Attorney General William Barr spent more time on his unsolicited 19-page job application — the June 2018 memo lambasting special counsel Robert Mueller's inquiry into whether Trump committed obstruction of justice — than he spent writing a four-page summary of Mueller's two-year findings and final report.
In that summary, Barr said Mueller "did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election." It doesn't say they weren't perfectly happy with secretly benefiting from it. Might that be considered aiding and abetting? Or buying, receiving, concealing stolen property? But we digress.
Barr also took it upon himself to decide Trump didn't obstruct justice, though he notes Mueller didn't rule obstruction out either.
Since we aren't yet — and may never be — privy to the actual Mueller Report, that juxtaposition of a targeted job application against a scanty flash-card version of the Mueller report (it doesn't quote even one full sentence from Mueller) may really be all we need to know to understand the inadequacy of Barr's three-day read and hasty press statement, disguised as a letter to Congress.
Suffice it to say, Mueller's full report should immediately be published publicly.
We didn't want our judgment of President Richard Nixon's Watergate tapes to be withheld but for a summary prepared by Nixon himself, so why would we want just 12 paragraphs from the attorney general who got his nomination by telling the president he's above the law? (In his audition, Barr argued that the obstruction of justice statute doesn't apply to the president because the text of the statute doesn't specifically mention "the president".)
Neal K. Katyal, a law professor at Georgetown who in 1998 and 1999 as a young Justice Department lawyer drafted the special counsel regulations under which Robert Mueller was appointed, put it this way: "Of course, the murder statute doesn't mention the president either, but no one thinks the president can't commit murder."
Sure, sure — we can hear some of the Trumpite Republicans chanting: "Let's move on."
Well, let's assume we do — secure in the knowledge that other investigative groups in the Justice Department, Congress and various states are still making deep dives into everything from the Trump Organization's role in hush money payments, to his inaugural committee's finances to Trump taxes and more.
Let's move on to taking some real steps toward keeping Russians and other foreigners from interfering ever again in our election process. Barr doesn't say that's a hoax, mind you. In fact, he makes clear that Mueller unequivocally proved interference and convinced a grand jury to bring indictments.
It seems unlikely, however, that our president will move on with that. After all, under his watch Homeland Security, the department charged with protecting elections and the back-end voting machine infrastructure, still "does not have dedicated staff" focused on election infrastructure, according to a three-week-old report from the U.S. Office of Inspector General.
Or let's move on to America's kitchen-table issues: health care, income inequality, climate change. Oh, but wait. Trump's doing everything possible to limit health care, increase income inequality and ignore climate change, which — like Russian election interference — he doesn't believe is real.
Here's what is real — and codified in Mueller indictments: Russians hacked and stole Democratic candidate and party emails. WikiLeaks' posted them. Russians manipulated our social media (and still continues to do so). The Trump Tower dirt-on-Hillary meeting with a Kremlin-connected lawyer is enshrined in Don Jr.'s email. Trump's part in concocting a false narrative about that meeting has been acknowledged. Michael Flynn and others in the campaign and administration talked with Russians about lifting sanctions and "back channel" meetings with Russian leaders.
All told, Trump and more than a dozen of his associates had more than 100 contacts with Russian nationals and WikiLeaks, or their intermediaries, during the campaign and transition, according to a review of indictments and public accounts. As for obstruction, Trump fired the FBI director for, in his own words, "the Russia thing. Then he fired his former attorney general after complaining that the AG recused himself from the Russia probe oversight.
Here's something else that remains true. By a stunningly bipartisan 420-to-0 vote, the House in mid-March called for the public release of the Mueller report.
That sets up quite a demand for Attorney General Barr. Does he again circle the wagons around Trump, or does he give the report to Congress? If he doesn't, Congress will surely subpoena it, and most seasoned government lawyers and law professors say Congress will almost certainly win that fight.
The attorney general should spare us the wasted time and money. He should follow Congress' vote and honor our democracy by releasing the entire report — along with its investigative record — immediately.