Attorney General William Barr completed his race to the partisan bottom Wednesday when he claimed during testimony that improper “spying” on the Trump campaign occurred in 2016.
“I think spying did occur,” Barr said, before being forced to retreat from that claim.
Democrats on the Senate Appropriations Committee were quick to demand clarification. Upon cross-examination, Barr admitted, “I have no specific evidence that I would cite right now, I do have some questions about it. I have concerns about various aspects of it.”
Gee, that sure seems different from “spying did occur.” Barr’s assertion is especially dangerous and irresponsible considering the agency’s inspector general (IG) is currently reviewing whether there was any improper use of the FISA warrants the FBI obtained to surveil certain members of the Trump campaign. But instead of waiting for the conclusions of that non-partisan report, Barr chose to put his partisan finger on the scale before the IG released conclusive evidence one way of the other. Remind you of anything?
Oh, right! That two-year leak-free Russia investigation conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller that Barr has managed to sully in less than three weeks since its final determinations were delivered to him on March 22. It’s really quite stunning what a miscarriage of justice Barr has managed to preside over in such a short amount of time. After he took just 48 hours to review Mueller’s nearly 400 pages of analysis (plus addenda and exhibits), Barr issued his own conclusions in four short pages devoid of any of the actual evidence Mueller included in his final report. As House Appropriations Chair Nita Lowey observed Tuesday during Barr’s testimony before her panel: “I must say, it is extraordinary to evaluate hundreds of pages of evidence, legal documents, and findings based on a 22-month long inquiry and make definitive legal conclusions in less than 48 hours… I would argue it is more suspicious than impressive.”
Suspicious is exactly the right description of Barr’s hackery ever since he stepped into his role as Attorney General. Not only did he give Donald Trump the “no collusion” headlines he wanted without providing any of the justifications, he has also declined thus far to provide Congress with the information that every lead prosecutor in other high-profile presidential inquiries has worked to make available to lawmakers. Specifically, both Leon Jaworski in Watergate and Kenneth Starr in Whitewater helped lawmakers access the grand jury material critical to their role of serving as a constitutional check on the executive branch. As former FBI Assistant Director Frank Figliuzzi noted Tuesday on MSNBC, we’re not seeing an attorney general who is “advancing the ball toward disclosure and transparency and helping to heal the divisions in this country.”
We sure aren’t. And Barr’s testimony before the House and Senate over the last two days has only inflamed the partisanship he injected into the process when he hastily exonerated Trump of wrongdoing after Mueller expressly declined to do so. During that testimony, Barr twice refused to say under oath that he hadn’t briefed the White House on Mueller’s report, a reversal from his previous claims. Barr was also forced to admit that Mueller never asked him to make a determination on whether Trump committed obstruction of justice—meaning Barr took that upon himself. Barr also acknowledged that Mueller declined to review his conclusions, effectively denying Barr’s assessment of his imprimatur.
“Did Bob Mueller support your conclusion?” Sen. Chris Van Hollen, pointedly asked Barr.
“I don’t know whether Bob Mueller supported my conclusion,” Barr responded.
A little over two weeks ago, Barr gave Trump a “no collusion” gift just two days after receiving Mueller’s final report. Now Barr has given Trump the gift of being able to once again question the origins of the Mueller’s investigation and vociferously argue it was a “witch hunt” from the start. In other words, after Barr originally gave Trump his “total exoneration” talking point, he has now given Trump the talking points he needs to insulate himself from any wrongdoing that is finally revealed in the redacted report.
Barr, a supposed institutionalist who reportedly commands the respect of lawyers inside the Department of Justice, has proven himself to be nothing short of a partisan hatchet man. Barr had a chance to give most Americans the comfort of knowing that the system worked, even if didn’t yield the many different results that people had hoped it would. Instead, he chose to corrupt the findings of the Mueller report, and now he’s sullied the origins of it too—all to the benefit of a man who’s spent two years sniping at the investigation from his perch in the highest office of the land.
Barr took an investigation that could have served as a salve to the country and turned it into partisan weaponry. That will be his legacy.
Watch Sen. Van Hollen grill Barr below.
Sen. Chris Van Hollen: "Did Bob Mueller support your conclusion?"
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) April 10, 2019