William P. Barr’s Tuesday interview with NBC News was certainly the most dishonest, frightful and deplorable given by an attorney general in modern times. He attacked the just-released inspector general report and excoriated the FBI for a “travesty” in investigating Russian manipulation of our 2016 election. His false — deliberately false — assertions were jaw-dropping:

  • Barr claimed, “From day one, it generated exculpatory information and nothing that substantiated any kind of collusion.” False. Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III found substantial evidence of interaction but did not pursue the noncriminal charge of “collusion.” He could not prove criminal conspiracy. Since then, at the Roger Stone trial, evidence has arisen confirming a line of communication from WikiLeaks to Stone to the campaign.
  • Barr impugned inspector general Michael Horowitz: “All he said was, people gave me an explanation and I didn’t find anything to contradict it … he hasn’t decided the issue of improper motive,” Barr said. “I think we have to wait until the full investigation is done.” False. In his report, Horowitz wrote, “We also sought to determine whether there was evidence that political bias or other improper considerations affected decision-making in Crossfire Hurricane, including the decision to open the investigation.” He found no “documentary or testimonial evidence” of bias in those decisions.
  • Barr declared, “I think there were gross abuses … and inexplicable behavior that is intolerable in the FBI.” False. The nonpartisan inspector general found fault with certain actions (specifically the application to conduct surveillance on Carter Page) but obliterated conspiracy theories that the FBI was biased, that it spied on Donald Trump’s campaign, etc. (“All of the witnesses we interviewed told the OIG that the FBI did not try to recruit members of the Trump campaign as [Confidential Human Sources], did not send CHSs to collect information in Trump campaign headquarters or Trump campaign spaces, and did not ask CHSs to join the Trump campaign or otherwise attend campaign related events as part of the investigation. Using the methodology described above, we found no information indicating otherwise.”)
  • Barr accused the Obama administration of using “the law enforcement agencies and the intelligence agencies, both to spy on political opponents, but also to use them in a way that could affect the outcome of the election.” He claimed this was a bigger threat than Russia. False. None of this was substantiated in any fashion by the inspector general. This is akin to claiming Obama bugged Trump Tower.
  • Barr claimed the entire Russia investigation was “based on a completely bogus narrative that was largely fanned and hyped by an irresponsible press.” False. Our intelligence agencies concluded without equivocation that Russia intervened in our election. Mueller’s report documented more than 100 contacts between Russians and campaign officials.
  • Barr claimed it is routine for campaigns to interact with foreign governments. False. No campaign official who has served on a presidential campaign has pointed to any similar instance, let alone many instances in which a campaign solicited and received information from a foreign government. In fact, such activity is illegal.

What is equally if not more alarming is Barr’s candid assertion that the politically directed investigation under U.S. Attorney John Durham (who inexplicably is participating in Barr’s charade) will continue and will supersede the factual findings of the apolitical inspector general. However, Barr’s response and any Durham report attempting to challenge factual findings meet the definition of “a day late, a dollar short.”

Barr’s conduct is nothing short of disgraceful and continues his pattern of misstating facts and out-and-out lying about documents to protect President Trump. The House Judiciary Committee should call him up to the Hill and make him explain his remarks, this time under oath. While impeachment of Barr is likely too much to ask, a motion of censure would be entirely appropriate. The next president should conduct a thorough investigation of Barr’s antics and identify those who enabled him in violation of ethical obligations.

There is an irony here in that earlier this year Barr held the Mueller report for three weeks, put out distorting spin and let that spin fester in public before the actual document appeared. This time, word leaked in advance of the report that the IG had debunked Republicans’ loony conspiracy theories. When the IG then dropped the report it was Barr who was caught flat-footed, scrambling to catch up and desperate to try to distract from the Judiciary Committee’s hearing on impeachment. Perhaps the skillful handling of reports of this nature and the strategic timing of leaks/characterization of findings deserve their own verb: to “Muellerize,” that is to fix the public view of a document long enough before its actual release and thereby catch the opposition flat-footed.

And while we are talking about timing, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s announcement of the agreement with pro-labor and pro-environmental fixes to the new North American trade deal on the same day that impeachment articles was nothing short of brilliant. In one fell swoop, she demolished the notion that the House cannot legislate, investigate and impeach at the same time. Oh, they sure can.

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