It must have been a wild scene at the White House Thursday. Trump started the day off catastrophically with his “I had nothing to do with Russia getting me elected” tweet, which he then tried to desperately backpedal in the Rose Garden. In his best tough guy voice, he gestured to himself with a stubby digit, “You wanna know who got me elected? I got me elected!” Then of course the obligatory put down of Robert Mueller, whom Trump alleges is a Never Trumper because of a dispute over golf club fees and and Mueller allegedly asking for his old job back as FBI director — a laughable scenario without a shred of credible evidence — but it’s the lie du jour that Trump is pitching. Maybe “lie du moment” would be more accurate, since Trump can’t go an entire day with just one flaming falsehood, he has to keep pumping them out at full force, just like a firehose.
In any event, Fox News started running the chyron you see in the image above, and here is what Bret Baier had to say:
This was not, as the president says time and time again, “no collusion, no obstruction. It was much more nuanced than that. … [Mueller] said specifically if they had found that the president did not commit a crime on obstruction, they would have said that, and then went into specific details about the DOJ policy and why they couldn’t move forward with anything else than their decision.
You can surely imagine Trump’s reaction when he heard that. In Alaska, Bill Barr is furiously trying to do damage control and give Trump’s alternate reality some meat for the base, so that’s why he went running to a television studio. Things have gotten very very bad when Fox News turns on Trump, it goes without saying. So Barr went on TV and explained that he, Mueller and Rosenstein had discussed the fact that Mueller didn’t make a decision on the topic of obstruction — to their surprise, he noted. Here are excerpts from the full transcript from CBS News:
JAN CRAWFORD: Now you have testified that when you met with Mueller at the Justice Department, you had that meeting, that you were surprised that he told you then that he was not going to reach a conclusion on obstruction.
WILLIAM BARR: Yes, Rod and I were both surprised by that.
JAN CRAWFORD: Did you ask him, look, we need you to make a conclusion on this? You should make a conclusion.
WILLIAM BARR: I wouldn’t say I really pressed him on it. I was interested in his thinking on it and he explained his position, said he was still thinking it through and- and- but I didn’t really press him nor did Rod.
JAN CRAWFORD: So, but you left that meeting thinking that he wasn’t going to have a conclusion?
WILLIAM BARR: That’s right.
JAN CRAWFORD: Do you feel because he didn’t do that, did he fulfill his responsibility as special counsel? If you look at regulations, it seems to anticipate that you would get a confidential report explaining why he made a decision to either prosecute or decline to prosecute. He didn’t do that, seems to me.
WILLIAM BARR: Right but on the other hand he did provide us a report and what he viewed to be the relevant facts. And that allowed us as the, as the leaders of the department to make that decision. [emphasis mine]
Well, there’s an interesting take. Apparently the Mueller report is not really finished, it is subject to interpretation by Rosenstein and Barr and they will re-interpret, or perhaps re-create it, it for one and all — or so it sounds.
Barr vs. Barr
May 1 to Congress: “We accepted the Special Counsel’s legal framework for purposes of our analysis…in reaching our conclusion”
May 31 to CBS: “We didn’t agree with …a lot of the legal analysis in the Report…So we applied what we thought was the right law.” pic.twitter.com/l6xFvNT7m6
— Ryan Goodman (@rgoodlaw) May 31, 2019
JAN CRAWFORD: What is the fundamental difference? Why…I mean, he said he couldn’t exonerate the president. That he had looked at the evil there – these 11 instances of possible obstruction. He couldn’t exonerate the president, if he could he would’ve stated so. You looked at that evidence and you did. I mean, what is the fundamental difference between your view and his?
WILLIAM BARR: Well, I think Bob said that he was not going to engage in the analysis. He was, he was not going to make a determination one way or the other. And he also said that he could not say that the president was clearly did not violate the law, which of course is not the standard we use at the department. We have to determine whether there is clear violation of the law and so we applied the standards we would normally apply. We analyzed the law and the facts and a group of us spent a lot of time doing that and determined that both as a matter of law, many of the instances would not amount to obstruction.
JAN CRAWFORD: As a matter of law?
WILLIAM BARR: As a matter of law. In other words, we didn’t agree with the legal analysis- a lot of the legal analysis in the report. It did not reflect the views of the department. It was the views of a particular lawyer or lawyers and so we applied what we thought was the right law but then we didn’t rely on that. We also looked at all the facts, tried to determine whether the government could establish all the elements and as to each of those episodes we felt that the evidence was deficient.
The particular lawyer Barr is disagreeing with is Robert Mueller — whose views he accepted May 1, but denied May 31. Okay. Let’s see where this is going, because my instinct is that we’re headed straight down a rabbit hole here. Barr is going to stay true to his Roy Cohn “killer” role in Trump’s life, and if today’s interview is any indication, Barr is going to double down on what he initially said in his four page letter. So turn the fans on to high and oscillating, because there’s going to be a lot of smoke getting blown.