(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)
Robert E. Lee had Stonewall Jackson and Donald Trump has William Barr. The two came together in a peculiar way this week. First the president doubled down on his remark that there had been ‘very fine people’ on both sides in Charlottesville, by claiming that the neo-Nazis and KKK members who marched there were defending the honor of Lee, a cruel slave owner who led a military insurrection against the United States, but according to Trump was one of ‘our’ greatest generals. Obviously the president’s recurring defense of anti-Semites didn’t go down well right after another deadly shooting at a synagogue, and Trump didn’t make things better when at a campaign rally he graphically described how after having given birth and dressed up their babies some mothers start planning the killing of their newborn with the doctor. But it was all only an overture to a shitshow at the US Senate where Barr, who was called ‘Cover-up General Barr’ during his first stint as Attorney General under George H.W. Bush, would take center stage. His failed attempt to bury evidence of Bush’s involvement in Iraq-gate and the Iran-Contra affair earned him his first nickname, but henceforth he should be known as ‘Stonewall Barr.’
On the eve of Barr’s testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee the Washington Post revealed that late in March Robert Mueller had sent Barr a letter expressing his disapproval of the way Barr had characterized the findings of his investigation in a four page letter to Congress on March 24th. Further reporting showed that the Special Counsel’s office had already contacted the Department of Justice on March 25th about these concerns, and in the afternoon of that day sent a letter once more containing the summaries of Mueller’s report it had prepared for the general public, asking for their immediate release. When there had been no response Mueller sent Barr a letter on March 27th, stating that the Attorney General’s actions had created ‘public confusion about critical aspects of his investigation’ and undermined confidence in the role of the Special Counsel as an impartial investigator. It was obvious that in Mueller’s opinion Barr had misrepresented his findings in order to give Trump the chance to claim complete exoneration, and that he was pissed off about it, just like Barr got pissed off about Mueller’s letters and called his (former?) friend the next day to tell him to stop writing letters.
Mueller’s second letter can be summarized as ‘stop lying about my report’ and freaked out Trump, who launched a tweetstorm attacking Mueller, the FBI and for all practical purposes Hillary Clinton. Barr’s criticism of the Special Counsel in his Senate hearing was that if Mueller wasn’t going to indict Trump he should not have investigated him, a declaration that – in light of the Office of Legal Counsel’s opinion that a sitting president cannot be indicted – implies that the president can never be investigated and is in fact above the law.
Since Mueller made it clear in his report that he had preserved evidence for Trump to potentially be indicted after his presidency White House Counsel Emmit Flood sent a letter to Barr accusing Mueller of ‘playing politics,’ exhibiting once more how scared Trump is of Mueller. Barr pulled out of a House hearing the day after his Senate hearing, but it appears that direct negotiations with Mueller are under way to have him testify by mid-May.
Trying to block the testimony of the Special Counsel and that of witnesses like former White House Counsel Don McGahn yesterday the White House issued a statement that Trump will no longer allow anybody who works or has worked for his administration to testify to Congress. Even Stonewall Barr, who is after all a skilled lawyer, must realize that this is an empty gesture.
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