Schwab: Why redact when you can misquote and still be believed

One needs only read a few paragraphs of the Mueller report to get a sense for Barr’s obfuscations.

By Sid Schwab

Herald columnist

More than the rampant corruption revealed in Robert Mueller’s report, what defines these times, when lies are truth and facts are lies, is the confidence with which Attorney General William Barr stood before us and lied. That he felt empowered to say what he did, knowing his falsehoods would become immediately obvious, says it all.

Maybe favor from the Fogfather was more important to him than preserving the integrity of his office or the rule of law. Who can say it’s impossible? People with better reputations to protect than Barr’s have capitulated to Trump’s lies and autocratic excesses.

Since November, 2016, there’s been a fire sale on souls in our country. Barr is just the latest to surrender his. His job is to defend the Constitution and prosecute the law on behalf of all citizens. We are his clients, not the “president.” His pre-release snake-oil salesmanship made it clear he doesn’t see it that way.

More probable is that Mr. Barr assumes – rightly – that Trump’s supporters haven’t and won’t read the report. That they’ll take his word, just as they do Trump’s. That by disgorging a smog of deception, no subsequent revelation will dissuade those who breathed deep. They’re proving him right. Disinterested in becoming informed, loyalists are claiming, ever since, that Trump was completely exonerated, that no evidence of obstruction was found.

The disturbing revelations in Mueller’s report are unimportant to 39 percent of Americans, who actively avoid knowing them. It’s consistent with Barr choosing to deliver his dissembling in the first place. In no prior instance has a report from a special prosecutor been described beforehand by an attorney general, dishonest or otherwise. But this is how he and Trump view supporters. Were Trumpophiles willing to think about it, they’d see how they’ve been insulted and dismissed. Were they dragged, fighting it, outside the Fox News/rightwing radio bubble, they’d learn what’s been going on where reality lives. Here’s but a tiny sampling:

Mueller said he “found multiple acts by the President that were capable of exerting undue influence over law enforcement investigations.” He made it clear that, were it not DOJ policy not to indict a sitting president, he’d have made the case. Unable to do so, he considered it unfair to level charges that the president couldn’t rebut in court. One man’s integrity saved the other’s lack of it. Professing that Mueller said the DOJ policy had nothing to do with his decision, Barr flat-out lied.

Barr claimed Mueller hadn’t left it up to Congress to do what he, Mueller couldn’t. What Mueller wrote, in fact, was “… that Congress may apply the obstruction laws to the President’s corrupt exercise of the powers of office accords with our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law.” And “The President’s efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, … because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders …” The report implicitly called upon Congress to do its constitutional duty.

When Barr quoted the investigation, saying it “did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government …” he left out the preceding words: “Although the investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency … and that the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts, …” By omission, it’s a lie.

Also: “[I]f we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgement.” “No obstruction,” said Barr; and, several times, “No collusion.” Mueller described multiple contacts between Russians and Trump’s campaign, and the stupidity that kept direct cooperation from happening. He also noted that many documents had been destroyed.

Trump refused to appear in person and, having bragged “I have one of the great memories of all time,” replied “I don’t remember” 30 times in his written responses. Barr insisted he “cooperated fully.”

So here we are: lying as policy. No resistance from Republicans. Not even as Trump rejects Article I of the Constitution, ordering staff to ignore Congress. In its silence, the Republican Party has become as dangerous as Trump himself. If they once did, they no longer even pretend to believe in constitutional democracy.

It’s 2020 or never.

Email Sid Schwab at columnsid@gmail.com.

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