Here are 8 reasons why Barr's only press conference should be the one where he resigns
Ten days ago, Attorney General William Barr visited Capitol Hill, where his uniform response to every question about the report prepared by special counsel Robert Mueller was the same: He would not talk about the contents of the report until Congress first had a chance to look at it. Then, on Wednesday, days after Barr had promised to deliver the report, he announced that he would talk about the report before it’s available to Congress. He will hold a press conference more than an hour before a hard copy of the “color coded” redacted report is released, and an unknown amount of time before the report is made accessible on the Department of Justice’s website.
The extent to which this event is pure political theater is made clear by one fact: Mueller will not take part. Barr is, once again, “summarizing” what the special counsel found, without any input from the special counsel himself. It’s exactly the same tack that Barr took in writing his three-page letter to Congress, and with the same intent: provide cover to Donald Trump regardless of the evidence. This blatant effort to spin the results has generated calls for Barr to cancel the news conference from the chairs of the House Judiciary, Intelligence, Oversight, Finance, and Foreign Affairs committees.
During his visit to Congress, Barr made conflicting and evasive statements about whether or not he had shared the contents of the report with the White House. Though neither Barr nor Trump officials have given a definitive answer, it’s now clear that Barr has not only made the report available to the White House, but he’s also made his redactions clear to them. The White House not only knows what’s there, it knows what is not there. That knowledge has allowed Trump’s legal team to tailor a “counter report” to be released to attack the conclusions that are still visible in the redacted report. Trump’s team has had weeks to work on refining its message, while the rest of the nation was held in the dark. In essence, Barr has provided the White House with the information he still refuses to give to Congress.
Though it’s unclear to what extent the redacted report will make a case for the removal of Trump, the way in which Barr has handled the report makes a compelling and irrefutable case for the removal of the attorney general. At every stage, Barr has acted to hide information from both Congress and the public, provide information to Trump’s legal team, and act as a propaganda agent rather than a law officer.
The only press conference from Barr that should be acceptable is one at which he announces his resignation.
- On receipt of the report from the special counsel’s office, Barr wrote a “summary” that contained not a single full sentence of the actual report.
- In less than 48 hours, Barr not only wrote his brief summary of the 400-page report, but absolved Trump of charges of obstruction—something the report explicitly did not do.
- In creating his summary, Barr did not consult with the special counsel’s office, and the letter he provided did not come with any assurance from that office of its accuracy.
- Barr continually refused to comment on the report before Congress, saying that there was no point in doing so before Congress had had a chance to read the actual report.
- Barr then announced that he would hold a press conference in advance of the release of the redacted report, before either Congress or the public had had a chance to read a single word or view the extent of redactions.
- Before, during, and after his congressional testimony, Barr made it seem that he had not shared the report with the White House—though he had clearly briefed the White House on its contents.
- Neither Mueller nor any representative of his office is taking part in Barr’s pre-redacted-report press conference.
- Though Barr made claims that members of the special counsel’s office were “at the table” during the redaction process, it’s unclear that they had any actual authority in determining how the report was treated. There has been no letter or announcement from that office providing any endorsement or reassurance concerning the redactions.
In addition to the hard copy, a version of the report is apparently due to be delivered on the intentionally clunky mechanism of “compact discs.” The description of multiple discs suggests that it is being provided in the form of images, rather than text, making it more difficult to search and select text from the report.
Barr’s office is intended to be the chief law enforcement body for the people of the United States, not an extension of Trump’s personal legal team. Through his clear actions, Barr has worked to obscure the contents of the report. He has given intentionally confusing and deceptive responses on what he has shared with the White House. He has continually made every choice in a way that protects Trump … and he hasn’t even tried to disguise that fact.
Even aside from the way he has handled the Mueller report, Barr has demonstrated that he holds not just a singular view of an all-powerful unitary executive, but a view of the attorney general’s role that is basically incompatible with the needs of the nation. Congress can consider whether it has sufficient evidence to impeach Trump. It should have no such doubts about Barr—the evidence is far more than sufficient.