Some time ago — probably around lie number 2,471 — I stopped accepting anything emitting from President Donald Trump’s mouth at face value. On Thursday, U.S. Attorney General William Barr leapt into the same circle of automatic distrust.
In a news conference pre-empting his release of a redacted version of the 448-page report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Barr sounded more like a Trump personal attorney than a federal official beholden to the interests of all Americans.
An example? Look no further than Time magazine’s headline: “The Attorney General said there was ‘no collusion,’ but Trump associates still interacted with Russians more than 100 times.”
But why stop with just one?
In his March 24 summary letter of the Mueller report, Barr wrote, “The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” But, Thursday morning, Barr drew a much brighter — and unjustifiable — line by saying, “There was no evidence of Trump campaign ‘collusion’ with the Russian government’s hacking.”
Barr’s initial assessment was investigators found information, but not to the degree needed. On Thursday, he changed the story, demanding no evidence of any degree exists. Such an assessment isn’t consistent with the limited of view of Mueller’s findings Barr has allowed the public to view.
Barr, on Thursday, told the nation that a “frustrated and angry” President Trump “fully cooperated” with investigators. By what definition? Despite saying he relished the opportunity to talk, Trump never sat down with Mueller.
Perhaps Trump was “fully cooperating” when he took to Twitter or campaign rallies to decry the investigation a “witch hunt.” Maybe he was “fully cooperating” when he casually warned others not to speak openly with investigators.
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All of this in a news conference Barr said would explain his process in making redactions to the Mueller report. Less than a quarter of his remarks were focused on process. Instead, Barr spent the bulk of his time performing as a public relations specialist for the White House.
“In assessing the President’s actions discussed in the report, it is important to bear in mind the context,” Barr said, adding that Trump held “a sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents, and fueled by illegal leaks.”
No doubt there are some Eastern Iowa children who hold a sincere belief the Easter Bunny will soon drop off a basket of chocolate molded in his own likeness. The words “sincere” and “factual” aren’t interchangeable.
Investigators on the Mueller team documented time after time after time when government employees saved this President from himself — and our country from the worst impulses of this President. No matter how feeble their efforts, those public servants deserve our thanks.
But what the American people must clearly see after Thursday’s performance is, sadly, Barr cannot be trusted to serve with such fervor. His loyalties are to a man, not to the nation.
• Comments: @LyndaIowa, (319) 368-8513, firstname.lastname@example.org