Son of Criminal Obstructionists

I commented yesterday that Bill Barr is smarter than his boss.   Reading a bit of the transcript of his clumsy (but effective) spin of the Mueller report reminded me that smarter than our extremely stable genius president is not a very high bar.  Let’s have a quick look:

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 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.

Mueller explained that unspecified DOJ regulations [1] required him to abide by the OLC memos stating that a sitting president cannot be indicted.   He explained that fairness dictated, since placing the president under a cloud of suspicion would impair his ability to do his job, that regardless of the weight of the evidence against him, the Special Counsel had to remain as neutral as possible on the question of his guilt.   He limited himself to collecting, sorting and preserving all the evidence it was possible to gather, “while memories were fresh” and while documents could still be obtained.   Here’s Barr’s vague and untruthful version (of admittedly hazy terrain):

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 clearly did not violate the law, which of course is not the standard we use at the department.

Could Mueller have charged Trump with obstruction, had he not been bound by the OLC memo about not indicting a sitting president, based on the pattern of ten or more separate suspicious incidents he sets out in his report, including the president ordering his White House counsel to make a false record indicating that the president had never told him to obstruct justice by firing the Special Counsel?   Here’s Barr on that important question:

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.

Aside from the fact that this is neither a sentence nor the expression of a complete thought, let’s parse it.  Many of the instances would not, as a matter of law, amount to obstruction of justice?   That means, by simple logic, that the others would amount to obstruction.  Also, obstruction is shown by a course of conduct– if many instances were not, in Barr’s view, obstruction, and several others were — then what is this irrefutable legal genius talking about?

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.

As a matter of law, sounds so categorical, so final.  As a matter of law– CASE CLOSED.   The views of the department?   That something like asking a subordinate to create a false written record to cover up arguable obstruction ais perfectly permissible if the person asking is the Unitary Executive?   Blow it out your bagpipes, Bill.   Way to dismiss the inconvenient “views of a particular lawyer” vs. the views of another particular, more powerful lawyer who gets the last word.  “We applied what we thought was the right law,” (as a matter of law) “but then we didn’t rely on that.”    Of course you didn’t rely on it — it would have harmed your boss!

I know, I know.   I keep acting like the facts matter, like simple logic should trump convoluted sophistry or outright partisan crap, like there is such as thing, in our post-truth society, as a “matter of law.”   Law is almost always decided based on the relative power of the parties.   Here in the land of the free and the home of the brave we have what is called “The American Rule”– unlike in most other civilized nations, each party pays his own legal fees in American courts (except in very limited circumstances).   This means if you have millions to spend against a less wealthy adversary who you can bankrupt in court — you win.   That is why our president is such a happy, satisfied, eternal WINNER who can claim to never to have settled a case (that claim is another demonstrable lie, but what the hey?).    USA! USA!!!!

I pretend otherwise, but in a world where time is literally running out on an inhabitable planet, as cynical old fossil fuel billionaires hire PR geniuses (and release “think tank” reports from their own spin doctors) to convince the pliable and the stupid that what they are seeing all around them has nothing to do with the looming climate catastrophe every responsible scientist on earth has been warning us of, emotion (plus power) beats the humble “truth” every time.

“If I’m so darned stupid — how come I’m the skeptic and you’re the fucking alarmist?   Tell me that, genius ass!”

Consider this piece my caveat about Barr’s supposed brilliance.  To that end I include, for the more ambitious reader (though not ambitious enough to click the link and read the CBS transcript) some more examples of his probity and his smarts.   [2]

Everyone who remains in Trump’s orbit reveals an essential stupidity (or at least moral vacuousness) after a while. They debase themselves by their transactional association with a giant, petulant, conniving, covetous 70 something year-old child.  

But remember, as Trump’s own loyal attorney general says, many of the suspicious things Mueller reported Trump doing to obstruct justice, many of them, as a matter of law (and Barr’s irrefutable, independent, Federalist Society opinion) were not crimes.  So there!

 

[1]   Mueller, speaking on his last day as Special Counsel

“The Special Counsel’s Office is part of the Department of Justice, and by regulation, it was bound by that department policy. Charging the president with a crime was therefore not an option we could consider,” Mueller said.

“Beyond department policy,” he continued, “we were guided by principles of fairness. It would be unfair to potentially accuse somebody of a crime when there can be no court resolution of the actual charge.”

source

[2] Some selections of Barr equivicating eloquently, and as a mater of law, directly through his ass:

WILLIAM BARR: Well, we live in a hyper-partisan age where people no longer really pay attention to the substance of what’s said but as to who says it and what side they’re on and what it’s political ramifications are. The Department of Justice is all about the law, and the facts and the substance and I’m going to make the decisions based on the law and the facts and I realize that’s in tension with the political climate we live in because people are more interested in getting their way politically. so I think it just goes with the territory of being the attorney general in a hyper-partisan period of time.

and

JAN CRAWFORD: So instead [of releasing a report not redacted to your specifications], you turned in this four page summary?

WILLIAM BARR: Right, because I didn’t think the body politic would allow us to go on radio silence for four weeks. I mean, people were camped outside my house and the department and every – there was all kinds of wild speculation going on. Former senior intelligence officials who were purporting to have it- or intimating that they had inside information were suggesting that the president and his family were going to be indicted and so forth —

JAN CRAWFORD: And saying that publicly?

WILLIAM BARR: Saying that publicly. There was all kind of wild and–

JAN CRAWFORD: And you knew that to be false?

WILLIAM BARR: Yes, and it was wild and irresponsible speculation going on which the very–

JAN CRAWFORD: Wild and irresponsible. The former intelligence officials’ speculation–

WILLIAM BARR: Right, and talking heads and things like that, and these things affect the United States’ ability to function in the world. We have an economy. It could affect the economy. It can affect – it can affect our foreign relations during very delicate period of time with, you know, serious adversaries in the world. So I felt- that in order to buy time, in order to get the report out, I had to state the bottom line just like you’re announcing a verdict in a case. My purpose there was not to summarize every jot and tittle of the report and every, you know, angle that – that Mueller looked into. But, just state the bottom line which I did in the four page memo.

JAN CRAWFORD: You didn’t say in that four-page memo that the report would not exonerate the president on obstruction. That line–

WILLIAM BARR: I said that, yes. In the- in the- in my four-page memo, I said that Mueller did not reach a decision. He gave both sides and that- and then I quoted that sentence which is, while we didn’t find a crime, we didn’t exonerate the president. That was in the four-page letter.

JAN CRAWFORD: The- did not- we would so clearly state the preface to that.

WILLIAM BARR: Yeah.

[Jan Crawford is right and Barr is lying.   Barr did not include the line she alluded to — if we had confidence the president did not commit a crime we would have said so. Barr’s letter quoted  the line “while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him” , then followed it immediately, not with Mueller’s constitution-based conclusion that Congress is the proper venue for deciding whether or not the president used his powers improperly — but with his own preferred, pre-drawn conclusion that Mueller had decided to describe the facts without reaching a legal conclusion, which left the ultimate charging decisions up to the A.G.– as a matter of law, you dig….]

JAN CRAWFORD: That, that was not in there, and there was some criticism that in the summary, and the attorney- I mean, the special counsel himself wrote the letter saying, People are misunderstanding. There’s been some confusion, that the summary had caused some confusion–

Indeed it has, Barr’s four page PR release was a tissue of lawyerly cavil and did not reflect the content of Mueller’s findings

WILLIAM BARR: Right, right.

JAN CRAWFORD: That perhaps, and he didn’t say this, but the- the response was that you were too soft on the president, that actually the special counsel was a little sharper on obstruction.

[Barr wrote:  “Our determination [on no obstruction] was made without regard to, and is not based on, the constitutional considerations that surround the indictment and criminal prosecution of a sitting president” — as if, because many of the obstructive acts described were not… ah, if you’re interested, read the handsome true believer’s entire equivocating letter here]

WILLIAM BARR: Well again, I wasn’t trying to provide all the flavor and nooks and crannies of the report. I was just trying to state the bottom line, and the bottom line was that Bob Mueller identified some episodes. He did not reach a conclusion. He provided both sides of the issue, and he- his conclusion was he wasn’t exonerating the president, but he wasn’t finding a crime either. And, for the purposes of the point, I think that that was what was required for the body politic because actually most of the letter then goes on to explain how Rod Rosenstein and I reached a decision and the criteria we applied in finding no obstruction.

JAN CRAWFORD: He wrote the letter taking issue, saying there caused- you had caused confusion. Did that catch you off guard?

WILLIAM BARR: Yeah, sure. I was surprised he just didn’t pick up the phone and call me given our 30 year relationship, but–

That’s what lawyers call making a record, and it’s especially important to make a record when documenting actual understandings when you know the other party to be a corrupt person with no hesitation to lie “for the greater good” as a “matter of law”.   Like you, Bagpiper.  And it doesn’t explain why you didn’t release the fully redacted Mueller summary already in your possession, instead waiting weeks to make it public.   Now continue spinning your web of spun excrement:

JAN CRAWFORD: Why didn’t he?

WILLIAM BARR: I don’t, I don’t know, but, as I said it in the hearing, I thought it was- the letter was a little snitty and staff-driven–

JAN CRAWFORD: Staff-driven?

WILLIAM BARR: Yeah. I personally felt, but we had a good conversation–

JAN CRAWFORD: Because otherwise you would have picked up the phone?

WILLIAM BARR: Right, well, which I did, and we had a good conversation. And I think, I think the matter is now been fully vetted, and I think he was concerned that there should be more context and texture to his work given, and that in the absence of that, the vacuum had been filled with media reports that were then causing confusion, and he wanted it clarified by putting more of an explanation of his reasoning out. And I said that I didn’t want to put out dribs and drabs, I wanted the whole report out

[which is why I didn’t release Mueller’s detailed summary, of course].

And then I wrote a letter again to Congress saying, look, I didn’t- this is not intended to be a full summary. Bob’s thinking is reflected in the report. Everyone’s going to have access to it. They should look at that to determine, you know, what Bob’s reasoning was. So that’s where we let it sit till the report was released.

Sure, whatever you say, Bill, as a matter of law.

One last Barr gem, talking about which is worse, a foreign government interfering in our elections or “allowing  government power, law enforcement or intelligence power, to play a role in politics, to intrude into politics, and affect elections.”:

WILLIAM BARR: Well they’re both, they’re both troubling.

JAN CRAWFORD: Equally?

WILLIAM BARR: In my mind, they are, sure. I mean, republics have fallen because of Praetorian Guard mentality where government officials get very arrogant, they identify the national interest with their own political preferences and they feel that anyone who has a different opinion, you know, is somehow an enemy of the state. And you know, there is that tendency that they know better and that, you know, they’re there to protect as guardians of the people. That can easily translate into essentially supervening the will of the majority and getting your own way as a government official.

Got only two more words here:  Mitch McConnell. Oh, yeah, and Bill Barr.

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