George HW Bush and Ronald Reagan were facing the possibility of treason charges. Who did they call? Bill Barr.
That was in the '80s and early '90s, but now we discover the Bill Barr really, truly, definitely also lied to America about presidential treason this decade. Shocking.
Mueller laid out 10 prosecutable incidents of Donald Trump committing felony obstruction of justice, all to cover up the assistance he was seeking and receiving from Russian oligarchs and the Russian government that ultimately helped him win the 2016 election.
Looking back now, seeing the actual documents from the time, Federal Judge Amy Berman Jackson noted that Barr's lies to the American people, to Congress, and to federal judges were "so inconsistent with evidence in the record, they are not worthy of credence."
In other words, Barr lied through his teeth.
And he did it to avoid prosecuting Trump, who we can now see had clearly committed crimes — particularly reaching out to a foreign power for help — that would've landed any other American in prison for decades.
But this is not Bill Barr's first time playing cover-up for a Republican president who had committed crimes that rise to treason against America.
Back in 1992, the first time Bill Barr was U.S. attorney general, iconic New York Times writer William Safire referred to him as "Coverup-General Barr" because of his role in burying evidence of then-President George H.W. Bush's involvement in "Iraqgate" and "Iron-Contra."
Christmas day of 1992, the New York Times featured a screaming all-caps headline across the top of its front page: Attorney General Bill Barr had covered up evidence of crimes by Reagan and Bush in the Iran-Contra scandal.
Earlier that week of Christmas, 1992, George H.W. Bush was on his way out of office. Bill Clinton had won the White House the month before, and in a few weeks would be sworn in as president.
But Bush's biggest concern wasn't that he'd have to leave the White House to retire back to Connecticut, Maine, or Texas (where he had mansions) but, rather, that he may end up embroiled even deeper in the Iran-Contra treason and that he and his colleagues may face time in a federal prison after he left office.
Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh was closing in fast on him and Reagan, and Bush's private records, subpoenaed by the independent counsel's office, were the key to it all.
Walsh had been appointed independent counsel in 1986 to investigate the Iran-Contra activities of the Reagan administration and determine if crimes had been committed.
Was the Iran-Contra criminal conspiracy limited, as Reagan and Bush insisted (and Reagan said on TV), to later years in the Reagan presidency, in response to a hostage-taking in Lebanon?
Or had it started in the 1980 presidential campaign against Jimmy Carter with treasonous collusion with the Iranians, as the then-president of Iran asserted? Who knew what, and when? And what was George H.W. Bush's role in it all?
In the years since then, the President of Iran in 1980, Abolhassan Bani-Sadr, has gone on the record saying that the Reagan campaign reached out to Iran to hold the hostages in exchange for weapons.
"Ayatollah Khomeini and Ronald Reagan," President Bani-Sadr told the Christian Science Monitor in 2013, "had organized a clandestine negotiation, later known as the 'October Surprise,' which prevented the attempts by myself and then-US President Jimmy Carter to free the hostages before the 1980 US presidential election took place. The fact that they were not released tipped the results of the election in favor of Reagan."
That wouldn't have been just an impeachable crime: it was treason.
Walsh had zeroed in on documents that were in the possession of Reagan's former defense secretary, Caspar Weinberger, who all the evidence showed was definitely in on the deal, and President Bush's diary that could corroborate it.
Elliott Abrams had already been convicted of withholding evidence about it from Congress, and he may have even more information, too, if it could be pried out of him before he went to prison. But Abrams was keeping mum, apparently anticipating a pardon.
Weinberger, trying to avoid jail himself, was preparing to testify that Bush knew about it and even participated, and Walsh had already, based on information he'd obtained from the investigation into Weinberger, demanded that Bush turn over his diary from the campaign. He was also again hot on the trail of Abrams.
So Bush called in his attorney general, Bill Barr, and asked his advice.
Barr, along with Bush, was already up to his eyeballs in cover-ups of shady behavior by the Reagan administration.
Safire ultimately came refer to Barr as "Coverup-General" in the midst of another scandal—one having to do with Bush selling weapons of mass destruction to Saddam Hussein—because the Attorney General was already covering up for Bush, Weinberger, and others from the Reagan administration in "Iraqgate."
On October 19, 1992, Safire wrote of Barr's unwillingness to appoint an independent counsel to look into Iraqgate:
"Why does the Coverup-General resist independent investigation? Because he knows where it may lead: to Dick Thornburgh, James Baker, Clayton Yeutter, Brent Scowcroft and himself [the people who organized the sale of WMD to Saddam]. He vainly hopes to be able to head it off, or at least be able to use the threat of firing to negotiate a deal."
Now, just short of two months later, Bush was asking Barr for advice on how to avoid another very serious charge in the Iran-Contra crimes. How, he wanted to know, could they shut down Walsh's investigation before Walsh's lawyers got their hands on Bush's diary?
In April of 2001, safely distant from the swirl of D.C. politics, the University of Virginia's Miller Center was compiling oral presidential histories, and interviewed Barr about his time as AG in the Bush White House. They brought up the issue of the Weinberger pardon, which put an end to the Iran-Contra investigation, and Barr's involvement in it.
Turns out, Barr was right in the middle of it.
"There were some people arguing just for [a pardon for] Weinberger, and I said, 'No, in for a penny, in for a pound,'" Barr told the interviewer. "I went over and told the President I thought he should not only pardon Caspar Weinberger, but while he was at it, he should pardon about five others."
Which is exactly what Bush did, on Christmas Eve when most Americans were with family instead of watching the news. The holiday notwithstanding, the result was explosive.
America knew that both Reagan and Bush were up to their necks in Iran-Contra, and Democrats had been talking about treason, impeachment or worse. The independent counsel had already obtained one conviction, three guilty pleas, and two other individuals were lined up for prosecution. And Walsh was closing in fast on Bush himself.
So, when Bush shut the investigation down by pardoning not only Weinberger, but also Abrams and the others involved in the crimes, destroying Walsh's ability to prosecute anybody, the New York Times ran the headline all the way across four of the six columns on the front page, screaming in all-caps: BUSH PARDONS 6 IN IRAN AFFAIR, ABORTING A WEINBERGER TRIAL; PROSECUTOR ASSAILS 'COVER-UP.'
Bill Barr had struck, and, like with Trump and the Muller investigation into his treason, Reagan and Bush's treason was now buried.
The second paragraph of the Times story by David Johnston laid it out:
"Mr. Weinberger was scheduled to stand trial on Jan. 5 on charges that he lied to Congress about his knowledge of the arms sales to Iran and efforts by other countries to help underwrite the Nicaraguan rebels, a case that was expected to focus on Mr. Weinberger's private notes that contain references to Mr. Bush's endorsement of the secret shipments to Iran." (emphasis added)
History shows that when a Republican president is in serious legal trouble, Bill Barr is the go-to guy.
For William Safire, it was déjà vu all over again. Four months earlier, referring to Iraqgate (Bush's selling WMDs to Iraq), Safire opened his article, titled "Justice [Department] Corrupts Justice," by writing:
"U.S. Attorney General William Barr, in rejecting the House Judiciary Committee's call for a prosecutor not beholden to the Bush Administration to investigate the crimes of Iraqgate, has taken personal charge of the cover-up."
Safire accused Barr of not only rigging the cover-up, but of being one of the criminals who could be prosecuted.
"Mr. Barr," wrote Safire in August of 1992, "...could face prosecution if it turns out that high Bush officials knew about Saddam Hussein's perversion of our Agriculture export guarantees to finance his war machine."
He added, "They [Barr and colleagues] have a keen personal and political interest in seeing to it that the Department of Justice stays in safe, controllable Republican hands."
Earlier in Bush's administration, Barr had succeeded in blocking the appointment of an investigator or independent counsel to look into Iraqgate, as Safire repeatedly documented in the Times. In December, Barr helped Bush block indictments from another independent counsel, Lawrence Walsh, and eliminated any risk that Reagan or George H.W. Bush would be held to account for Iran-Contra.
Walsh, wrote Johnston for the Times on Christmas Eve, "plans to review a 1986 campaign diary kept by Mr. Bush." The diary would be the smoking gun that would nail Bush to the scandal.
"But," noted the Times, "in a single stroke, Mr. Bush [at Barr's suggestion] swept away one conviction, three guilty pleas and two pending cases, virtually decapitating what was left of Mr. Walsh's effort, which began in 1986."
And Walsh didn't take it lying down.
The Times report noted that, "Mr. Walsh bitterly condemned the President's action, charging that 'the Iran-contra cover-up, which has continued for more than six years, has now been completed.'"
Independent Counsel Walsh added that the diary and notes he wanted to enter into a public trial of Weinberger represented, "evidence of a conspiracy among the highest ranking Reagan Administration officials to lie to Congress and the American public."
The phrase "highest ranking" officials included Reagan, Bush and Barr himself.
Walsh had been fighting to get those documents ever since 1986, when he was appointed and Reagan still had two years left in office. Bush's and Weinberger's refusal to turn them over, Johnston noted in the Times, could have, in Walsh's words, "forestalled impeachment proceedings against President Reagan" through a pattern of "deception and obstruction."
Barr successfully covered up the involvement of two Republican presidents—Reagan and Bush—in two separate and impeachable "high crimes," one of them almost certainly treason.
Months later in January of 1993, newly sworn-in President Clinton and the new Congress decided to put it all behind them and not pursue the matters any further.
Will Biden do the same, for both Trump and Barr? He's publicly said that he's going to let his new attorney general, Merrick Garland, make those kinds of decisions.
And Garland, it seems, has unleashed the FBI and other investigators in ways that must be sending shock-waves through Mar-a-Lago and the ranks of former Trump officials.
One can only hope…
In the past, Melissa DeRosa — a top aide to Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo — was on very friendly terms with Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik, who is on track to become the third highest-ranking Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives if she replaces Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming as House Republican Conference chair. But journalist Charlotte Alter, in a Twitter thread posted this week, explains how their relationship went sour as Stefanik became more and more of a Trump loyalist.
Stefanik, who had been friends with DeRosa since middle school, wasn't always a MAGA Republican. When she was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2014, Stefanik was a more conventional conservative and an ally of then-Rep. Paul Ryan — who became House speaker the following year. And in 2015 and 2016, Stefanik was, at times, quite critical of Donald Trump. But the more Trumpified Stefanik became, Alter explains in her thread, the worse her relationship with DeRosa became.
Alter notes that in 2019, DeRosa told her that Stefanik had always been "so morally supportive" of her and attended her wedding. On January 4, 2019, DeRosa affectionately tweeted, "We may not agree on everything, but I will never stop being in awe of my little sister and middle school student council running mate, @EliseStefanik. Nothing but class." And Stefanik responded, "Thx, Missy."
But Alter goes on to say that "by 2021," DeRosa and Stefanik were "in open war." And the 2020 election had a lot to do with it.
After Trump lost to now-President Joe Biden in 2020, Stefanik showed how MAGA she had become by promoting the Big Lie and Trump's totally debunked claims of widespread voter fraud. And after the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol Building, DeRosa tweeted, "@EliseStefanik was complicit in an attempt to overthrow the United States government. The effort resulted in 5 deaths, including a law enforcement officer." Stefanik, meanwhile, was kissing up to Trump and his GOP allies by slamming DeRosa's boss, Gov. Cuomo, as "the worst governor in America."
Alter notes that when she was writing her 2020 book, "The Ones We've Been Waiting For: How a New Generation of Leaders Will Transform America," she called DeRosa — who praised Stefanik as "supportive" and "bipartisan." But when Alter reached out to DeRosa's office in connection with a recent article for Time, a DeRosa spokesperson said that Stefanik had "sold her soul to the Devil."
Alter's Time article, published over the weekend, focuses on how dramatically Stefanik has changed for the worse.
In the article, Alter explains, "Elise Stefanik is no Matt Gaetz or Marjorie Taylor Greene. She was not always a MAGA warrior. Not long ago, she was a widely respected moderate Republican known for her embrace of facts, her trust in science and her push to build a more diverse party, highlighted by her successful efforts to recruit more GOP women to run for office. She was a prominent member of the moderate Tuesday Group, a caucus of center-right Republicans."
One of the interviewees for the piece, former Rep. Barbara Comstock of Virginia, offered some scathing criticism of Stefanik — telling Time, "To be a handmaiden of Trump and get a little pat on the head from Trump is not a leadership move. It's embarrassing. It's sad."
Margaret Hoover, who worked with Stefanik at the George W. Bush White House during the 2000s and now hosts PBS' "Firing Line," was equally critical of Stefanik and told Time, "Trump has won the Republican Party. Trump owns it. It is the key to (Stefanik's) reelections, it is the key to her fundraising, it's the key to her advancement within Congress. She knows how to play it; so, that's what she's doing. Never mind that it's undermining democracy. She's made a calculation that she can rise to power by backing the Big Lie."
Republican Congressman Anthony Gonzalez was censured by the Ohio Republican Party this past week, alongside another nine GOP lawmakers, over their role in voting in favor of former President Donald Trump's impeachment. But the Ohio Republican Party isn't stopping with merely censuring Gonzalez; now they want him to submit in his resignation letter.
"On Friday, the party's governing board called on Gonzalez, R-Rocky River, to resign in a divided vote. They also voted to censure Gonzalez and nine other members of Congress for "their votes to support the unconstitutional, politically motivated impeachment proceeding against President Donald J. Trump," according to the resolution," The Cincinnati Enquirer reported.
While Ohio has long been considered a swing state, home to more moderate Republicans such as Senator Rob Portman and former Speaker of the House John Boehner, the modern-day Ohio GOP has taken steps to align themselves with the party of Trump, made ever so clear by the move to oust "RINO's" (Republicans only in name) such as Gonzalez.
Ohio State senator Shannon Burns, a member of the state's central committee, has since called for Gonzalez to resign, stating that he "betrayed his constituents" and "demonstrated a hidden vendetta against" the former president. Burns went onto claim that Gonzalez "relied on his emotions rather than the will of his constituents and any credible facts" when considering the Trump impeachment charges.
"Ohio Republicans had planned to vote on censuring Gonzalez and the other House Republicans on Friday, but a resolution to call for Gonzalez's resignation was first introduced during the meeting, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Republican Party told CNN, and was then passed by the central committee," CNN reported on Friday.
In January, following his vote to impeach Trump, Gonzalez said in a statement that he took the measure to impeach over the president's role to "incite a mob that attacked the United States Congress." Gonzalez further argued that Trump "abandoned his post while many members asked for help, thus further endangering all present."
Gonzalez's primary challenger, Max Miller, who has been endorsed by Trump, also seized on the move to censure, tweeting, "The Ohio GOP has voted to hold Anthony Gonzalez accountable for abandoning his constituents, his promises, and the Republican Party. Regardless if he resigns or not, we are going to continue spreading our strong, pro-Trump, America First message to every corner of this district."
While the vote to venture Gonzalez wasn't a focal point of Cleveland conservative radio host Bob Frantz, the vote did receive the support of pro-Trump candidates in the state.
"From day one, I have strongly supported efforts to censure and expel traitor Congressmen like Anthony Gonzalez who voted to impeach President Trump," said far-right Ohio Senate candidate Josh Mandel.
The move to censure Gonzalez comes as GOP leaders back in Washinton, D.C. tussle with the prospects of ousting House Republican chairwoman Liz Cheney from her post over her staunch opposition to Trump as early as Wednesday. While Trump-friendly allies say Republican New York Rep. Elise Stefanik should take over Cheney's role, many Trumpworld characters argue Stefanik might not be loyal enough to Trump. "Others, like pundits Ann Coulter and Raheem Kassam, editor in chief of the populist online outlet National Pulse, went on a retweeting spree, highlighting writer after writer, tweet after tweet, questioning Stefanik's commitment to the Trump movement's core tenets, particularly on immigration," Politico noted on Friday.
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