When President Trump indicated he’d nominate William Barr to replace Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, I must confess to being underwhelmed. At first blush it looked like Trump was ceding control of the Justice Department to the progressive clique that effectively runs the place from their perches as career civil service employees. Barr, George H. W. Bush’s last Attorney General, gave all appearances of being a gray corporate bureaucrat who could win confirmation.
I may have misjudged the man.
In June, Barr sent Deputy Attorney General, the man allegedy, an against all evidence, supervising special counsel Robert Mueller a memo objecting to how Mueller was proceeding with his supposed investigation into “obstruction of justice” by President Trump. As you know, there is an entire industry of lawyers, progressive and conservative united in their TDS, out there loudly proclaiming that virtually any act President Trump takes is “obstruction.” Their primary gripe seems to be the firing of documented prevaricator and former FBI Director James Comey. This is how Barr frames the issue:
Mr. Barr wrote in the memo that he is “in the dark about many facts” regarding Mr. Mueller’s inquiry, and his analysis appears to be based largely on public accounts.
“As I understand it, his theory is premised on a novel and legally insupportable reading of the law,” Mr. Barr wrote. “Moreover, in my view, if credited by the Justice Department, it would have grave consequences far beyond the immediate confines of this case and would do lasting damage to the Presidency and to the administration of law within the Executive branch.”
Mr. Barr’s memo is peppered with strongly worded phrases about the peril he sees in Mr. Mueller’s reading of the law, as he understood it. He described Mr. Mueller’s approach as “grossly irresponsible” with “potentially disastrous implications” for the executive branch. He also wrote: “Mueller should not be permitted to demand that the President submit to interrogation about alleged obstruction.”
Mr. Barr’s arguments are consistent with a view expressed by some legal analysts that a president cannot be accused of obstruction if he is carrying out his duties as authorized by the Constitution. Others contend that if a president attempts to derail a lawful investigation for improper reasons, that amounts to obstruction of justice. The Barr memo cites previous legal analysis from both Democratic and Republican administrations.
Mr. Barr argued in the memo that a president can be accused of obstructing justice under the relevant legal provision if he knowingly destroyed evidence or encouraged a witness to lie. But Mr. Trump was lawfully exercising his authority in firing Mr. Comey, he wrote. If prosecutors pursue Mr. Trump over his comments to Mr. Comey about Mr. Flynn, according to the memo, it opens the door for every decision that is alleged to be improperly motivated to be investigated as “potential criminal obstruction.”
“I know you will agree that, if a DOJ investigation is going to take down a democratically-elected President, it is imperative to the health of our system and to our national cohesion that any claim of wrongdoing is solidly based on evidence of a real crime—not a debatable one,” Mr. Barr wrote in the memo. “It is time to travel well-worn paths; not to veer into novel, unsettled or contested areas of the law; and not to indulge the fancies by overly-zealous prosecutors.”
Predictably, the Russia-collusion-obstruction-emoluments crowd are upset.
William Barr, Trump's A.G. pick, sent an unsolicited memo this year to DOJ that excoriated Mueller's obstruction investigation, according to a doc obtained by WSJ.
Remember: Barr will likely oversee the Mueller investigation if confirmed.https://t.co/1EGPLRZ1g2
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) December 20, 2018
Trump Attorney General nominee William Barr may be even more hostile to the Mueller investigation than Whitaker is.
This year Barr sent the Trump Administration an *unsolicited* memo blasting Mueller’s obstruction investigation as “grossly irresponsible.” https://t.co/1HzAQHwSZw
— Renato Mariotti (@renato_mariotti) December 20, 2018
William Barr doesn't just agree with Trump's lawyers—he thinks Mueller could be fired for pursuing obstruction https://t.co/wiq5UpjZEZ
— Justin Miller (@justinjm1) December 20, 2018
Administration officials say Barr's memo trashing Mueller played no role in Trump picking him. Do you believe that? I don't. https://t.co/3zgaIDhNnL
— Jonathan Chait (@jonathanchait) December 20, 2018
Anyone with a regard for the Constitution should be horrified by what we are hearing about Mueller’s probe. Admittedly, none of what we know bears the official imprimatur of Mueller saying it but what we hear is so widespread and consistent that we must assume there is some truth in it. If the reports are true, the Mueller is considering lawful acts by the President to be criminal acts (let’s face it, this is sort of what Justice did to Mike Flynn with the whole Logan Act bullsh**) if he doesn’t like them. Trump fired his protege Comey (and yes, they were close friends, or at least they were before it became fashionable for them media to deny that unpleasant factoid) so this becomes “obstruction” even though a special counsel is appointed. Criticizing Mueller become “obstruction” because, apparently, there is a legal principle that says you have to be polite and respectful to prosecutors otherwise they may decide to get angry and jail you.
After reading this, I’m convinced Barr is a guy who can bring Mueller under control and, at the right time, bring this ridiculous persecution to a close.
This is the full document:
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