Normally the answer to a question like this by the Attorney General is a simple “Of course not and I’m offended on the president’s behalf that you’d ask. The DOJ isn’t a political weapon for the White House.” Barr ends up having to resort to a Clintonism to wriggle out of it: Clearly some unnamed person (ahem) has raised the idea with him of siccing the DOJ on some other unnamed person but it seems the idea wasn’t pressed so insistently that Barr would say it amounted to a “suggestion.”
Which reminds me of Trump’s conversation with James Comey about Mike Flynn. “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go,” Trump allegedly said at the time, according to Comey. Was that a “suggestion”? Absolutely, Comey would say. Barr, clearly much more favorably disposed to Trump, might answer, “Well, he never explicitly *asked* Comey to let Flynn go.”
There’s no mystery as to whom Harris has in mind:
The Daily Beast reported in March that, less than a month after those tweets were sent, Jeff Sessions sent a letter to the U.S. Attorney in Utah asking him to review the DOJ’s handling of the Clinton Foundation and Uranium One matters. (Sessions’s office initially denied that any such letter existed.) Just a few weeks ago Trump reiterated his interest in seeing Hillary and other Obama officials linked to Russiagate investigated in an interview with Fox Business:
“So when I won, I made my opening speech, everyone’s shouting, ‘Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up!’ I said, ‘No, no, no, let’s forget her. Let’s get on to the future,’” the president recalled Friday. “But they have treated me so viciously, and they have treated me so badly and we did nothing wrong — you look at the others — and all of these people you hear about, that had nothing to do with Russia, Russia collusion, nothing.”…
“I think — look, I have a lot of respect for him,” Trump said of Barr. “I’ve never known him. He’s a very, very smart, respected man. Hopefully he’ll do what’s fair. … All I can ask is what’s fair.”
The fact that he’s taken to saying stuff like this in public is nothing new. Mueller’s report notes in the obstruction section that one of the confounding problems in analyzing Trump’s “corrupt intent” is his penchant for blurting things out in front of cameras. A famous example was him admitting to Lester Holt that he fired Comey partially because of “this Russia thing.” If he’s egging on Barr to investigate Clinton and the Obama natsec team in full public view, what would a word to him about it behind closed doors amount to? (“Gee, it’d be great if Crooked was indicted!”) Barr would have his marching orders even if his only interactions with Trump involved reading his Twitter feed. Whether he chooses to follow them is up to him.
His handling of the Mueller report has made him Democrats’ hate object du jour so here’s the Q&A with Harris followed by Harris insisting that he resign. Every candidate in the Democratic field will agree with her assuming they haven’t already.
WATCH: @SenKamalaHarris: "Has the president or anyone at the White House ever asked or suggested that you open an investigation of anyone?"
Attorney General William Barr: "I'm trying to grapple with the word 'suggest.' … They have not asked me to open an investigation…" pic.twitter.com/Cq1LeQ42u9
— PBS NewsHour (@NewsHour) May 1, 2019
After questioning William Barr @senkamalaharris: "This Attorney General lacks all credibility and has I think compromised the American public's ability to believe that he is a purveyor of justice."
Q: "Should he resign?"
Harris: "Yes." pic.twitter.com/hh8rBVHBjj
— CSPAN (@cspan) May 1, 2019