Move over Rudy, and make room for Attorney General William Barr. Whoever he may have once been, Barr’s become another of Donald Trump’s personal lawyers, serving the president first and the country second, if at all.
Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz had barely pressed the send button concluding that the FBI was justified in its investigation into suspected Russia interference in the Trump campaign and election before Barr was out contradicting it, just like he pre-butted Robert Mueller’s report. The Horowitz report, the AG claimed, "now makes clear that the FBI launched an intrusive investigation of a U.S. presidential campaign on the thinnest of suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient to justify the steps taken.”
The 476-page report made no such thing clear. Quite the opposite. Horowitz squashed a thousand conspiracy theories about the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane that have been lovingly cultivated by the president and his defenders. The IG’s main finding was that the inquiry started “in compliance with Department and FBI policies with no political bias,” but rather with “an authorized investigative purpose.” It did not rely on materials from the infamous Christopher Steele dossier until after the investigation had already been opened. It relied on information about George Papadopoulos, aka coffee boy, received from Australia. There were procedural issues with the application and updates for the FISA warrant, which the FBI will correct. No information derived from the warrant was used. A low-level agent who didn’t follow procedures is gone. And there was no spying on the Trump campaign. Of interest to tabloid readers, the report also notes, in passing, a friendly relationship between Steele and Ivanka Trump.
And it helps restore the good names of, among others, Comey; former FBI Assistant Director Andrew McCabe, whose pension was taken away by Trump; Sally Yates, who was dismissed as acting attorney general for insubordination; and even Rod Rosenstein.
The report is a grave disappointment to Trump, Barr and Republicans who had such high hopes that Horowitz would support Trump’s charge that the FBI was full of “dirty cops,” treasonous and traitorous, responsible for the “oranges of the investigation.”
Rather than show their disappointment, they simply claimed the report said something other than what it does. The president who still insists that he had the best attended inauguration ever, despite that being the first of 13,000-plus documented lies, declared that the nothingburger of a report was “far worse than I ever would’ve thought possible,” exposing an attempted “overthrow of the government” that “a lot of people were in on.”
Hours after the Horowitz report came out, Barr got what he wanted from U.S. Attorney John Durham. The attorney general chose the Connecticut prosecutor rather than anyone from headquarters to join him on his magical mystery tour of Europe to find a Maltese professor and others to prove that everything, including impeachment, is the fruit of a poisonous tree planted during Trump’s campaign by the “scum” leading the FBI. The pair must have bonded over dinner in that four-star hotel in Rome because the usually tight-lipped Durham, who put a Republican governor, John Rowland, in prison, broke with DOJ practice to say that his incomplete criminal investigation had more information than Horowitz’s completed one—information likely to back Barr’s conclusion. It’s one more instance of Barr shopping outcomes for Trump. It’s depressing how everyone exposed to Trump becomes so much like him.
Not so FBI Director Christopher Wray, who stood with the IG, pleased his agents were found to have opened the investigation on the thickest of suspicions. Trump can brook no contradiction and the next morning went after the man he chose to replace James Comey: “I don’t know what report current Director of the FBI Christopher Wray was reading, but it sure wasn’t the one given to me. With that kind of attitude, he will never be able to fix the FBI…” Russia, if you’re listening, Trump still believes you over his own top cop.
We hoped for more from Barr, but should have expected less given his audition for the job with a 19-page claim for unlimited presidential authority that hewed closely to Trump’s crude assessment that he can do anything he wants. In Barr, Trump finally found the answer to his question a year ago when he complained to lawyers balking at shutting down the special counsel investigation “Where’s my Roy Cohn?”
You know Trump has his Cohn from Barr’s instant undercutting of the IG report. From Barr telling Congress that he had reason to believe Trump’s charge that Obama wiretapped him when there was no reason to believe it then, or since. From Barr leaping before the cameras to lie about the finding of the Mueller Report before the truth of it could be told—giving Trump the opening to shout “No collusion, no obstruction,” without anyone to challenge him.
If Barr is half as successful at dismissing Horowitz as he was at burying Mueller, he will have more to celebrate than Christmas at the $30,000 party he is throwing at the Trump hotel.
But there may be a judgment coming soon. Tuesday, House Judiciary will propose two articles of impeachment based on 17 witnesses confirming a sinister plot—hatched brazenly the day after the Mueller Report came out—to help Trump get a jump on the 2020 election. He threatened to withhold money and an Oval Office meeting (yet to be granted) from a foreign power (an ally) under siege from our enemy (Russia) unless he gathered dirt on his opponent; just the kind of chicanery the framers feared.
Consequences for that kind of abuse of power can’t wait for an election Trump is cheating to win. Barr will find out the hard way that he can’t rewrite Article II of the constitution to read as Trump insists. All the king’s minions and all the king’s lawyers can’t find authority for Trump to do anything he wants.