Members Only | April 18, 2019 | Reading Time: 4 minutes
Impeach Barr First
Trump is lawless. So too seems America’s top cop.
There was only one reason for today’s press conference by Attorney General William Barr. He did this kind of shuck and jive once already. He did it again this morning. The goal was not to clarify evidence and facts. It was not even to clear the president.
It was to sow confusion, muddy the water, so that the voting public can’t tell what’s true and what’s false. The gambit rests on whether people trust Donald Trump. Most don’t. Most have made up their minds. I don’t think that’s going to change.
Remember Barr’s four-page summary? That sent headlines into the Twitterverse to the effect of “No collusion, no obstruction.” But the summary itself didn’t say that. The known facts of the matter didn’t suggest that. In any case, it made no difference.
Trump’s approval rating, per FiveThirtyEight, has been over and under 41 percent since late February. Barr himself later said that the summary wasn’t really a summary. So he forfeited the benefit of the doubt he’d been given. Today’s press conference assumed Barr had some of that benefit left. He didn’t, but he didn’t care.
The Democrats seem to be saying that Barr shouldn’t be attorney general anymore.
It’ll take time for the press to read through Robert Mueller’s report. From Barr’s perspective, it’s best to get in front of that by saying whatever palaver comes to mind, something with pop that will please Trump, thus sending headlines out that will be decried, debated, and fact-checked against what’s actually in the report.
Again the point isn’t transparency. The point isn’t public trust. The point isn’t even to clear Trump of wrongdoing (because no one will believe it). It’s to blunt the bad news found by Mueller’s investigation, and I’d guess to slow down or stop impeachment.
The thing about shucking and jiving is that it brings a lot of attention to the person doing the shucking and jiving. While that’s good for Donald Trump, it’s bad for Bill Barr. An attorney general is held to constitutional standards as least as high as a president normally is, because he or she is expected to prosecute justice impartially.
But Barr’s behavior has been transparently political, as if declaring that Trump has bent the rule of law to serve him. That image deepened when the Times reported that Barr had conferred with the White House before allowing Congress to see the report. Trump is lawless. We knew that already. But so too seems America’s top cop.