Turley, CNN: Why are Dems and the media attacking Barr for doing his job?

Oh, we all know why. It’s still good to see some acknowledgment of the strategy on mainstream media sites. Writing at The Hill, liberal legal analyst Jonathan Turley scolds Democrats and media outlets for attacking Attorney General William Barr needlessly on their Shermanesque march to the Impeachment Sea:

With all of the breathless headlines of the last two weeks, it is astonishing that the entire city of Washington is not swooning from hypoxia. Much of the media have blasted out the news that Attorney General William Barr is “implicated” in the Ukraine scandal, after sources said he pressed leaders in Australia, Italy and England to supply evidence about the origins of the Russia investigation. Esquire Magazine was a tad more descriptive, proclaiming Barr was now “far up s–t creek” because of his calls.

Yet not only is there a valid reason for such calls, but they could indicate that the creek could become a storm of sorts for Democrats over the coming weeks. The calls made by Barr were reportedly linked to the ongoing investigation by United States Attorney John Durham into the origins of the Russia investigation. It is not uncommon for an attorney general, or even a president, to ask foreign leaders to assist with ongoing investigations. Such calls can shortcut bureaucratic red tape, particularly if the evidence is held, as in this case, by national security or justice officials. A call to request assistance for the Durham investigation would “implicate” Barr in nothing other than an official investigation. …

However, many of the very same figures in Congress and in the media who previously called for full disclosure of every aspect of the Russia investigation are now criticizing the effort to gather evidence in the Durham investigation. It appears the public “right to know” does not extend that far. The reason is that a key report by Durham likely would come at a most importune time in advance of the 2020 election.

Democrats already are moving to impeach Trump on the Ukraine matter. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others have told fellow Democrats to focus on Ukraine instead of on Russia conspiracy or obstruction, which led to more than two years of investigation. One reason for this is that Trump would be able to call his own witnesses during a Senate trial, particularly with a Republican majority dictating the rules. If the Russia investigation winds up as part of an impeachment trial, then Trump would be able to use these reports and earlier disclosures to place the conduct of the Obama administration under the spotlight before the public.

While Turley largely leaves the final dot unconnected, it’s impossible to miss his point. In order to keep the Durham and Horowitz investigations from playing any role in either the 2020 elections or a potential impeachment trial, Democrats need to discredit the man in titular charge of both. Hence the attacks on Barr over Ukraine-Gate, even though Barr has no connection to that scandal at all — not even an investigatory role, which properly belongs with Congress.

CNN’s legal commentator James Schultz, who worked for Trump’s Office of White House Counsel early on, adds his voice to the why-Barr chorus:

The reality is that anyone within Trump’s orbit who isn’t willing to deliver the goods on the President, or who stands in the Democrats’ way in their rush to judgment, is a target. Trump’s opponents would like Barr to help them make a case against the President, regardless of whether or not such a case exists.

But Barr won’t cooperate, and it’s driving Democrats to distraction. Instead, the attorney general is doing his job. … If mentioning the attorney general’s name in a conversation with a foreign leader is reason for recusal, Barr and all future attorneys general won’t have much to do.

In my column at The Week, I argue that Democrats are attempting to derail anything that upends their narrative about Trump ahead of their quixotic impeachment effort. William Barr stands in their way, and that’s enough:

Democrats are taking aim at Barr over investigations that do fall within the DOJ’s purview. Barr’s department has two parallel probes into the beginnings of the FBI investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election which later became the Mueller special-counsel probe. Inspector general Michael Horowitz is expected to release a public report on his findings this month; U.S. Attorney John Durham has worked in parallel with Horowitz to review intelligence and determine whether any prosecutions might be warranted.

As part of his responsibilities as attorney general, Barr has facilitated both internal investigations by coordinating with other governments where necessary. That includes contacts reported this week with Italy to assist cooperation regarding an assessment of Maltese figure Joseph Mifsud, “a key figure in the events that triggered the Russia probe,” as Reuters notes. Barr also coordinated with Australia, whose ambassador first reported comments allegedly made by Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos. Barr has also connected with British intelligence services for their cooperation as part of his support of the two probes.

It is hardly unusual for a cabinet official to be part of efforts to secure international cooperation for their underlings, especially when it comes to sensitive internal investigations touching on issues of abuse of power and the politicization of intelligence. The attacks on Barr, however, are intended to either disqualify him entirely from the processes, which are likely too far along to impact at this point, or to discredit whatever they produce with the public.

As former federal prosecutor Andrew C. McCarthy wrote on Wednesday, the motives behind these attacks are transparently political. “The hope is that this will delegitimize not only any information that emerges from Ukraine,” McCarthy writes, “but the whole of the Justice Department’s investigation of intelligence and law-enforcement abuses of power attendant to the 2016 election.” The two parallel probes into “questionable Justice Department and FBI conduct” long preceded the Zelensky call, and are focused on whether and how many people in both organizations actually did “go rogue” in 2016.

Just how far Democrats will stretch to go after Barr was made apparent in a Wall Street Journal report on Tuesday evening. Not only was Barr not part of Trump’s efforts on Ukraine, he’s no fan of Rudy Giuliani and his connection to Trump either:

Attorney General William Barr called President Trump in April with a question: What was Rudy Giuliani doing?

Mr. Trump had just avoided criminal charges with the release of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian electoral interference. But Mr. Giuliani was on television attacking former White House counsel Don McGahn, a longtime friend of the attorney general who had testified to investigators about some of the most notable incidents in the report, including Mr. Trump’s efforts to seek Mr. Mueller’s dismissal.

Why, Mr. Barr wanted to know, was the president’s private lawyer making a spectacle of himself rather than declaring victory in the Mueller investigation and moving on, according to a person who paraphrased the conversation. Mr. Barr wanted the president to tell Mr. Giuliani, in effect, to knock it off.

Barr also had a similar reaction to being lumped in with Giuliani on the Zelensky call:

Mr. Barr was surprised and angry to discover weeks later that the president had lumped him together with Mr. Giuliani on the phone call with Mr. Zelensky, according to a person familiar with the matter. The Justice Department said Mr. Trump never asked Mr. Barr to contact the Ukrainians. …

The Justice Department initially blocked the complaint from being turned over to Congress, advising the director of national intelligence in early September that it didn’t constitute an urgent concern that required reporting to the intelligence committees. Justice Department lawyers then said they didn’t find enough evidence to warrant opening a criminal investigation into possible campaign-finance violations.

Mr. Barr didn’t believe it was necessary to recuse himself from deliberations given that he didn’t know until later that the president had invoked his name on the call, but nonetheless didn’t oversee the review, an official said.

Democrats don’t really care, however. They see the Horowitz and Durham investigations as dangerous to their narratives and Barr as the main target to discredit them both. It’s so transparent, though, that even friendly mainstream media outlets are beginning to take notice of it, which is not a good sign for Democrats.

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David Strom 5:21 PM on March 31, 2023