Editorial: How Barr’s shamelss testimony reflects Trump’s corrosive influence
Attorney General Bill Barr’s testimony in front of the Senate’s Judiciary Committee this Wednesday is the predictable outcome of being part of an administration that has disdain for the rule of law.
It starts at the top, and there is no doubt that this president considers himself above the law. Armed with the belief that Congress can’t indict a sitting president, Trump and his collaborators have trashed the notion of justice, honor and integrity within his administration. Their plans to stonewall any investigations into the president’s taxes, or any further details connected with the findings of the Mueller Report, hold executive privilege as the supreme law of the land.
Barr’s performance on Wednesday just confirmed his contempt for the law in these matters, a striking condemnation to make against the nation’s attorney general, a person appointed by the president and approved by the Senate to uphold the nation’s laws. Yet, he knowingly misled Congress and the nation in his initial summation of the Mueller report, mimicking Trump’s own claims that the report found “no collusion” of Trump’s team with Russians to sway the 2016 presidential election (Mueller specifically noted that collusion has no legal significance, as Trump as always known), even though there were numerous accounts of meeting with Russian operatives who they knew were working to sway the election on their behalf.
More importantly, there were 10 specific accounts of Trump and his team engaged in instances of obstruction of justice, but which they were not able to prosecute because of the justice department’s ruling that one could not indict a sitting president. To summarize Mueller’s report in such a way that the president could grab the airwaves (even for a few days) and claim total exoneration was a travesty of justice — and exactly what Barr, and Trump, wanted.
But Barr took it a step further on Wednesday when he lied point blank to the Senate Judiciary Committee, telling them he didn’t believe he had misrepresented Mueller’s report in his summary and that he wasn’t aware of Mueller’s opposition to how he had summarized the report. Such a performance demonstrates his blatant breach of faith with the public — as if lying to Congress didn’t even matter; it’s just what the Trump team does.
As Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. wrote this week: “The corruption Trump has fostered now goes to the top of the Justice Department. We have an attorney general who has proudly and shamelessly corrupted our political conversation to protect a president whose survival depends upon burying facts and clouding public understanding.”
Or as Sen. Kamala D. Harris said after the morning’s questioning of Barr, in which at one point Barr admitted to not reviewing the Mueller’s report’s underlying evidence when deciding to clear Trump of obstruction charges: “This attorney general lacks all credibility and has, I think, compromised the American public’s ability to believe that he is a purveyor of justice.” The story on Barr’s misrepresentation of the Mueller report will come out. Mueller will testify and expose Barr’s misdeeds. Barr will be cast aside as a political pawn of Trump’s who can’t be trusted, but Trump’s core supporters will always swear by Barr’s initial bogus statements, and the rest of America will move on to the next Trump-inspired crisis. It’s how Trump works, through lies and deceit, and until his supporters understand that, it’s a winning strategy that relies on people too enthralled with his personality to realize when they’re being snookered.
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