Barr is following the Trump playbook: Deny, deny, deny

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US Attorney General William Barr testifies to the Senate Judiciary Committee about his handling of the Mueller report.

Posted: May 1, 2019 6:00 PM
Updated: May 1, 2019 6:00 PM

Asked about his claim that he didn't know what special counsel Robert Mueller -- supposedly a long-time friend -- thought of his handling of the Mueller report's key findings, Attorney General William Barr would not admit any wrongdoing and correct the record. Instead, he followed the President Donald Trump playbook, offering spin and evasion like a man desperate to avoid accountability.

The issue is easy to grasp. On April 9, after Mueller wrote to voice his unease over the four-page summary that Barr issued, Barr was asked if he knew how the special counsel's team felt about his conclusions. "No, I don't," said Barr. When asked about this lie during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday, he responded: "I talked directly to Bob Mueller, not members of his team," said Barr, suggesting he and Mueller were not in disagreement.

This reply ignored that, in Mueller's letter, he had expressed concern that Barr's handling of the report had contributed to "public confusion" and threatened to "undermine" the purpose of his work. Barr's evasiveness prompted Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse to admire his "masterful hairsplitting."

Things didn't get better from there. Barr explained that when he used the inflammatory word "spying" to describe federal probes of the Trump campaign, he wasn't suggesting anything untoward. "I don't think the word 'spying' has any pejorative connotation at all," he said.

The important thing to notice is not just the specific distortions of fact here, but also that a 68-year-old man with a lifelong record as a respected attorney and public official would make this performance the capstone of his career. Seemingly, Barr didn't become attorney general in order to commit reputational suicide. However, this fate was all but guaranteed when he aligned himself with a President who knows how to exploit the darker side of human nature.

Everyone has a dark side. It's the part of us that feels jealousy and hatred, that fantasizes about revenge. Maturity allows us to see that this shadow exists; morality prevents us from indulging it. The President, who has misled the public more than 10,000 times, according to the Washington Post, is neither mature nor moral. He gives his dark side free rein and looks for others to recruit into his schemes. Those who join in, like the soon-to-be-imprisoned former attorney Michael Cohen or current federal inmate Paul Manafort, do so at enormous risk.

Barr revealed his shadow self in 2018 when, as a private citizen, he sent the Justice Department a 19-page memo attacking Mueller's obstruction inquiry. A commonsense reading of this unsolicited document leads to the obvious conclusion that Barr was angling for the job of attorney general -- by promising, indirectly, that he would be the President's defender.

This is not a conventional view of the attorney general's role, but it surely appealed to a President who has repeatedly said he needed an attorney general in the mold of the shadowy Roy Cohn, who was disbarred on charges of "dishonesty, fraud, deceit and misrepresentation," to protect him. (Cohn never served as attorney general, but he was Trump's lawyer and mentor -- and shaped the President's views on the role that lawyers should play.)

And it turns out, Trump made the right choice. After Barr issued his four-page summary -- stating that Mueller had not found sufficient evidence of any Trump campaign official conspiring with the Russians and that Barr had decided Trump had not obstructed justice -- Trump claimed "complete and total exoneration."

This storyline dominated public discourse until the actual report was published and revealed a far more nuanced understanding of both charges. Still, on the day the report was published, Barr held a press conference, where he peddled the same misleading arguments about Trump's innocence in all matters -- despite the blatant discrepancies between his summary and the full version of the report.

Barr now joins a host of people who have been forced by the President to make character-revealing choices. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, according to the Mueller report, chose to lie regarding the circumstances surrounding the firing of former FBI Director James Comey. (She claims it was a slip of the tongue.) And what little was left of her credibility has now largely been lost.

Then there is Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the President, who has made such outrageous claims about the existence of "alternative facts," that she, too, has lost much of her credibility.

Sanders and Conway are so far down the path of deceit in the service of Trump that one can't imagine them turning around, copping to what they have done and choosing another straighter path.

But Barr had the option to take a different route. Other men at the end of their careers, like former Secretary of Defense James Mattis and former Chief of Staff John Kelly saw what was at stake and, with their resignations, walked away. Barr didn't heed their example -- and instead followed the President.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 314710

Reported Deaths: 7254
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21646260
Hinds20369416
Harrison17949309
Rankin13643278
Jackson13450246
Madison10113217
Lee9986174
Jones8384163
Forrest7689152
Lauderdale7198240
Lowndes6403148
Lamar623686
Lafayette6203119
Washington5341134
Bolivar4802132
Oktibbeha462998
Panola4596107
Pearl River4519146
Marshall4450103
Warren4393121
Pontotoc420872
Monroe4115133
Union411176
Neshoba4031176
Lincoln3969110
Hancock379586
Leflore3498125
Sunflower336290
Tate334784
Pike3327105
Scott316274
Alcorn313368
Yazoo311770
Itawamba300577
Copiah297465
Coahoma295579
Simpson295388
Tippah288768
Adams286982
Prentiss280060
Marion269380
Leake268473
Wayne262841
Grenada261587
Covington259881
George248148
Newton246862
Winston227581
Tishomingo227067
Jasper221148
Attala214473
Chickasaw208057
Holmes189174
Clay185554
Stone182833
Tallahatchie178941
Clarke178080
Calhoun170932
Yalobusha164638
Smith162534
Walthall134245
Greene130633
Lawrence128724
Montgomery127142
Noxubee126734
Perry126338
Amite123142
Carroll121829
Webster114532
Jefferson Davis107133
Tunica105726
Claiborne102430
Benton100025
Humphreys96733
Kemper95828
Franklin83923
Quitman81116
Choctaw76418
Wilkinson67531
Jefferson65728
Sharkey50217
Issaquena1686
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 539829

Reported Deaths: 11038
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson798271529
Mobile41261809
Madison35132506
Tuscaloosa25915455
Shelby25294249
Montgomery24705593
Baldwin21392310
Lee15987172
Calhoun14569319
Morgan14422280
Etowah13918353
Marshall12275225
Houston10641282
Elmore10147206
Limestone10065151
St. Clair9946245
Cullman9761194
Lauderdale9457243
DeKalb8865188
Talladega8339176
Walker7260278
Autauga7001108
Jackson6836112
Blount6771139
Colbert6320135
Coffee5578118
Dale4876113
Russell445138
Chilton4369113
Franklin426282
Covington4138118
Tallapoosa4044153
Escambia394777
Chambers3590123
Dallas3568153
Clarke351461
Marion3137101
Pike311977
Lawrence302698
Winston275773
Bibb264564
Geneva254078
Marengo249665
Pickens234862
Barbour232056
Hale223978
Butler219069
Fayette212662
Henry189643
Cherokee184645
Randolph182442
Monroe178141
Washington167739
Macon161150
Clay157157
Crenshaw153557
Cleburne149641
Lamar143236
Lowndes140553
Wilcox127430
Bullock123242
Conecuh110829
Coosa109228
Perry107826
Sumter104932
Greene92634
Choctaw61024
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