A Cabinet of Sycophants and Acting-Idiots, Bill Barr edition

Donald Trump, as part of the unsolicited expert advice he gave to businessmen while he was campaigning for the presidency in 2016, advised would-be titans of industry to surround themselves with people less intelligent than themselves.   This way, he pointed out, you can always literally be the smartest man in the room, an important advantage for the boss.  Particularly if you’re the boss of a family business given to you by a demanding and ruthless father who never really had faith in your smarts.

In office, Trump’s been as good as his word, if we add the important caveat that if you are smarter than the smartest man in the room, you must hide your intelligence behind heroic loyalty to even the boss’s most idiotic and indefensible whims and policies. 

This caveat, obviously, does not apply to people like Betsey DeVos.  It applies directly to the most dangerous man in America: Bagpiper Bill Barr.   Follow the chain of events:

When, on May 17, 2017, after lawfully firing FBI director James Comey to end the Russia thing and the Flynn thing, and, obviously, the Comey-loyalty thing,  the president was confronted with the awful news that traitorous Acting A.G. Rod Rosenstein  (who stepped into the role after AG Sessions followed the advice of DOJ ethics lawyers and correctly recused himself from the Russia investigation — his recusal was seen by most lawyers and legal observers as mandatory) had appointed a Special Prosecutor, Trump was beside himself.

“Oh my God,” a note-taking witness quoted Trump as saying, “This is terrible.  This is the end of my presidency.  I’m fucked.”   He became angry and lambasted A.G. Sessions “How could you let this happen, Jeff?”   Trump said “Everyone tells me if you get one of these independent counsels [sic] it ruins your presidency.   It takes years and years and I won’t be able to do anything.  This is the worst thing that ever happened to me.”   source

To grasp the full weight of these words, here is John Lithgow’s excellent dramatic reenactment. 

The Mueller Report, Volume Two, details the undeviating pattern of presidential actions intended to obstruct the investigation into presidential obstruction of justice.   Don McGahn, Trump’s White House counsel, refused to fire Sessions, as he was asked to do by the president, and refused to write a knowingly false letter for the files at the president’s request, a letter denying that Trump had ever asked him to fire Sessions.  Trump pressured Sessions, accepted Sessions’ resignation letter, refused the resignation, but held on to the letter for leverage against his disobedient but very loyal AG.   

He called on several other people, including the pugnacious Corey Lewandowski who was not in the government at that time (a “back-channel,” just like unofficial Rudy in Ukraine), to deliver coercive messages to Sessions about his refusal to “unrecuse” and to fire the Special Counsel.  That his servants did not carry out his orders was later used by the president’s defenders to justify the lawfulness of Trump’s actions under the absurdist rationale that mere attempted crime is not a crime.   After all, as every schoolchild knows, there’s no such crime as attempted murder.

Trump later lawyered up and (following new AG Barr’s advice in a letter that was published) asserted a ridiculously broad and audacious privilege (one that would require a major 5-4 Supreme Court reversal of strong unanimous precedent if Trump’s claim was to be upheld) against ever, under any circumstances (including during his impeachment), allowing testimony or evidence that could be adverse to his interests in remaining the Unitary Executive and the businessman most well-shielded from investigation in the world, as long as he remains POTUS.   

Volume Two of the Mueller Report was a catalogue of the president’s seamless pattern of guilty-looking actions to obstruct an investigation into his obstruction of justice, a pattern that contained all the elements for sustainable obstruction of justice charges.  Take a few moments to go watch a bit of that marvelous dramatic reading of the Mueller Report, Volume Two.  Mueller famously wrote that he could not exonerate Trump of obstruction of justice, even as he was prevented, by an OLC legal directive, from charging him with a crime, regardless of the seeming weight of the evidence that Trump had actually done what the sworn witnesses said, as long as Trump was the sitting president [1].   

Enter Bill Barr, the new AG, the man who took the AG job just in time to make the Mueller findings disappear, as he’d promised to in his published audition for the job.  There were calls for Barr to resign the other day after some public, transparently partisan presidential DOJ ass-licking on Barr’s part (no judgment, Barr clearly just likes the taste).  1,100 former federal prosecutors had signed a letter calling for his resignation, citing his unfitness to oversee all federal law enforcement.   I went on-line to read their letter.   

The letter that came up first was another letter signed by more than 1,100 former DOJ prosecutors,dated May 6 2019.  It was a reaction to Barr’s lies about the findings of the Mueller Report as well at least one lie to Congress,    That letter, which will be familiar to many, is here.

As for lying to Congress, Barr famously pretended, under oath, not to have received the politely indignant letter Mueller sent him immediately after Barr publicly, and deliberately, mischaracterized the findings of Mueller’s report.  Barr claimed he had no knowledge of how Mueller felt about Barr stating that Mueller’s report had, basically, completely and totally exonerated the president, an innocent man whose innocence completely justified all the lawful actions he took to try to end the baseless investigation into his obstruction of justice.   Mueller had written Barr with his strong objections to Barr’s mischaracterization immediately after Barr’s public dismissal of Mueller and his findings.   So?

Barr’s successful obstruction of public knowledge of what Mueller’s report actually contained about Trump’s obstruction of justice made the contents of the report a dead letter in the public mind.  Nothing to see here.  Just angry, loser partisans going after an innocent and all-powerful man, based on their own crippling loser inadequacies.   

Mueller’s fully-redacted summary of Volume Two, which was made available to Barr along with the report itself, was withheld by Barr for a month while Barr’s own “summary” publicly substituted its far-fetched story-line for the one Mueller’s sworn witnesses had told under oath. 

Mueller, by all accounts a good and honest man, a Boy Scout who believes in the rules,  is said to have shit the bed by writing his report with the prissily ornate disclaimer-laden legalistic prose that requires a law degree to parse (read the report, counselor!) , and in a real way he certainly did, At the same time, as was he charge, Mueller also preserved a trove of eyewitness testimony and other evidence, indicted and secured the convictions of several of the president’s closest associates (Flynn, Manafort, Cohen and Stone come to mind).   In a functioning participatory democracy, one whose chief law enforcement officer is not an unprincipled God-fearing toady, Mueller’s report would have performed the duty that had been entrusted to Mueller’s team, by turning over an impressive pile of evidence and letting the facts speak for themselves to the American people.

Barr’s disinformation campaign to squash Mueller’s findings to protect the president was so successful it convinced iron-willed Nancy Pelosi, the most powerful Democrat in the country, that most Americans are already too brainwashed, too stupid, or both, to understand the immense gravity of the facts Mueller set out, the ones Barr successfully made to disappear.   She made a political calculation and restricted the impeachment to very limited, much weaker grounds, although there was the planned benefit of a relatively straightforward, easy to follow story, Trump’s shakedown of the new president (of a country nobody in America can find on a map [2]) to get dirt on a political rival. 

In my mind, Pelosi used her outsized power (which I compare to Moscow Mitch’s awesome power in the Senate — in neither case does it speak well of democracy to have a single strongman in each House speak for the will of the People) to silence the voices of anyone who argued for a third article of impeachment — Obstruction of Justice, a federal crime-in-progress by our untouchable, lawyered up Boss-in-Chief.  In the context of a three year continual process of obstruction and abuse, of court processes as well as subpoenas from Congress and attorneys general all over the United States, the president’s actions in Ukraine actions could be seen in their proper perspective, as part of an ongoing pattern of the president committing the federal crime of obstruction of justice.   Pelosi made a strategic decision to play a weaker, but  arguably more straightforward, easily understandable, number card instead of the most powerful face card in her hand to play.  Oh well.

In December 2019, at the end of the Inspector General’s  investigation into the sordid origins of the what, unaccountably became the vicious partisan Mueller Witch Hunt conspiracy against Mr. Trump, the Bagpiper sucked his own bagpipe, as follows:

Screenshot_20191213-150447_NYTimes

The “intrusive investigation”  started on the “thinnest of suspicions,” suspicions in Barr’s view “insufficient” to start the Mueller probe (and, of course, in fairness, the investigation only only led to the conviction of a mere six (6) of Trump’s many close 2016 campaign associates for crimes related to a cover-up of Russian interference in the 2016 campaign and other improprieties.  Just yesterday the innocent, unfairly persecuted Roger Stone was unfairly sentenced for several arguable non-crimes, including jail time for the non-crime of “Obstruction of Congress.”  Horrible and very unfair, according to our nation’s Chief Law Enforcement Officer, Donald Trump. 

The country’s other, secondary Chief Law Enforcement Officer, Bagpiper Bill Barr, continues to stand by his arguably untruthful positions.   The conclusion by Mueller, our intelligence agencies and even in McConnell’s own Senate Report, that Russian efforts to sway the outcome of the 2016 election in favor of Donald John Trump were “sweeping and systematic” — SO?  That the efforts are ongoing and absolutely planned for the 2020 election, in progress now, urgent, danger, Will Robinson.   No action whatsoever needed to protect the integrity of the American electoral system, according to no less an authority than Moscow Mitch … puzzling, isn’t it?

The February 16, 2020 letter from 1,100 ex-DOJ officials calling for Barr’s resignation (that number is now over 2,000)  the one I was actually looking for is here.      The outcry came about when Trump whined on twitter that his friend Roger Stone was facing a long prison sentence for his numerous so-called crimes to protect the president, totally SAD! horrible and very unfair!  After the tweets DOJ withdrew its sentencing memo, a memo that asked for the seven to nine years prescribed by law for those serious crimes of lying and corruption to advance a corrupt scheme.  Not to mention witness intimidation (pretend I didn’t mention it) and defying a judge’s gag order.  (The charges in that case were based on Stone’s repeated lying and obstruction in connection with Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election.  Talk about grounds for twitter recusal, Mr. President…)

The lawyers formerly employed by the Department of Justice make another excellent case in their recent letter calling for Barr’s resignation.  It is a case that  the DOJ should really look into.  Whoops.  (ROTFLMAO!)

When Trump was in his moment of political and personal agony, on May 17, 2017, when he cried out to his inner circle that he was “fucked”, in his anguish, he cried out rhetorically for his Roy Cohn.  The evil and self-hating Roy Cohn, among his other destructive life achievements, was, for years,  the unbeatable attorney to all five major organized crime families in the United States.  The Trump family business was a long-time client of Roy Cohn’s.

Cohn was the man who taught Trump how to use the law as a sword and a shield.  Countersue audaciously, when you lose, appeal, drag it out, make them go bankrupt, break their balls with motions, kill them with process, make ’em spend millions if they want to try to beat them, make them pay while at the same time destroying them in the press.  Cohn’s taught Trump that unscrupulousness was no vice, if your aim was to keep a guilty person out of prison.  He showed Trump how to use the mass media to influence public sentiment, introduced him to friendly contacts at the tabloids, showed him how to publicly bully foes real and imagined and how to lie confidently (Trump probably didn’t need tutelage in that, he’s a Hall of Famer in that category).   In the end, when Cohn was disbarred, indicted, dying alone of AIDS he swore was cancer because everyone knew he hated fucking fags (don’t ask…) Trump, a man known for loyalty and his many deep friendships, turned his back on his longtime mentor. 

But in that moment of agony, on May 17, 2017 when Trump cried out for his Roy Cohn, the unprincipled Bill Barr’s ears pricked up.   Opportunity was knocking, history was knocking, Barr’s destiny was knocking.   Barr presented himself, a fatter, slicker version of Roy Cohn.  You an picture his courtly bow “at your service, my liege.”

Barr, the president’s current Roy Cohn, is a long believer in the infallible authority of the powerful and well-connected.  He is ever mindful of his own righteous version of truth and justice.  His public credibility (among the credulous) is bolstered by his sober demeanor: judicious in his pauses, utterly certain in his pronouncements, his cynical but authoritative-sounding use of legal chicanery. 

He argued to the American public, during a live appearance after he told America what Mueller’s report had actually concluded (while concealing Mueller’s actual summary for weeks), without betraying the slightest hesitation or irony, that Trump’s innocence was apparent, from the report itself.  Barr said that the crucial element of corrupt intent, necessary for proving the crime of  “obstruction of justice” could not be established.   Barr said, without breaking expression, that the president was simply understandably angry and frustrated at the persecution by Mueller and so did what any of us — knowing we were 100% innocent victims of a vicious conspiracy — would have done– used every one of his legal, self-defending powers to intentionally protect the rights of an innocent man.

Barr looked at the camera calmly, feeling no need to add at that moment what a weaker person would have blurted out:  so suck it!

Barr is Trump’s Roy Cohn, not much more to say about that.  Truth, particularly if potentially incriminating, will not be allowed to stand in the way of carrying out God’s will on earth, and God, clearly, demands a Unitary Executive to rule over these corrupt and evil generations.  Without vast powers to enforce the will of God, the soul of America will be lost to the invading haordes and wicket “social justice warriors”.

 

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[1] It’s fair to say Mueller punted in his noncommittal report, turning the ball over to the Congress for impeachment, after he performed an insanely legalistic ballet that enabled him to remain civil, polite and scrupulously unbiased, even when his investigation was documenting clearly very bad behavior by the president and his inner circle. 

[2] Not to get too far afield here, but Paul Manafort made tens of millions in Ukraine using his brilliant campaigning techniques to help get a Russian-backed thug named Yanukovich elected president of Ukraine.  (Unfair to call him a ‘thug”, I suppose, it was decades before his election, the convictions and two prison terms for assault)   Manafort’s efforts succeeded and Yanukovich was elected president of Ukraine, only to be ousted a few years later by a popular uprising.   After Yanukovich fled to Russia he was tried in absentia in Ukraine and found guilty of treason.   Manafort’s next client was Donald Trump, for whom he worked for free and on whose behalf he gave polling data to Russian agents.  Just sayin’… Nothing to see here!!!

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