The Arizona Republic this week reported that Sen. Kyrsten Sinema to meet with Attorney General William Barr, but won’t say why or when.
My first thought was good, maybe the two of them could sit down and actually read the Mueller Report together, since neither one of them has publicly attested to having read the entire report, despite the fact that the The Mueller report holds the top 3 slots on the New York Times best-seller list.
The Republic’s E.J. Montini, always the cock-eyed optimist hoping for the best, suggested that Sen. Kyrsten Sinema to get her chance to confront Attorney General William Barr. Will she?
Yeah, as if. Democratic Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema told the Arizona Chamber of Commerce that she does not regret voting to confirm U.S. Attorney General William Barr:
Sinema said Friday her vote to confirm Barr was the right choice based on the information she had at the time. She was one of just three Democrats to support his nomination in a February vote.
But Sinema says since then there have been “troubling reports” that Barr may have lied to Congress. She’s requested a meeting with Barr next week “so that he and I can discuss these troubling discrepancies, and so that I can find the truth of the matter to the best of my ability.”
She did not disclose what she would say to Barr.
Sinema’s speech was on the same day that Attorney General William “Coverup” Barr, in interviews with the Wall Street Journal and Fox News aka Trump TV, parroted Trump Propaganda Minister Sean Hannity’s “deep state” conspiracy theory targeting the FBI and intelligence agencies for prosecution for having investigated the Trump campaign’s 251 contacts with Russian operatives, asserting that “Government power was used to spy on American citizens.”
As Mark Sumner reports at Daily Kos:
William Barr may be afraid to appear before the House Judiciary Committee, but he’s perfectly happy to go on Trump-friendly media and promote his “spying” claims … Barr continually used the word “spying” throughout both interviews, though he offered no evidence that anything had been done that was either illegal or improper.
On Friday morning, Donald Trump followed up Barr’s interviews with this tweet in a deliberately coordinated propaganda media campaign.
Legally authorized surveillance isn’t spying. [FISA warrants are authorized by FISA Court judges.] And it’s certainly not treason. But both Barr and Trump are deliberately throwing around the most loaded words possible to shape public opinion and push the realm of possible reactions into the extreme. Those words are setting the stage both for endless investigations of the Russia investigation, and for changes to the law that make it easier to get away with even more conspiracy in the future.
Speaking before the Senate last week, FBI Director Christopher Wray disagreed with Barr’s wording, saying “That’s not the term I would use.” But Trump couldn’t allow his own FBI director’s defense of using the right terms to stand. At an ad hoc press appearance the next day, Trump said that Wray gave a “ridiculous answer.” And just as Barr was quick to dismiss anything that Robert Mueller said, he’s been equally quick to show his disdain for Wray. For Barr, both Mueller and Wray are simply underlings who need to be shown their place.
Barr stepped carefully through the terms collusion, conspiracy, and cooperation during his three page re-write of the Mueller Report. He understands exactly what these terms mean. And he understands exactly why spying is the wrong term, one that can do lasting damage to the FBI and other intelligence agencies. He’s using it … because me means to do lasting damage to the FBI and other intelligence agencies.
And when it comes to Trump misusing the term “treason” … that’s only true so long as the people with the ability to enforce the law agree.
The combination of Barr’s claims about “spying” and his statement to both the WSJ and Fox that “we need to ensure that the government doesn’t use its powers to put a thumb on the scale” were done for a single basis—in support of Barr rewriting the rules around how an investigation can be initiated. While everything that’s come out about the origins of the Russia investigation indicates that agents at every level worked scrupulously to follow the rules and obtain necessary warrants, Barr intends to make it harder to initiate an investigation.
The language that Barr is using provides a preview of the findings that should be expected when Barr’s investigation on top of investigation produce results. Those findings—or at least, the part of those findings that Barr carefully culls, curates, re-writes, and releases to the public—are certain to provide plenty of issues which Barr can misrepresent using the harshest possible language, all of it to suggest that the Mueller investigation was improper. Like “collusion,” “spying” is being used expressly because it has no clear legal definition … but it does carry weight.
There seems little doubt that Barr will get what he wants from his investigation into the investigation. And even if he doesn’t all he has to do is claim that he did. After all … who is going to make him produce the facts? He’s not responsive to requests, subpoenas, or findings of contempt.
The result of Barr’s meta-investigation, and his rewrite of FBI rules, is likely to be even more investigations designed to fuel “lock him/her up” chants at Trump rallies. It is sure to be rules that will make it harder to look into foreign interference, or to thwart genuine conspiracies, going into the 2020 election.
Trump and other Republicans have repeatedly claimed that they “love” the FBI. In theory. It’s only every director, assistant director, official, agent, or lawyer that they hate. Barr’s rule changes will give them what they want—an FBI they can “proudly” point to when they like, but one that is neutralized when it comes to getting in their way.
And on the treason front … that word may be carefully defined. But the ability of Trump to act as if it’s not, is surprisingly broad.
Trump has weaponized the Department of Justice with his “new Roy Cohn,” his unethical “fixer” William “Coverup” Barr, who is engaged in a conspiracy with his boss to obstruct Congress and to obstruct justice. Barr is a co-conspirator who is equally culpable, aiding and abetting these crimes.
Trump has repeatedly threatened to use the Department of Justice to prosecute his political opponents and his perceived political enemies. The theme of his 2016 campaign was to prosecute Hillary Clinton for alleged crimes with which she was never charged — “lock her up!” was the chant at his Nuremberg-style campaign rallies, and still is today.
As president, Trump has systematically fired or forced into retirement every FBI agent and intelligence agent who was involved in the initial investigation of his campaign for Russian influence in a slow-motion “Saturday night massacre.” He now wants his “new Roy Cohn,” his “fixer” William “Coverup” Barr to prosecute these individuals on “Trumped-up” charges that they were engaged in a deep-state “coup” against his presidency and committed “treason.”
Trump’s reckless “treason” accusation against the FBI is straight out of the authoritarian handbook:
Trump’s accusation is transparently meritless, but that’s beside the point. Heading into his 2020 reelection campaign, Trump — with help from new Attorney General William Barr — is trying to establish a narrative that the entire investigation into his campaign’s contacts with Russia stemmed from anti-Trump bias in the law enforcement and intelligence communities, not his campaign’s secretive contacts with people in the Kremlin’s orbit. Trump wants to portray himself as a victim and Obama-era officials as bad actors who had it out for him from the beginning.
To that end, Trump is now using his social media platforms to unequivocally call for his perceived enemies to be imprisoned for crimes they did not commit. It’s troubling and abnormal behavior for a president, but par for the course for a president whose rallies still regularly erupt in “lock her up!” chants.
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In recent weeks, Trump has resurrected the baseless claim he first made in March 2017 about the Obama administration “spying” on his campaign. His accusations were legitimized by Attorney General Barr during congressional testimony last month. On Friday, Barr went as far as to go on Fox News and suggest that top law enforcement officials during Obama’s term were conspiring against Trump.
Barr indicated he is investigating the officials who investigated Trump, and suggested his investigation may last through the 2020 campaign. (The investigation he discussed is in addition to an ongoing inspector general review of the Russia investigation’s origins.) Barr also misrepresented the origins of the Russia probe, suggesting it began with the partially unverified Steele dossier when in fact it began with then-Trump campaign official George Papadopoulos bragging to an Australian diplomat about having foreknowledge that Russian hackers had obtained Hillary Clinton’s emails.
As was the case two years ago, there remains no evidence that anyone associated with Trump was improperly surveilled during the 2016 election, let alone the victim of “spying.” Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants were taken out against onetime Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page after he left the campaign, but the warrant applications went through standard processes and were authorized by four judges appointed by Republican presidents. The FBI used information from the Steele dossier to obtain warrants to surveil Page, but it wasn’t their only source of information, and law enforcement officials had good reason to be suspicious about Page’s contacts and activities in Russia.
The idea that the FBI had it out for Trump is also contradicted by the fact that the bureau didn’t leak about the counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign at all during the election. If FBI brass wanted to destroy Trump, they could have easily done that by leaking about the fact that his campaign’s contacts with Russia were under investigation in the months leading up the election. But they didn’t. On the other hand, then-FBI Director James Comey repeatedly publicized the bureau’s investigation of Hillary Clinton in a manner some pundits believe may have tilted the election outcome in Trump’s favor.
Trump’s plan appears to be to turn a weakness — his campaign’s secretive dealings with Russia during a campaign in which Russia allegedly committed crimes to help him win — into a strength. He wants people to believe that he was the victim of an illegitimate investigation and overcame FBI malfeasance to win an election, then began “draining the swamp” once he took office by firing Comey and others.
There are indications that Trump’s strategy is working. A Fox News poll of voters released on Thursday indicates that a majority (58 percent) think it’s at least somewhat likely the FBI broke the law when it started investigating the Trump campaign, compared to just 31 percent who said it’s not at all likely the FBI broke the law.
Greg Sargent adds, We don’t have an attorney general (excerpt):
Perhaps most strikingly, Barr hinted darkly that Democrats should be worried about the outcome of his investigation of the investigators. Asked about Democratic charges that he’d previously misled Congress, Barr said:
“It’s a laughable charge, and I think it’s largely being made to try to discredit me, partly because they may be concerned about the outcome of a review of what happened during the election.”
Really? The attorney general of the United States is telegraphing that the conclusion of an unfinished investigation should be feared by one of two major political parties?
“I don’t think it’s appropriate for the attorney general to be casting DOJ actions in terms of whether they’re good or bad for one political party,” Stephen Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin, told us. “He’s implying that what’s going on behind the scenes at DOJ will be good for Republicans and bad for Democrats.”
“The special responsibility of the attorney general is that he’s charged with upholding all of our laws,” Vladeck continued. “The more it looks like partisanship is behind his actions, the more it’s understandable why public confidence in the Justice Department has waned.”
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One last point about Barr’s embrace of the “witch hunt” idea. He’s flirting with the position of the president and his party that there should never have been any investigation in the first place. A “witch hunt” is an investigation that lacked any legitimate purpose from the get-go.
So despite the fact that Russia launched a “sweeping and systematic” effort to help Trump get elected; despite the between 100 and 250 contacts between Trump campaign figures and people associated with Russia; despite Trump World repeatedly signaling eagerness for the Kremlin’s help; despite that fact that everyone involved was constantly lying about contacts with Russia; despite the fact that Trump’s former campaign chair, former national security adviser and former personal lawyer would all go on to plead guilty to crimes — despite all that, Barr is still casting doubt on the investigation’s legitimacy.
Donald Trump now has an attorney general. But the United States no longer does.
My advice to you, Senator Sinema: William Barr is the most corrupt Attorney General since John Mitchell. Like John Mitchell, he is currently engaged in a conspiracy with his boss to obstruct Congress and to obstruct justice. Barr is a co-conspirator who is equally culpable, aiding and abetting these crimes.
And you voted to confirm him.
The only thing you have to say to this unethical hack is that he “should resign, or be impeached,” and that he will be held accountable for his crimes someday.