The attorney general thinks you're stupid
There's no other way to read his transparently dishonest account of the Mueller report
Before the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's redacted report, Attorney General William Barr held a press conference where he tried to frame the initial media narrative. Barr repeatedly emphasized that Mueller did not establish direct coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia (even repeating the president's favorite talking point, "no collusion"), stated that Trump cooperated fully with the investigation, and expressed his sympathy for the president. At least for a minute, it worked great. Wolf Blitzer, for one, did the typical CNN thing of blithely repeating what the powerful man in a suit said.
But after seeing the whole redacted report, it is beyond obvious that Barr was conducting PR spin. As attorney general, Barr is serving as a dishonest propagandist to protect a corrupt president.
Let's just examine one aspect of the story: whether or not Trump interfered with the Mueller investigation. In his press conference, Barr said:
[T]he White House fully cooperated with the Special Counsel's investigation, providing unfettered access to campaign and White House documents, directing senior aides to testify freely, and asserting no privilege claims. And at the same time, the president took no act that in fact deprived the Special Counsel of the documents and witnesses necessary to complete his investigation. [Barr]
This statement about documents and aides is grotesquely misleading. Mueller details multiple instances in which he demanded subordinates interfere with the investigation or stop it entirely, or tried to do it himself. When the Special Counsel was appointed, Trump flew into a rage, and demanded to know why then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions had recused himself from the investigation. "How could you let this happen, Jeff?" he said. "Sessions recalled that the President said to him, 'you were supposed to protect me,' or words to that effect," writes Mueller. Trump then said Sessions should resign, though ultimately decided against it for the time being.
Trump then started arguing that Mueller had conflicts of interest, as a pretext to get rid of him, and ordered White House Counsel Don McGahn to carry it out: "McGahn recalled that the president called him at home twice and on both occasions directed him to call Rosenstein and say that Mueller had conflicts that precluded him from serving as special counsel." McGahn refused, and prepared to resign instead, and Trump dropped the matter. (Months later, Trump would attempt to get McGahn to lie about the story: "After the story broke, the president, through his personal counsel and two aides, sought to have McGahn deny that he had been directed to remove the special counsel," though McGahn refused again.)
The words "in fact" in Barr's statement above are bending reality to the breaking point. The only reason Trump's efforts to obstruct the investigation did not work is because his subordinates refused to carry out his instructions. As Mueller writes, "The president's efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the president declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests."
At any rate, Trump eventually stopped asking McGahn to get rid of Mueller. But a couple days later, Trump cooked up different scheme to protect himself: "[T]he president met one-on-one with Corey Lewandowski in the Oval Office and dictated a message to be delivered to Attorney General Sessions that would have had the effect of limiting the Russia investigation to future election interference only," writes Mueller. When Sessions wouldn't take back his recusal, Trump then started publicly attacking him, and tried to get him to resign again.
Later still, Trump restarted his efforts to get Sessions to stop the investigation once again — and turn it on his electoral opponent instead: "From summer 2017 through 2018, the president attempted to have Attorney General Sessions reverse his recusal, take control of the special counsel's investigation, and order an investigation of Hillary Clinton."
Elsewhere, Trump engaged in what looks like a pretty clear example of witness tampering — dangling pardons in front of his former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort to prevent negative testimony. "When Flynn withdrew from a joint defense agreement with the president, the president's personal counsel stated that Flynn's actions would be viewed as reflecting 'hostility' towards the president. During Manafort's prosecution and while the jury was deliberating, the president repeatedly stated that Manafort was being treated unfairly and made it known that Manafort could receive a pardon," writes Mueller.
Something similar happened with Michael Cohen, after he lied to Congress about Trump's pursuit of a real estate project in Moscow in 2016: "After the FBI searched Cohen's home and office in April 2018, the president publicly asserted that Cohen would not 'flip' and privately passed messages of support to him. Cohen also discussed pardons with the president's personal counsel and believed that if he stayed on message, he would get a pardon or the president would do 'something else' to make the investigation end."
In his press conference, Barr pointed to evidence of Trump's "non-corrupt motives" as weighing "heavily against any allegation that the president had a corrupt intent to obstruct the investigation." This is like saying someone didn't commit attempted murder because their gun jammed when they pulled the trigger. Yeah, except for repeatedly trying to get the investigation stopped or redirected, get the special counsel fired, and stop his felonious subordinates from testifying against him, Trump was a regular Joan of Arc. What a complete joke.
Indeed, it was obvious that Barr would do something like this long beforehand, because he has been doing it for years. He got the attorney general job because of a letter arguing the president basically can't commit obstruction of justice. His previous most high-profile job was working to bury the Iran-Contra investigation.
He's a Trump stooge, and every word that comes out of his mouth should be assumed false until proven otherwise.