One might be tempted to say that Rep. Eric Swalwell went nuclear on Attorney General William Barr today, but he usually reserves that for gun owners. Appearing on MSNBC after the release of the Robert Mueller report, the Democratic presidential hopeful told Nicolle Wallace that Mueller proved that Donald Trump was a “double digit obstructor.” However, Swalwell’s main target was Barr for his press conference this morning, demanding the AG’s resignation.
“You can be the attorney general of the United States and represent all of us, or you can represent Donald Trump,” Swalwell told Wallace. “You can’t do both.”
.@ericswalwell calls on AG Barr to resign…
…presumably because Barr just exposed that Swallwell has been pushing conspiracy theories non-stop for the last two years pic.twitter.com/ruxuQVlkYj
— Eddie Zipperer (@EddieZipperer) April 18, 2019
“Second, Nicolle, the investigation lays out that the Trump team, the president himself, lied and obstructed in ways that impaired in a material fashion the investigation,” Swalwell continued. “So just because you may bury the evidence deep enough that we can’t find everything you did, we have recourse in the United States, which is obstruction of justice.”
“And this president is a double-digit obstructor, according to the Mueller report, in the number of ways he sought to obstruct justice,” he added.
“Which leads me, Nicolle, to Attorney General Barr,” Swalwell said. “You can be the attorney general of the United States and represent all of us, or you can represent Donald Trump. You can’t do both. And because Attorney General Barr wants to represent Donald Trump, I think he should resign.”
“You’re calling for the attorney general’s resignation today after what you saw?” Wallace asked.
“Yes, he’s lost the credibility of the American people, he is not recused from an investigation where he should be refused, he’s embedded deeply into the Trump team, and that affects the credibility that the attorney general must have,” Swalwell replied.
Take Swalwell’s call for reality checks with more than a few grains of salt. Less than a month ago, Swalwell was still claiming that Trump was a “Russian agent,” a conclusion that Mueller debunked in his report and which was mainly a fringe conspiracy theory all along anyway. Just the fact that he’s campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination in this cycle suggests that Swalwell has a reality problem himself.
Needless to say, Barr won’t resign simply because Swalwell’s unhappy with his credibility. That’s not to argue that Barr won’t have problems with that on Capitol Hill after this morning’s performance, though. He would have been better advised to wait until after the report came out, and perhaps not to sing laments about the extraordinary circumstances Trump faced in his first two years in office as pushback to Mueller’s obstruction findings. Swalwell won’t be the last Democrat to call on Barr to hit the road.
However, it seems doubtful that it will become a trend, at least in any serious way. With the Mueller probe complete, there aren’t any more potential points of conflict of interest. The issue of being “Trump’s attorney” will be moot. Congress can take up where Mueller left off if they want, a process that has nothing to do with the Department of Justice.
Barr might suit Democrats better where he is — for two main reasons. First, Barr will have to come to Capitol Hill to testify on matters on a regular basis. That will provide Democrats with a handy punching bag and easy opportunities for media coverage. Barr will forever be the man who passed on Mueller’s obstruction tee-up in their eyes, and a handy scapegoat when House Democrats decide to pass on impeachment.
More importantly, though, Republicans have a 53-vote majority in the Senate and no filibuster on presidential appointments. Which would they rather have as AG — a well-prepared punching bag, or someone closer to Trump and his own temperament? Regardless of how the Mueller affair ended, Barr was about as good as Democrats were going to get as AG.