Here’s why Bill Barr’s denial is so ‘noteworthy’ as Democrats demand Trump officials testify on spying scandal
(Shane T. McCoy / US Marshals)

Former Attorney General Bill Barr attempting to distance himself from the scandal over the Department of Justice spying on congressional Democrats is extremely noteworthy, one MSNBC analyst explained on Friday.

"Barr said that while he was attorney general, he was 'not aware of any congressman's records being sought in a leak case.' He added that Trump never encouraged him to zero in on the Democratic lawmakers who reportedly became targets of the former president's push to unmask leakers of classified information," Politico reported. "Trump 'was not aware of who we were looking at in any of the cases,' Barr said. 'I never discussed the leak cases with Trump. He didn't really ask me any of the specifics.'"

For analysis, MSNBC's Geoff Bennett interviewed Betsy Woodruff Swan, one of the Politico journalists who wrote the story on Barr distancing himself from the scandal.

"That's right, you know you're dealing with a scandal when it's too spicy for Bill Barr to have found himself connected to," Swan said. "What he said was he was not aware of any subpoenas going out that were targeted at members of Congress. In other words, what he was trying to communicate to my colleagues is that this wasn't his fault, it wasn't his responsibility that these particular subpoenas went out. In addition to that, people close to another former Trump attorney general, Jeff Sessions, have also tried to signal, 'Hey, he actually shouldn't be held responsible for the fact of these subpoenas going out.'"

"This is really noteworthy, because usually Barr and Sessions are two of the most dogged defenders of just about anything controversial that the Trump Justice Department engaged in, but this appears to be a bridge too far even to those Trump stalwarts," she explained.

Swan noted her reporting showed, "this isn't something that would have skated through without senior, Senate confirmed, political appointees knowing about it, signing off on it, and green-lighting it. So the big challenge for Congress is going to be getting those folks under oath and finally getting somebody to take responsibility for the fact that the Justice Department tried to scoop up private information and related it to lawmakers who, as part of their job, engage in oversight at the Justice Department."

"It is clearly making a host of DOJ officials very uncomfortable — and it takes a lot to do that," Swan continued.

Top Senate Democrats have demanded that Barr and Jeff Sessions testify in Congress about the scandal.


Betsy Woodruff Swan