[Update: since writing this, the Mueller letter has now been released to the public, and its criticism of Barr bringing about "confusion" is blunt, making the Attorney General's statements to the Senate under oath all the more clearly misleading.]
I think comments from some in the House about the possibility of impeaching William Barr are not posturing for the camera, but sincere and meaningful. I don't see Barr resigning -- the history of Trump team responses is to double-down and dig in to a hole. And with orders from Trump for his officials to rebuff all calls to testify before the House, including subpoenas, it seems that the administration is pushing the limits of House Democrats into taking actions beyond the polite norm of House etiquette. And if that means issuing Contempt of Congress fines at best or even arrests, let alone impeachment of cabinet officials for greater offenses, I see those possibilities as very real. None of this, after all, comes in a vacuum. It all comes as a part of the Mueller Investigation into Russian efforts to influence the U.S. elections and matters of obstruction of justice, alone with nine guilty verdicts and 36 impeachments, along with the referrals of 14 redacted cases for other jurisdictions. All of which fall on the question not only of further indictments, but the impeachment of the president. And it is not just a House Democrats matter, but those in entire Congress -- including the Senate -- generally respond poorly to being treated with contempt and defied as a separate but equal branch of the government, on general principle but also knowing the precedent it sets. And further, the question of Barr's lying under oath is specifically for his testimony to Senators. It is not just that the House could possibly impeach him, but that even the Republican-led Senate cannot be counted on to not convict the Attorney General for, if it comes to that, refusing a subpoena and perjury.
If the Trump administration sees this as a game they want to play thinking it will work in their favor -- enraging their base and uniting the public for them -- I think that is a big mistake. The base will always be enraged, and it is a small part of the electorate. But stepping outside that vortex, this is not a popular administration, with only a 39% approval. The vast majority of the public indeed believes the Mueller Report and its criticism of Trump. Most of the public wants Trump to release his taxes. And most importantly, almost all people understand the general concept in life of what it means when people refuse adamantly, unrelentingly, aggressively, angrily to provide information that others have all provided without qualm in the past, fight at all costs to keep from personally releasing information, sue their banks from releasing information (as Trump has just done with Deutsche Bank, as well as Capitol Bank and even his accounting firm), even sue to block Congress from getting documents it's entitled to by law, defy subpoenas from Congress, and more. People understand all of that means you have a great deal to hide. People have understood this since the third grade. And people, whatever their political belief, also tend to like that the law is followed -- most especially by the president in charge and the top law official of the country -- not only because in a democracy the concept that "No one is above the law" is foundational, but also because the public understands that following the law provides structure and a functioning system of government and protection, the alternative being anarchy and chaos.
This is the short version, outrage-free. The outraged version would have gone on much longer. And louder.
Leave a Reply.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
Feedspot Badge of Honor