Attorney General William Barr appears before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee to make his Justice Department budget request, Wednesday, April 10, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Every now and then, a uniquely qualified individual turns up at exactly the moment in history when they are needed most. And when historians reflect back on that moment years afterward, they cannot imagine any other person filling that particular role. Think Lincoln, Churchill, and Patton.
It’s almost as if Attorney General William Barr had been conjured up to meet this specific challenge. He’s folksy, yet savvy. He appears relaxed, yet he is keenly aware of every detail. He is highly intelligent and uncommonly articulate. He is bold and best of all, he’s on the President’s side.
Barr sat for an interview with CBS News legal correspondent Jan Crawford in Alaska to discuss Robert Mueller’s controversial “statement,” which was essentially an assault on the rule of law. Barr did not engage in the analysis of Mueller’s motives, nor did he criticize Mueller for triggering a new round of calls for the President’s impeachment. (I posted about Mueller’s comments here, here and here.)
However, Barr did make it crystal clear that, despite the Office of Legal Counsel guidance, Mueller “could have made a decision about whether it was criminal activity. He had his reasons for not doing it, which he explained. I’m not going to argue about those reasons, but when he didn’t make a decision, the deputy attorney general and I felt it was necessary for us, as the heads of the department, to reach that decision.”
He expressed his surprise when Mueller informed him he had not come to a conclusion. Because that’s what he was hired to do. He was expected to determine if any of Trump’s behavior rose to the level of criminality and to make a recommendation to the Attorney General.
Crawford said, “Well, he seemed to suggest yesterday that there was another venue for this, and that was Congress.”
Barr didn’t go there. He said, “I’m not sure what he was suggesting, but the Department of Justice doesn’t use our powers of investigating a crime as an adjunct to Congress.”
Crawford asked Barr to comment on Mueller’s remark that there were “multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in our election,” and any preventative steps the DOJ has taken.
Barr described a new, “increasingly robust program that is focusing on foreign influence in our election process. I talked recently to the director of the FBI about putting together a special high level group to make sure we’re totally prepared for the upcoming elections.”
She asked Barr if he believed that the Obama administration had done enough to counter Russian interference in 2016 and he said, “no.”
Then, he segued into what he believes is an equally dangerous threat to a free election. He said he believes that “government interference into a U.S. election is just as dangerous as foreign interference.” He explained that was why he has opened an “investigation into the intelligence community’s actions in the run-up to the 2016 election…And it’s why he’s asked the president for the authority to declassify information that he thinks may be in the public interest.”
Crawford appeared concerned and asked, “What have you seen? What evidence?”
He replied, “Like many other people who are familiar with intelligence activities, I had a lot of questions about what was going on. I assumed I’d get answers when I went in, and I have not gotten answers that are, well, satisfactory, and in fact I probably have more questions, and that some of the facts that, that I’ve learned don’t hang together with the official explanations of what happened.”
Crawford asks what he meant by that.
He said, “That’s all I really will say. Things are just not jibing.”
In his understated and goodnatured way, he let the public know that he is aware of what occurred in 2016 and he is going to sort it all out. He even expressed amusement over the media’s latest concern which is that he might leak classified information. He did it all without accusations or hostility.
I am more convinced than ever that he is the exactly the right person to navigate the country through this tumultuous period. Trump’s nomination of William Barr was one of the best decisions of his presidency.