Attorney General William Barr issued a letter summarizing the Mueller report and hastily clearing Trump. The House isn't going to let that stand.
On Sunday. Trump's handpicked attorney general William Barr released a letter outlining his review of special counsel Robert Mueller's report. The letter contains very little from Mueller, but a great deal of spin from Barr. While the White House tries to paint this as a victory, the House will be working on getting to the truth.
It's impossible to make any judgments about the actual report, as Barr's letter contains only five very brief quotations from the report itself. Instead, the letter is mostly Barr's discussion of the report. And where the obstruction of justice question is concerned, the letter is nothing but Barr's conclusions.
Rather than make a prosecutorial decision, Barr noted, the special counsel laid out evidence both in favor of and opposed to the conclusion that Trump obstructed justice. However, in one of the very few quotations Barr provided from the actual report, Mueller stated: "While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him." That's a strong statement, but it is one that Barr chose to entirely ignore.
William Barr was chosen by Trump precisely because he wrote an unsolicited memo to the DOJ explaining why Trump shouldn't be investigated for obstruction and wrote op-eds saying the DOJ should investigate Hillary Clinton instead. During his confirmation hearing, he freely admitted he might hide the Mueller report from the public. It's therefore no surprise that he took only 2 days to review 22 months of Mueller's work and decide that there was insufficient evidence to conclude Trump committed obstruction.
Now that Democrats control the House, Barr's attempt at whitewashing Trump's conduct won't stand.
A joint statement from House Judiciary Chair Jerrold Nadler, Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chair Adam B. Schiff, and Committee on Oversight and Reform Chair Elijah E. Cummings called Barr out for his hasty decision:
It is unacceptable that, after Special Counsel Mueller spent 22 months meticulously uncovering this evidence, Attorney General Barr made a decision not to charge the President in under 48 hours. The Attorney General did so without even interviewing the President.
The crime of obstruction requires a finding of "corrupt intent" — a determination about Trump's mindset when he took certain actions, such as firing James Comey. Did Trump intend, in that moment, to prevent an investigation into Michael Flynn? Did Trump dangle a pardon in front of Michael Cohen in the hopes Cohen would not flip? These are things that can only be answered by interviewing Trump.
Because Barr cleared Trump in such a swift and slapdash fashion, Nadler is now planning on having Barr testify before the House Judiciary Committee. Nadler, Schiff, and Cummings' joint statement notes that Barr's interpretation of the facts uncovered by Mueller may very well be partisan, and the "shortcomings in today's letter are the very reason our nation has a system of separation of powers."
William Barr is providing cover for Trump. Under Republican control, the House did too. But those days are over, and Barr will now be forced to explain his actions. It's about time.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.