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Former Washington Journalist
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Although the long-awaited Mueller Report finally was released Thursday–albeit in a redacted form–Attorney General William “Bill” Barr’s performance was widely panned, even on the conservative-friendly Fox News.
By the end of the day, Barr’s credibility had been criticized, and at least one prominent Democratic lawmaker had called for his resignation.
Since the weekend in March when special counsel Robert Mueller wrapped up his investigation and submitted his 400-page report to the Justice Department, Barr has seemingly been trying to shade and spin the contents of the report to the benefit of the target of that investigation, Donald Trump.
That behavior continued with an unusual press conference Barr led Thursday morning just prior to the release of the report covering the two-year probe looking into potential conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign in 2016, and and any subsequent obstruction of justice.
“I suspect that the president was pretty pleased with the performance of Bill Barr today and particularly on the issue of obstruction,” Fox News host Chris Wallace said on-air Thursday. “Because again, on collusion it does appear and I will say that the attorney general said it about a half dozen times, I lost count after that: ‘There was no collusion,’ ‘There was no cooperation,’ ‘There was no coordination.’ But there doesn’t seem to be any contradiction there.
“When it came to the obstruction case, and as he pointed out, there were at least 10 instances that the special counsel raised that could be considered potential obstruction,” Wallace added. “Then you got into this very curious area where the attorney general seemed almost to be acting as the counselor for the defense, the counselor for the president rather than the attorney general.”
Wallace wasn’t the only on-air host to feel the same way about Barr’s performance.
“Joyce, it’s already been mentioned around here that it would hearken back to a conflict decades ago, we would not be surprised if some headline writer somewhere came up with ‘Baghdad’ Bill Barr for what we saw today,” MSNBC host Brian Williams told former federal prosecutor Joyce Vance during one segment, referring to an Iraqi propaganda figure from the first Iraq War in 1991.
“I’ll read you four different quotes. ‘Put another way, the special counsel found no collusion by any Americans.’ Quote two, ‘In other words, there was no evidence of Trump campaign collusion with the Russian government hacking.’ Quote three, ‘After finding no underlying collusion with Russia, the special counsel’s report goes on to consider whether certain actions of the president could amount to obstruction.’ And quote four, ‘Yet, as he, Donald Trump, said from the beginning, there was, in fact, no collusion.’ You and others have pointed out this word ‘collusion’ is not a term in the law,” Williams said.
Speaking on CNN, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said Barr clearly is acting the way he is to please Trump, and it proves that Barr is the wrong person in the job.
“He views himself as the lawyer for the president, not the lawyer for the people of the United States of America,” Schiff said. “And that’s the way to longevity in the Trump administration, which is you sing along the president’s songbook, whether that’s making bogus claims of spying on the president’s campaign or making bogus claims of no collusion.
“In fact, Bob Mueller was quite explicit that he didn’t reach whether collusion occurred as that term is known colloquially, only whether he could prove a criminal conspiracy in his attempts to sugarcoat what the president did,” Schiff added. “And gloss over the president’s refusal to cooperate with the investigation, refusal to testify verbally, his efforts to try to get others to mislead the country. I think Barr showed he should have never have been confirmed for the job in the first place.”
Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), a colleague of Schiff’s on the Intelligence Committee and a recent entrant into the widening field of Democratic presidential hopefuls, specifically called on Barr to resign.
“He can either be the attorney general of the United States or the president’s lawyer. He can’t be both and he’s been acting as the president’s lawyer in the way that he applied for the job, the way he refused to recuse himself and the way he’s accused the FBI and intelligence community of spying on the administration,” Swalwell said. “And his mischaracterization today of what the Mueller report actually shows. He should go.”
Yet another House Intelligence Committee member, Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Tex.), accused Barr of misrepresenting the contents of the Mueller Report to the American people.
“We have to get special counsel Robert Mueller there to testify. A question he will be asked and I expect he will be asked is based upon your findings: If you were a member of Congress, would you move forward with impeachment proceedings? He should be able to answer that. It’s a question that every member of Congress will answer for themselves. The Judiciary Committee first.
“It’s clear today that the attorney general, Barr, has been doing a real public relations campaign for the president for a few weeks now and really trying to soften the blow, so to speak. Now that we have the final report, we know that it’s much worse than what the attorney general has been making it out to be,” Castro added.