Vanity Fair did a series of six tweets that explained why Attorney General Bill Barr isn’t a reliable source for an opinion on special counsel Robert Mueller’s report.
First, Mueller’s team consistently remained silent throughout the investigation and refused to weigh in on any speculation surfacing from the media. The only exception was when the attorney general generated his own summary without fully reading the report. The Mueller team came out to dispute Barr’s summary in a conversation with reporters.
The second comment speculating on Barr’s ability to be objective comes from his well-documented history of incorrectly summarizing reports. A 1989 memo Barr authored summarized his “principal conclusions” of a Justice Department ruling that left out the actual principal conclusions, Vanity Fair explained.
Law professor Ryan Goodman explained in a report on Barr’s memo that the 1989 memo “breeds a lot of distrust of relying on Barr’s assurances that he’s handling this process in a way that’s faithful to the principles that he’s announced and will let the public know what the public should know.”
Goodman was asked if he thinks Barr acted in good faith at the time, and replied that it’s “difficult to imagine” Barr had no idea what he was doing as he failed to inform Congress that he believed the president could violate the UN Charter.
“In fact, that proposition has proved to be highly controversial ever since the O.L.C. opinion was publicly released and significant executive branch practice turns on that proposition,” Goodman said.
A third point is that it’s incredibly difficult to find obstruction without the underlying crime. That said, it’s near impossible to determine “intent” without even speaking to the alleged perpetrator. When Trump was given the “take-home test” questions by Mueller, they didn’t contain any queries about obstruction of justice.
Vanity Fair’s fourth disagreement with Barr was his assertion that he refused to talk about Trump’s demand to “investigate the investigators.” Trump has maintained that he will now go after anyone affiliated with the investigation. Indeed, Trump has already destroyed the lives of career investigators at the FBI simply because they didn’t like him.
A fifth reminder is that Trump’s problems are really just beginning. While the president has proclaimed “game over” and is declaring victory, there are so many ongoing investigations that Trump’s legal hell will continue for the remainder of his term. If he is handed a second term, investigations will also likely continue. In that case, whether or not a president can be indicted will likely be fought out in court.
Vanity Fair also noted in their sixth point that Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani’s “counter-report” seems to be smaller than originally stated. Immediately after the special counsel handed over his final report, Giuliani proclaimed he had a 140-page document that disputed the entire report, which he hadn’t read. The counter-report is now closer to 34 pages.
“Happy people also don’t issue a rebuttal,” said legal commentator Laura Coates on CNN. If Trump truly believed he was exonerated by the Mueller report, a rebuttal wouldn’t have been necessary. For someone who claims to be so “happy” about it, Trump is behaving otherwise.
Not included by Vanity Fair, but is worth mentioning, one reason Barr isn’t exactly a trustworthy source on whether or not President Donald Trump obstructed justice is that Barr believes the president is above the law.