Barr: Mueller didn't ask me to decide whether Trump committed obstruction of justice

As with Barr’s allegedly suspicious decision not to publish Team Mueller’s own summaries from the report, this is another case in which the AG is being accused of chicanery which he couldn’t possibly get away with or expect to get away with. Mueller’s summaries will presumably be included in the redacted report to be released next week. If Barr’s own summary turns out to have misled the public by misrepresenting what Mueller found, we’re … going to find out. Soon. And Barr will be neck-deep in political sewage as a result. And he would have known that that would be the outcome when he undertook to misrepresent Mueller’s work.

So why the hell would he do it?

In this exchange from today’s hearing, Pat Leahy’s after him about an even deeper mystery, Barr’s determination that there wasn’t probable cause to believe Trump obstructed justice. Mueller’s report offered no conclusion on that point and his team of lawyers and FBI agents was reportedly divided on it. Democrats suspect that Mueller left his answer on obstruction blank because he wanted Congress, not Barr, to take up the question and proceed with impeachment if they determined that probable cause existed. If that’s true then Barr’s decision to make his own determination was a way of putting a thumb on the scale for Trump, signaling to the public that because the DOJ found no reason to charge the president, any attempt by House Democrats to do so would necessarily amount to another partisan witch hunt.

But again, that makes no sense. Even if you don’t like Barr’s answer here, that Russiagate was a DOJ investigation and ultimately the DOJ has to make a decision on whether criminal liability exists or not, I don’t understand how “the thumb on the scale” theory works. Mueller’s certainly going to testify about all this, after all. Democrats want him to and Republicans want him to. When he does, he’ll be asked the same question that Leahy asks here: Did you want Congress to make the call on whether the president obstructed justice? If Mueller says “yes,” that’ll give Democrats all the political cover they need to open impeachment proceedings if they decide that probable cause exists. Barr will end up looking like a Trumpy stooge who tried to intervene in the probe illegitimately to deter Congress from impeaching the president, only to fail miserably.

He’d probably end up being impeached too in that case. So, again, why the hell would he do it? People have spent the past 17 days, since Barr issued his summary, operating as though Mueller and his entire team are dead and we’re now forced to divine their intentions through the imperfect medium of Bill Barr. Not so. Mueller’s going to speak eventually, probably on live television. If he accuses Barr in any way of underhandedness on Trump’s behalf in his handling of the Russiagate report or the broader investigation, Barr’s reputation will be shattered and the Senate will likely be forced to take up whether to remove him from office. Barr understands all of this. What on earth is his incentive to lie?

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Jazz Shaw 5:31 PM on December 01, 2022