Thursday, May 30, 2019

UPDATED: Briefly Noted: Barr Responds To Question Re Mueller's Statement

Jan Crawford interviewed AG Bill Barr in Alaska this morning for CBS (video at link). Here's how that went:

Crawford asked Barr whether he agreed with Mueller's "interpretation" that he couldn't make a decision regarding obstruction--after laying out 11 instances of "possible" obstruction. 
Barr: "I personally felt he could've reached a decision ... he could've reached a conclusion." 
"The opinion says you cannot indict a president while he is in office, but he could've reached a decision as to whether it was criminal activity. But he had his reasons for not doing it, which he explained and I am not going to, you know, argue about those reasons. 
"But, when he didn't make a decision the Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, and I felt it was necessary for us, as the heads of the Department, to reach that decision." 
Crawford then stated that Mueller "seemed to suggest that there was another venue for this, and that was Congress." 
Barr: "Well, I don't know what he was suggesting, but the Department of Justice doesn't use our powers of investigating crimes as an adjunct to Congress."

And that was that. I think Barr played this smartly. He gave Crawford a full response, but deftly declined to get down in the gutter with Mueller. Why should he demean himself by treating Mueller as a respectable interlocutor, or even as an equal? If Mueller wants to rehabilitate himself in respectable circles of government legal service he'll have to do it on his own.

On the other hand, in typically understated but direct fashion Barr makes clear his view of Mueller's reprehensible performance for anyone who cares to consider his words:

... the Department of Justice doesn't use our powers of investigating crimes as an adjunct to Congress."

But Mueller did. It's a slap, but a principled one, without being petty. Mueller as Special Counsel was a political actor by his own choosing, and Barr has nothing but contempt for him.

BONUS: Michael Goodwin also captures the reprehensible smallness of Mueller well: America left to face the nasty consequences of Robert Mueller’s actions.

UPDATE: I just found a longer video of the interview in which Barr is asked whether he believes, as President Trump has said, that Obama officials committed treason. Barr responded, "Not as a legal matter." In other words, not as "treason" is technically defined in the Constitution, Article III, Section 3:

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.

Here are those remarks:

President Trump thinks some committed treason.
Crawford: "You don't think they committed treason? 
Barr: "Not as a legal matter, no." 
Crawford: "But you have concerns about how they conducted the investigation."
Barr: "Yes, but, you know, sometimes people can convince themselves that what they're doing is in the higher interest and better good. They don't realize that what they're doing is really antithetical to the democratic system that we have."

That sounds rather like Jack Goldsmith, who sees "national security bureaucrats who use secretly collected information to shape or curb the actions of elected officials ... as a vital check on the law-breaking or authoritarian or otherwise illegitimate tendencies of democratically elected officials.


  1. The entire thing has turned to farce. If the OLC opinions make it impossible to "make a determination" in this case, then I have two questions:

    (1) Why was volume II of the report written at all;

    And if Mueller can give a reasoned argument overcoming question (1), then I ask;

    (2) Why create novel theories about obstruction if the entire matter is mooted by the OLC obstruction- don't the regular DoJ standards defining obstruction suffice for this purpose?

    I mean, yes, I know what is going on here- Mueller and his team were trying to created an impeachment blueprint for Congress, but they don't want to have to appear and give sworn testimony defending this blueprint, which would surely have happened if Mueller and his team had made a determination that Trump obstructed the investigation. The entirety of Volume II was written the way it was just preclude being called to testify to support their work.

    1. That's pretty much it, and Barr's not about to give it any legitimacy by entering into a discussion about it.

  2. Isn't it nice to be Bobby Boy? Investigate only the parts of alleged collusion that you want to investigate; decline to exonerate Donald Trump despite not being a prosecutor's role; refuse to help your friend redact information; let it be known that you don't agree with said friend's summary that you refused to create; hold a press conference when you have nothing to say; praise obviously partisan DOJ attorneys; announce that you have said all that you're going to say; refuse to take questions; and tell Congress that you're unwilling to testify?

    Nice work if you can get it.

    1. If you read up on his career, you'll see he's led a charmed life.

  3. Donald Trump on Twitter today. "Case Closed" Simple and effective communication that is clear to the American People. He's a great communicator.

  4. The Senate trial will be a circus, but the circus will be run by the Senate's Republicans. The circus will be a great opportunity to entertain and educate the public. For example, the Senate Republicans should schedule at least one week for questions to Glenn Simpson, one week for Peter Strzok and one week for Lisa Page.

    1. Mike, we're totally on the same page. I've spent a major part of the day writing on exactly that topic, which I may publish elsewhere first.

    2. A Senate trial would be of President Trump and also of Robert Mueller and his gang of Trump-hating lawyers.

      Therefore, Mueller's clever attempt to incite an impeachment might blow up in his own face.

      The Republicans can begin the circus by questioning Mueller for days on national television. I would begin the questions by asking him how his cell phone got left in the Oval Office.

      After Mueller, the Senate Republicans should call Andrew Weisseman to answer their questions on national television for the next few days.

    3. Mike, I just got my new post up, and it's on this topic. It's a bit long, because the topic is complicated, but you'll see I'm basically thinking along the same lines. The Senate trial would likely be a trainwreck for the Left of unprecedented proportions.

  5. Mark, I know you and others have been putting in a lot of time lately posting. Thank you.

  6. Tx. Much appreciated. I'm taking the morning off.

  7. Barr: "Yes, but, you know, sometimes people can convince themselves that what they're doing is in the higher interest and better good."

    Literally the defense mounted by the defendants at Nuremburg.

    "They don't realize that what they're doing is really antithetical to the democratic system that we have."

    But, they are supposedly selected, trained, and paid to be aware of exactly that.

    We are not talking about good honest people who merely made a mistake or were led astray.

    1. Obviously, if Barr thought that convincing oneself that one is acting for a higher good by violating the law is a defense to criminal charges, he wouldn't have Durham using a GJ to investigate the Russia Hoax. So, in a sense, this part of his response is a polite brushoff to avoid any appearance of pre-judging individual possible defendants.

      OTOH, definitely, "We are not talking about good honest people who merely made a mistake or were led astray." That's why I quote Goldsmith once again. This is a guy who is not only highly educated and trained but has held several positions of high trust in government. That he should suggest that it's "vital" to have unelected bureaucrats acting outside the law to curb people he may not like is ... appalling.

    2. I was going to post that very quote from Barr that you cited.

      Also, please note, Barr's response to the question of Obama and treason, that Barr gave a nuanced answer.

      "Attorney General William Barr said he does not think some Obama-era Justice Department officials who oversaw the Russia investigation committed treason. "'ot as a legal matter, no,' Barr told CBS News chief legal correspondent Jan Crawford when asked if he believed senior officials in the Obama administration committed treason, an accusation Mr. Trump has repeatedly made."

      That is not the same thing as Barr saying "no."

      Barr's interview is very revealing. I don't know much about Jan Crawford but she seems to not be a flaming Deep State apologist. She does interrupt quite a bit.

    3. I'm working on the full transcript right now, trying to get it down to a useful form.

  8. Not to beat a dead horse vis-à-vis Goldsmith, as quoted at the end of your post, but does Goldsmith offer any evidence for his Deep State serving as a curb or check on the law-breaking, authoritarian or otherwise illegitimate actions of democratically elected officials?

    The CIA has advocated some spectacularly dumb things over a very long history. The FBI (and Mueller himself) has f'cked up a number of investigations over a long history (Whitey Bulger, anthrax, Atlanta Olympic bombing, Tsarnaev brothers, etc.)

    Granted, they do get some things right (that's their job!) that the public won't hear, yet I don't think "the Deep State as a check" flies as a rationalization. History seems to demonstrate the Deep State as a tool used in furtherance of illegitimate acts by government.

    The present example of the Russia hoax/coup led by the Deep State implies time for another Frank Church-type review/purge.

    1. Beat away. You're absolutely right. Goldsmith is far from the first very smart guy to have some very dumb ideas.

  9. Drat! I hate it when I make a post only to see that you have updated your blog and I am simply repeating something that you said.

    I guess it's true that great minds think alike. Sorry about that.