William Barr: Obstruction is in the Eye of the Beholder

Attorney General William Barr has decided that Donald Trump should not be charged with obstruction of justice in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, based on Mueller’s report on the investigation. Shortly after Barr handed down a heavily redacted version of Mueller’s findings, a follow-up letter from Mueller to Barr came to light. The letter criticizes the way William Barr handled the public release of Mueller’s core findings in the Russia investigation.

In turn, Barr characterized Mueller’s letter as “snitty.”

“… I think it was probably written by one of his staff people,” said Barr about Mueller’s letter.

Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Barr stated that he asked Mueller if he had an issue with Barr’s summary of the report, and if Mueller felt Barr’s summary was accurate. According to Barr, Mueller said he didn’t have an issue with how Barr presented the summary.

“But he had an issue with how the press covered it,” said Barr. In other words, according to Barr, press reporting on Robert Mueller’s report had been inaccurate.

Barr has summed up Robert Mueller’s report on the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election in this way: Mueller found that there was no collusion with Russia on the part of Trump or the Trump family, and “therefore, how (could) Trump obstruct an investigation?”

This logic is only convincing if we pretend that both factors are dependent on each other. In making his decision that Trump didn’t obstruct justice by trying to curtail the Russia probe, Barr said he focused on how the president didn’t commit a crime with Russia and how “we now know that he was being falsely accused.”

But faulty logic aside, Barr’s chosen interpretation of Mueller’s report is that Mueller saw “no corrupt intent from Trump to obstruct Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.” According to William Barr, Mueller reported that the U.S. government did not have a prosecutable case in Trump.

Barr seems to forget that Mueller also found that a number of White House staff members would have been guilty of obstruction of justice had they carried out various orders or requests from Trump along those lines. When asked by a member of the House Judiciary Committee whether Barr felt it was ok for a president to direct others to lie on his behalf, Barr declined to answer.

It is also important to consider that Mueller’s overall findings, though they showed no evidence of collusion with Russia on the part of Donald Trump, could be summarized more accurately in this way: “We can’t indict a sitting president, but there are enough things we found that we can’t clear him of.”

Barr was given the choice to indict or not to indict Trump on obstruction of justice charges, based Robert Mueller’s findings. Barr chose not to. William Barr appears to see the powers of the presidency as extending to the privilege of shutting down any investigation into the president if he thought he was falsely accused – and that this would somehow be different from obstruction of justice.

William Barr’s testimony reveals rift with Mueller over Russia probe | National Review [2019-05-03]

Graham to Mueller: Did Barr misrepresent your call? | CNN [2019-05-03]

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