Even in a ‘scandal’ marked more by hysteria and leaping to conclusions, this claim stands out as particularly puzzling. On what basis does Nancy Pelosi allege that Attorney General William Barr has “gone rogue”? Speaking with Morning Joe cohosts on MSNBC, Pelosi accused Barr of being complicit in “the cover-up of the cover-up.”
Speaker Pelosi says on AG Barr: "He's gone rogue … I think where they are going is the cover up of the cover up, and that's very really sad for them. To have a Justice Department go so rogue … now it just makes matters worse." pic.twitter.com/l6jhF1UzjJ
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) September 27, 2019
Presumably, this refers to the Department of Justice’s advice to Joseph Maguire in regard to the whistleblower complaint. The acting DNI testified yesterday to the House Intelligence Committee about his handling of the complaint, which included seeking advice from the DoJ and the White House. Because the complaint didn’t directly involve intelligence matters but did involve the presidential conduct of diplomacy, Maguire first needed to see if the White House would claim executive privilege over the material, he testified, and then sought out the DoJ’s opinion if this represented a serious enough issue to take to Congress, even though it was technically outside his portfolio.
Adam Schiff blasted Maguire for not comprehending “the politics of the moment,” as the Washington Post’s Amber Philips put it. However, Schiff had to stretch to make this point:
The problem with how Maguire handled this, Democrats argue, is that he failed to take into context the politics of the moment. This isn’t a typical whistleblower complaint; those normally deal with bad-acting middle managers. It’s a complaint against the president of the United States.
“Do you think it’s appropriate that you go to a department run by someone who’s the subject of the complaint to get advice — or who is a subject of the complaint or implicated in the complaint for advice as to whether you should provide that to Congress? Did — did that conflict of interest concern you?” asked House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.).
The DoJ is not being run by the person who was “the subject of the complaint,” nor was the DoJ involved in the complaint at all. Maguire took reasonable steps to make the determination using a legitimate process with a non-conflicted entity. Schiff purposely conflated Donald Trump with William Barr to score this bogus point, even though Barr is only mentioned in the complaint as being mentioned by Trump in the call with Zelensky. The complaint itself alleges no untoward actions by Barr or anyone in the DoJ, nor is there any indication in the Zelensky transcript of any misconduct by Barr. Trump wanted to send Barr to look into the Russiagate allegations, but (a) that would certainly fall within Barr’s purview as AG, and (b) Barr had no role in the conversation or the subsequent handling of it.
It’s a conflation with a purpose, both on Schiff’s part and on Pelosi’s. They want to force Barr into recusing himself from anything relating to this new impeachment effort, while painting everyone around Trump as corrupt and participating in a cover-up — or “the cover-up of the cover-up,” as Pelosi put it.
Here’s the main problem with all of this: how can we know there was a cover-up when no one has corroborated any of the complaint yet? None of the material in the complaint is first-hand testimony; it’s all hearsay. One has to establish whether the second- or third-hand testimony matches up to facts and first-hand testimony before knowing whether a cover-up took place at all. There are already some details in the complaint which appear to be inaccurate, including the supposedly explicit quid pro quos and the number of times Trump supposedly badgered Zelensky. One of the supposed participants, a State Department official named T. Ulrich Brechbuhl, turned out not to have been part of the conversation at all. That’s not exactly a confidence-builder.
It would be a lot easier to take this more seriously if Pelosi and her team didn’t set their hair on fire at every turn. Adam Schiff has tried that for more than two years, and apparently Pelosi didn’t notice that it wasn’t working. How about we find out whether the complaint was accurate first before shrieking about Barr having “gone rogue”?