Many observers (not just me) have been scratching their heads and wondering, “What has happened to former Trump attorney general Bill Barr?”
To get into that discussion, we’d like to start with a little game of “Who said it?” Barr did an interview with Margaret Hoover on PBS’s “Firing Line” on Friday, the day Merrick Garland announced his appointment of Jack Smith as special counsel to investigate former President and just-announced 2024 candidate Donald Trump. On the same day, disgraced-and-fired former FBI agent and Russia hoaxer Peter Strzok spoke with Nicole Wallace on MSNBC. Here’s a series of quotes from both appearances; tell me which interviewee, Barr or Strzok, said each of them, and then we’ll see how you did...
1. “From the attorney general’s comments, it certainly to me implied that it included Donald Trump’s conduct, but more importantly, as importantly, it included a large number of other people around him.”
2. “I personally think that they probably have the basis for legitimately indicting the President.”
3. “So, he’s had his chance.”
4. “If the Department of Justice can show that these were indeed very sensitive documents, which I think they probably were, and also show that the President consciously was involved in misleading the department, deceiving the government, and playing games after he had received the subpoena for the documents, those are serious charges.”
5. “Given what’s gone on, I think they probably have the evidence that would check the box; they have the case.”
6. “He failed.”
7. “A lot of the criticisms of what special counsel Robert Mueller did, people don’t understand, were key to what he was limited to do by the scope of his appointment order.”
8. “A lot, if not all, of the national security concerns that existed around Trump were not resolved.”
9. “He has a monumental ego, and he doesn’t want to go down in history as a loser.”
(Answers: 1, 7, 8 Strzok; 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9 Barr. How’d you do? Hard to tell, isn’t it?)
Here’s the full interview with Barr on PBS. (Be sure to take your blood pressure meds before listening to Hoover lead the discussion of the “lie” of election fraud and imply the republic really was in danger on January 6, when “six people died” after Trump “betrayed his oath to the Constitution.”)
What’s puzzling is that in this same interview, Barr acknowledges the existence of the “Deep State,” which he defines as “the increased willingness by more and more civil servants to pursue political objectives rather than stand up for the values of the institution they’re a part of.”
“They are not neutral, politically neutral,” he says. But he thinks the pervasiveness of this is exaggerated, and that most civil servants “try to check their politics at the door.” He appears to blame Trump’s own leadership for what has been done to him, for treating these people as “pariahs” and not “providing clear guidance and goals.” My question to him would be, how do you provide guidance to people who were pulling out all the stops to keep you from getting elected in the first place?
Barr says, “You cannot use the criminal justice system as a political weapon.” Does he not see how this has been done repeatedly –- and is still being done –- to his old boss?
Barr blamed Trump for the January 6 debacle from the start. Here he is on January 7, 2021, saying that Trump “orchestrated a mob.”
So, is Barr correct in saying that the government probably has a case against Trump on the Mar-A-Lago documents? Andrea Wilburg at AMERICAN THINKER says no, and calls him out for “his latest embittered statements.” To him, she says, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.”
She says he’s “totally and completely wrong, because his premise is wrong.” He’s forgetting that the President has the authority to declassify documents. “Whether Bill Barr or Merrick Garland or the head of the White House janitorial services thinks the documents are ‘sensitive’ is utterly irrelevant,” she says. “Political hacks believe that, because bureaucrats stamp the words ‘sensitive,’ ‘confidential’ or ‘top secret’ on pieces of paper, they have spoken as surely as God did when he issued the law to Moses on Mt. Sinai. Wrong.”
She cites the Supreme Court on this –- Navy v. Egan, 1988 –- and explains that “Presidents can voluntarily respect a national security law, but they do not have to abide by it.” No one else can impose rules on the President regarding this power. The Court refers to it here...
“The President, after all, is the ‘Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States.’ U.S.Const., Art. II, § 2. His authority to classify and control access to information bearing on national security and to determine whether an individual is sufficiently trustworthy to occupy a position in the Executive Branch that will give that person access to such information flows primarily from this constitutional investment of power in the President, and exists quite apart from any explicit congressional grant. See Cafeteria Workers v. McElroy, 367 U. S. 886, 367 U. S. 890 (1961).”
When it came to national security matters, Trump, like any other President, had PLENARY POWER, which means “a power that has been granted to a body or person in absolute terms, with no review of or limitations upon the exercise of that power.”
So what is Barr thinking? Did his disgust for Trump that came to full fruition on January 6 completely disengage the part of his brain that surely understands about the President’s authority in these matters? It seems to have been walled up somehow, as a grain of sand inside an oyster becomes a pearl. But this is not a pearl of wisdom.
“Because Trump was still the President of the United States,” Wilburg says, “at the very moment when he transferred those documents from the White House to his private residence, they were automatically and instantly declassified. After that, nothing in his possession was either ‘sensitive’ or ‘classified,’ and neither the current nor the past attorney general can change that fact.”
Also, since Barr does acknowledge the existence of the Deep State, I wonder if he’s noticed something deep-statey about the background of this new special counsel. As reported in the DAILY CALLER, “Jack Smith, the special counsel appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland to investigate former President Donald Trump’s possession of classified information, was a key figure in the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) infamous targeting of conservative non-profits, according to a 2014 report by Republicans on the House Oversight Committee.”
He coordinated with Lois Lerner, whose IRS team searched for terms like “tea party” and (yes) “patriot” to find specifically conservative groups to target ahead of the 2012 election. Recall that Lerner resigned after pleading the Fifth Amendment when questioned by the House Oversight Committee.
Smith also prosecuted former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican, on federal corruption charges in 2014, over accepting gifts from a lobbyist that he later repaid. This apparently prevented McDonnell's presidential run in 2016, even though the Supreme Court unanimously reversed his conviction that year. All charges were later dismissed.
So this is the guy Biden’s attorney general has selected to prosecute President Trump. And Trump’s attorney general appears to be so blinded by his feelings about his former boss that he’s willing to go right along.
Here's a related, MUST-READ commentary from Michael Goodwin in the NEW YORK POST.