Nobody cuts through b.s. like a hot knife through butter better than Esquire’s Charlie Pierce. In his column on Sunday, Pierce stated that Barr “summarizes the Mueller report in the light most favorable to the administration,” which is not surprising, in light of the 19-page memo Barr wrote earlier in the year. Here’s a snip, which gives you the flavor of the entire thing.
Mueller should not be permitted to demand that the President submit to interrogation about alleged obstruction….under this theory, simply by exercising his Constitutional discretion in a facially-lawful way — for example, by removing or appointing an official; using his prosecutorial discretion to give direction on a case; or using his pardoning power ~ a President can be accused of committing a crime based solely on his subjective state of mind.
Pierce argues that this memorandum is a perfect set up for the conclusion Barr reached Sunday in his letter to the Judiciary Committees.
…Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and I have concluded that the evidence developed during the Special Counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense….In making this determination, we noted that the Special Counsel recognized that “the evidence does not establish that the President was involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference,” and that, while not determinative, the absence of such evidence bears upon the President’s intent with respect to obstruction.
That’s the set up, and the commentary is vintage Charlie Pierce.
And thereby hangs the upcoming brawl. Mueller says essentially that he is drawing no conclusions on obstruction of justice. Meanwhile, Barr—and Rod Rosenstein—are saying that, because Mueller drew no conclusions, he did in fact draw a conclusion. The law, as it has been said, is an ass.
There will be insufferable cock-a-doodle-doo’ing from the usual suspects for the next two years, and we all better get used to it. I suspect that both Barr and Mueller will get hauled before various congressional committees. In fact, the basic overriding result of Barr’s summary is that the whole matter now has been dumped into the laps of a divided and hyper-partisan Congress in such a way as to guarantee that the Congress will be more divided and more hyper-partisan than ever before. The Democratic House will hold hearings and the Republican Senate will yell about Hillary Clinton. The Internet will be indiscriminately insane for the foreseeable future.
For those of us who are Iran-Contra obsessives—and you know who you are out there—this summary carries a similar aroma. A lot of important people are going to pass the buck around to each other, over and over again, until the country forgets what all the fuss was in the first place. This should be no surprise, again, because, back in 1992, when he was George H.W. Bush’s AG, Barr advised that president to pardon all of the people convicted in Iran-Contra—people who, unsurprisingly, all could have testified that Bush’s non-involvement was a self-serving lie. Maybe he’ll give this president* the same advice. Who knows?
This is not “Complete and Total EXONERATION,” as Trump tweeted. The Mueller report states, “While this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” Plain English, but it’s still beyond Trump, apparently. Charlie Pierce isn’t the only one stating the obvious. The New York Times Editorial Board is calling for immediate release of the entire Mueller report.
Less than 48 hours after receiving Mr. Mueller’s report, the attorney general briskly decided that Mr. Trump had not obstructed justice. Why not? Because there was no underlying crime to obstruct, Mr. Barr said, and anyway, most of Mr. Trump’s behavior took place in full public view, had no connection to any legal proceeding, and wasn’t “done with corrupt intent.” How did Mr. Barr make these determinations so quickly? On what evidence in the report did he base it?
Recall that Mr. Barr got his current job only after Mr. Trump shoved out his predecessor, Jeff Sessions, for not showing him enough personal loyalty and shutting down the Russia investigation at the start. Among the reasons Mr. Barr may have appealed to the president was an unsolicited memo he sent last year to the Justice Department, taking the position that Mr. Mueller should not be allowed to question Mr. Trump about obstructing justice, and that the president could not be guilty of obstruction unless there were an underlying crime to obstruct.
In other words, Mr. Barr did exactly as Mr. Trump hoped he would. But there’s a reason obstructing justice is a crime on its own. The justice system doesn’t work when people lie to authorities, no matter why they do so.
Mr. Barr’s curious views on obstruction are just one reason that Mr. Mueller’s full report must be made available, immediately, to both Congress and the American people.
Barr did the job Trump hired him to do. Now, the full report needs to be released.