April 18 was a busy day in Washington. Attorney General William Barr held an intensely anticipated press conference on the release of the Mueller special counsel’s report to both Congress and the American public.
Then, just a short time later, the Department of Justice made that final report available on its website.
Because of Barr’s summary letter, released on March 24, there were really no surprises at his press conference. In his letter to Congress, Barr had summed up the major findings of Robert Mueller and his team: after an intensive and exhaustive 22-month-long investigation—which included interviews with 500 witnesses, the serving of 500 search warrants and 2,800 subpoenas, as well as the reviewing of millions of documents—no sufficient evidence was found to sustain a criminal charge on either collusion or obstruction.
Mueller had ended his investigation without charging a single U.S. citizen with colluding with Russia or any other country. In fact, not a single American ended up being charged with engaging in any criminal activity whatsoever involving the 2016 election.
The truth finally emerged: Donald Trump won the presidency over Hillary Clinton fair and square, despite relentless efforts by Democrats and also the DNC Media to push a massive propaganda fraud on the country.
That was the day the Trump-Russia collusion delusion should have died at last with a whimper. Instead, for the past three weeks, many who are frantic to prop up this dying narrative have furiously spun fantasies, in which Barr is supposedly lying about what Mueller’s report actually stated. Instead of owning up to having fallen for a massive hoax, the mainstream media immediately doubled down.
The Mueller final report’s legal theory, upon which the obstruction investigation of the president was based, was so bizarre that Barr had to emphasize that under current law no criminal charge could have been brought based upon it, and how surprised he was that Mueller had punted the decision on making an obstruction charge—based on this most novel theory—to him and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appeared at the podium with Barr at the press conference.
Barr also pointed out that prosecutors don’t just hold investigations and then throw their results into the public sphere without making their own determination; they are supposed to make their own decisions based on what they found, and not dodge that responsibility. In his understated way, Barr made it clear just how surprised he was that Mueller kicked the decision upstairs to him.
Barr Embarrasses Angry Reporters
When Barr took questions after reading his statement, angry reporters tried to put him on the defensive by arguing that he was acting as if he were the president’s personal lawyer.
One of the media’s favorite talking points over the past three weeks has been that Mueller totally would have indicted Trump but for the Office of Legal Counsel’s [OLC] ruling in 2000—during the George H.W. Bush administration—that a sitting president can’t be indicted.
One reporter raised this issue by cleverly trying to frame her question in such a way as to lead Barr into “admitting” that Mueller would have lodged a criminal charge of obstruction against Trump if not for that OLC ruling.
Far from giving the reporter the answer she wanted, Barr stressed that when he and Rosenstein met with Mueller to discuss his punting the obstruction decision upstairs to them, Mueller assured them both several times that even if the OLC hadn’t made such a finding, he still wouldn’t have made an obstruction charge against the president. Mueller told Barr he simply couldn’t reach a conclusion on his own as to whether or not to make a criminal charge, and the OLC ruling wasn’t a factor.
This clearly wasn’t what the reporters in attendance wanted to hear.
Reporters also asked Barr loaded questions that implied that since Mueller couldn’t make up his mind about whether to charge the president with obstruction, the matter should now be handed over to the Democratic-controlled House to review all the evidence and continue the prosecution itself.
Barr had to remind the press that the special counsel may release his report to Congress, but the special counsel works for and reports to the attorney general of the United States. And even if it worked in the manner the reporters were implying, that Mueller could turn over his obstruction investigation of Trump to Congress so that they could continue it, Congress can only make referrals for prosecution, and they’d ending making those referrals to … you guessed it! Attorney General William Barr.
The next loaded question Barr was asked implied he was somehow hiding or preventing Mueller from testifying publicly to Congress. The Fake News narrative behind that question is that Barr is lying about things Mueller told him personally, so he is keeping Mueller from speaking publicly and muzzling him so the “truth” can’t come out.
Barr quickly shot that down by stating he has no problem whatsoever with the special counsel coming and talking to House Democrats and their committee.
Increasingly frustrated reporters then turned to ask Barr why he talked about the president’s state of mind: his frustration at being investigated by the special counsel. One reporter challenged Barr by saying his statements were overly “generous” to the president.
When Barr said he didn’t grasp what this claim was being based on, the reporter brought up his use of the word “unprecedented” to describe Trump having his presidency investigated by a special counsel for 22 months.
In a completely deadpan manner, Barr asked the reporter if she could think of a precedent to a presidential campaign being investigated for two years for colluding with a foreign power. When the reporter quickly had to admit there was no precedent, Barr said “Unprecedented is an accurate description then, isn’t it?” and moved on.
When Barr was asked why Mueller and none of the members of the special counsel’s team were there for the press conference, Barr answered that he called the conference to discuss the public release of the final report that Mueller gave to him.
Barr directly implied that nothing whatsoever is stopping Mueller himself from calling any press conference he wants to hold and talking to reporters himself—if that’s what he wants to do. Barr clearly had little patience for anyone implying that he is somehow muzzling Mueller and preventing him from talking.
Barr also had little patience for the final question, which implied he was doing something dishonest. “Is it an impropriety for you to come out and sort of, what appears to be sort of spinning the report before the public gets a chance to read it?”
“No,” Barr answered, and ended the press conference as Rosenstein cracked a huge smile.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) is now demanding that Mueller testify before the panel no later than May 23. Democrats and the DNC Media have now been reduced to literally hoping Mueller will directly contradict what both Barr and the unredacted parts of his report clearly state.
I wish them all the luck in the world with this strategy.
Brian Cates is a writer based in South Texas and author of “Nobody Asked For My Opinion … But Here It Is Anyway!” He can be reached on Twitter at @drawandstrike.