'Intolerable risk': Bill Barr breaks down the 'simple facts' of Trump’s obstruction in scathing op-ed
When Bill Barr was serving as U.S. attorney general under former President Donald Trump, he was known for being a Trump loyalist. And Trump, in 2019, praised Barr as a major improvement over the ex-attorney general he had fired, Jeff Sessions.
But that was before Barr refused to go along with Trump's false claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him. Barr and Trump had a major falling out in December 2020, when Barr resigned as attorney general and described Trump's debunked election fraud claims as "bu*****t" and "completely bogus."
Barr has made it clear that he doesn't believe Trump should be the 2024 GOP presidential nominee, and he has been speaking candidly about special counsel Jack Smith's 37-count criminal case against the former president.
In a scathing op-ed published by The Free Press on June 19, Barr calls out Trump's "apologists" in the right-wing media and emphasizes that Smith's case is far from a frivolous "witch hunt."
"For the sake of the country, our party, and a basic respect for the truth, it is time that Republicans come to grips with the hard truths about President Trump's conduct and its implications," the former U.S. attorney general argues. "Chief among them: Trump's indictment is not the result of unfair government persecution. This is a situation entirely of his own making. The effort to present Trump as a victim in the Mar-a-Lago document affair is cynical political propaganda."
Barr goes on to lay out the "simple facts" in Smith's 27-count prosecution.
"On leaving office," Barr explains, "Trump illegally removed from the White House hundreds of some of the most sensitive national defense documents that the country possesses…. These include information on the defense capabilities of the U.S. and foreign countries; our country's nuclear programs; potential vulnerabilities of the U.S. and our allies; and plans for potential retaliation against foreign attack."
Barr continues, "His handling of these documents in bathrooms and ballrooms at Mar-a-Lago was lawless and exposed the country to intolerable risk…. Why would Trump risk the safety of the American people by hanging on to these documents in the face of the government’s lawful demands for their return? As trophies? Because he thought it was a fun party trick?"
Trump's "apologists" in right-wing media, according to Barr, are making a "ludicrous argument" when they claim "that an outgoing president has absolute 'discretion' to label any document 'private,' even if the document indisputably falls outside the statutory definition of 'private.'"
"Whataboutists" in right-wing media have been arguing that because classified government documents were also found in the homes of President Joe Biden and former Vice President Mike Pence, Trump is being unfairly singled out. But Trump's critics have responded that Biden and Pence were totally cooperative with the FBI, unlike Trump.
In the indictment, Smith and the DOJ allege that Trump committed obstruction of justice by failing to cooperate with federal authorities.
"All the razzle-dazzle about Trump's supposed rights under the Presidential Records Act is a sideshow," Barr argues. "At its core, this is an obstruction case. Trump would not have been indicted just for taking the documents in the first place. Nor would he have been indicted even if he delayed returning them for a period while arguing about it. What got Trump criminally charged was his deceit and obstruction in responding to the grand jury subpoena served in May 2022 after he had stymied the government for a year."
The former U.S. attorney general continues, "That subpoena sought all documents in Trump's possession that were marked as classified. If Trump truly thought he had a solid basis for keeping those documents, there were easy and obvious ways he could have lawfully raised those arguments at the time. Among other things, he could have taken legal action to quash the subpoena or have a court declare his right to keep them. He did not do any of that."
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