When it comes to Williams Barr’s four-page letter about the Mueller Report, as usual, the news stories keep missing the main headline: Trump did something wrong, and Barr admitted it.
By now it’s obvious William Barr is a loyal camp follower. Even Jeff Sessions felt some sense of duty to his country. He carried Trump’s spear for him, but he took at least part of his oath of office seriously. He couldn’t bring himself to squash Mueller, and naturally, Donald “You’re Fired” Trump didn’t have the stones to do it himself. Fortunately, our Minority President found another ‘loyal American’ who is not only willing to carry his spear, but his chamber pot and baby wipes, too.
The problem is Barr is a career government worker who presumably wants to be remembered by his grandchildren as an honest man. That means he can’t quite bring himself to flat out lie in the official record, so he follows the time-honored practice of a semi-honest person. Instead of denying the truth he talks around it.
The problem with talking around the truth is that it turns the situation into one of those Where’s Waldo pictures. The truth is still there, and if you study long enough you can pick it out. Let’s start with the letter that supposedly completely exonerated Trump. Here’s the part everyone keeps quoting:
The Special Counsel’s investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election. As the report states: “[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
Notice how carefully that is worded. Note in particular the part they always forget to mention, not the part written by Barr, “the investigation did not find” but the part in Mueller’s own words, “the investigation did not establish.” A small difference, but a crucial one when you are trying to hide the truth.
“Did not find” suggests no evidence. “Did not establish” means something different, that it can’t be proven as an indisputable fact. That does not mean there isn’t any evidence. It has already been established that there were secret dealings between Russians and Trump campaign workers and family members, dealings which Trump unsuccessfully attempted to hide. That’s not a secret, it’s right in the public record.
Also, note how specific Barr is. He refers to “efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.” If you read his letter further he gets even more specific, saying that Trump didn’t conspire with Wikileaks or the Russian Internet Research Agency. That’s pretty damn specific.
Mueller doesn’t say there were no dirty dealings whatsoever between Trump and Russia, just in one specific area. He also didn’t clear Trump completely in that area, either. He just didn’t feel like bringing charges. Here’s a direct quote from his report:
“The evidence does not establish that the President was involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference,”
Forget for a moment what it says. Think about what it doesn’t say. It does not say there was no involvement by Trump in Russian interference, just that there was not enough evidence to establish the guilt of an underlying crime. In fact, anyone who says there is no evidence whatsoever of Trump involvement would be a bald-faced liar. Trump openly called on Russia to hack Clinton’s emails, and after they did he openly promoted what was posted on Wikileaks. He followed that up by openly supporting Putin’s denials and then openly condemning our own American intelligence agencies when they tried to call out Russia on what they had done. Again, that’s all a matter of public record.
That’s just the first part of the story. Remember that second part everyone keeps quoting, the part about obstruction of justice:
The Special Counsel’s report states that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
Look at the part of that sentence in quotation marks, meaning it came straight from Mueller. He said he “does not exonerate him.”
According to Barr, Mueller based his decision on “’difficult issues’ of law and fact.” Perhaps Mueller was referring to the controversy over indicting a sitting president. Whatever the cause, The Special Counsel made a specific point of not exonerating Trump. He didn’t put that in just to fill up space. The claim that the Mueller Report cleared Trump is another bald-faced lie. The Republicans seem to have cornered the market on those things.
So what happened, for those who didn’t notice, is that Trump’s loyal servant William Barr did the exonerating himself:
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.
And if you look closely at that wording you will realize that even William Barr doesn’t actually exonerate his boss. He said insufficient evidence, not no evidence. If there was no evidence he would have come right out and said so. He didn’t. That means there definitely is evidence of wrongdoing in the report, but instead of acting directly, straight-arrow Mueller passed it onto his superior for review, just like the conscientious investigator he is:
The Special Counsel considered whether to evaluate the conduct under Department standards regarding prosecution and conviction but ultimately determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment.
Then the Attorney General, like the good Trumpite he is, promptly dropped the case. But, even though his first loyalty is to Trump, Barr cannot bring himself to say there was no case. Notice how he felt compelled to add Mueller’s “does not exonerate him” quote. He could have easily left that out but didn’t. Why? If Trump is free and clear, or if all Mueller found was some little bit of circumstantial evidence that didn’t amount to anything, why not just come out and say so?
The answer is obvious. Mueller did indeed find damaging information about Trump, something serious enough to make Barr unwilling to lie to Congress about it.
Let me sum it all up:
Barr refused to say Trump was cleared of all charges of collusion, that there was no evidence of obstruction of justice, that there was no proof of illegal, immoral, or unethical behavior by the President. He refuses to say that because he cannot honestly do so. That means there most certainly is evidence of collusion, obstruction of justice, and illegal, immoral, or unethical behavior by the President in the Mueller Report.
To paraphrase Sean Connery’s character in the movie “Just Cause,” “If that’s an exoneration then my ass is a banjo.”
So the question is, when are we going to see what evidence Mueller uncovered? Barr already answered that in public. He said never. But that’s another story.