Legal expert Benjamin Wittes tears Attorney General Barr’s aggressive defense of Trump to pieces: ‘It has been catastrophic’

Legal expert Benjamin Wittes tears Attorney General Barr’s aggressive defense of Trump to pieces: ‘It has been catastrophic’
William Barr image via PBS NewsHour

On April 1, legal/national security expert Benjamin Wittes (editor and co-founder of the blog Lawfare) weighed in on Attorney General William Barr’s response to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s final report for the Russia investigation and asserted, “For the next two weeks, let’s give Attorney General William Barr the benefit of the doubt.” But that was before Barr’s May 1 testimony on Mueller’s report in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. And Wittes, in a May 2 piece for the Atlantic, tears Barr’s testimony to pieces.


The 49-year-old Wittes says of Barr’s performance as attorney general, “It has been catastrophic. Not in my memory has a sitting attorney general more diminished the credibility of his department on any subject. It is a kind of trope of political opposition in every administration that the attorney general—whoever he or she is—is politicizing the Justice Department and acting as a defense lawyer for the president. In this case, it is true.”

Wittes isn’t terribly critical of Barr’s redactions to Mueller’s report, describing them as “not unreasonable, though they were aggressive in some specific areas. To whatever extent he went overboard, Congress has a far-less-redacted version.”

But Barr, Wittes quickly adds, “has utterly failed” when it comes to “proving honest leadership.” Wittes writes, “I have never known Barr well, but I thought better of him than that.”

The Lawfare editor elaborates, “The core of the problem is not that Barr moved, as many people worried he would, to suppress the report; it is what he has said about it. I have spent a great deal of time with the Mueller report, about which Barr’s public statements are simply indefensible.”

Although Barr’s “mischaracterizations” of Mueller’s report do not amount to perjury, Wittes stresses, they are examples of “selective quotation.”

“Barr frequently talks as though Mueller found nothing of concern with respect to the underlying conduct on the part of the Trump campaign,” Wittes writes. And he goes on to say, “The text of the Mueller report leads me to suspect that Mueller does not share Barr’s cavalier attitude toward the voluminous contacts between Russians and Trump campaign figures and the positive enthusiasm for, and pursuit of, hacked e-mails on the part of the campaign. Had Mueller found no evidence of conspiracy, rather than insufficient evidence, he would have said so.”

Wittes adds that “Barr has repeatedly insisted that our long-suffering president fully cooperated with the investigation…. I suspect this would also come as a surprise to Mueller, who might point out that Trump tried to get witnesses not to cooperate—dangling pardons and seeming to threaten their families with investigation if they ‘flipped.’”

Wittes concludes his Atlantic piece by stressing that Barr has taken Mueller’s conclusions out of context, writing, “The only thing scarier than an attorney general who would knowingly and cynically deliver the layers of misinformation Barr has been dishing is one who would do so because he’s all in on a collective delusion.”

#story_page_post_article

Understand the importance of honest news ?

So do we.

The past year has been the most arduous of our lives. The Covid-19 pandemic continues to be catastrophic not only to our health - mental and physical - but also to the stability of millions of people. For all of us independent news organizations, it’s no exception.

We’ve covered everything thrown at us this past year and will continue to do so with your support. We’ve always understood the importance of calling out corruption, regardless of political affiliation.

We need your support in this difficult time. Every reader contribution, no matter the amount, makes a difference in allowing our newsroom to bring you the stories that matter, at a time when being informed is more important than ever. Invest with us.

Make a one-time contribution to Alternet All Access, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.

Click to donate by check.

DonateDonate by credit card
Donate by Paypal
{{ post.roar_specific_data.api_data.analytics }}

Don't Sit on the Sidelines of History. Join Alternet All Access and Go Ad-Free. Support Honest Journalism.