The current DOJ US Department of Justice’s Attorney General William Barr has come under a lot of heat for not being a straight shooter regarding his handling of the FBI’s 3/22/2019 final report regarding its 22 month long Trump-Russia probe led by the Special Counsel Robert Mueller III.
Many critics including Neal Katyal who wrote the ‘Special Counsel” rules have been speculating as to why he appears to be acting the part of the republican President Donald Trump’s personal advocate (Roy Cohn) versus primarily representing the interests of the American peoples.
Personally, I’ve offered the theory that he has been acting like the majority of White Christian fundamentalists/ Evangelicals who have been convinced that God sent him to champion their causes to where he requires protection.
There are evangelicalized” white Catholics. and Mr. Barr is a practicing conservative Catholic plus a member of the far right Catholic organization, the Knights of Columbus.
Others have been speculating that he’s delaying the publication of the FBI’s Final Report while he and others draft the 50- 200 plus page commentary that will purportedly be marketed as the president’s response to the 400 plus page FBI’s Mueller’s final report.
But the following analysis indicates a pattern of behavior…”
The FBI’s Mueller’s final report is scheduled for public release minus redacted portions as determined by Mr. Barr on Thursday (4/18/2019) right before a major weekend holiday of Passover /Easter. That’s the same playbook he used before the advent of the internet and social media.
Many years ago there was a scandal called Iran-Contra affair. On Dec. 24, 1992, which ended when President H. W. Bush pardoned six people who had been caught up in it. What Mr Barr did as the US Attorney General during this time period, was set up the announcement for all the pardons, controversial in nature, right before the Christmas holidays when the US Congress was in recess.
Here’s the rest of the story of another repeat performance…
On April 15, 2019. Ryan Goodman of Just Security penned the following analysis, “Barr’s Playbook: He Misled Congress When Omitting Parts of Justice Dep’t Memo in 1989”
“On Friday the thirteenth October 1989, by happenstance the same day as the “Black Friday” market crash, news leaked of a legal memo authored by William Barr. He was then serving as head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC). It is highly uncommon for any OLC memo to make headlines. This one did because it was issued in “unusual secrecy” and concluded that the FBI could forcibly abduct people in other countries without the consent of the foreign state. The headline also noted the implication of the legal opinion at that moment in time. It appeared to pave the way for abducting Panama’s leader, Gen. Manuel Noriega.”
“Members of Congress asked to see the full legal opinion. Barr refused, but said he would provide an account that “summarizes the principal conclusions.” Sound familiar? In March 2019, when Attorney General Barr was handed Robert Mueller’s final report, he wrote that he would “summarize the principal conclusions” of the special counsel’s report for the public.”
“When Barr withheld the full OLC opinion in 1989 and said to trust his summary of the principal conclusions, Yale law school professor Harold Koh wrote that Barr’s position was “particularly egregious.” Congress also had no appetite for Barr’s stance, and eventually issued a subpoena to successfully wrench the full OLC opinion out of the Department.”
“What’s different from that struggle and the current struggle over the Mueller report is that we know how the one in 1989 eventually turned out.”
“When the OLC opinion was finally made public long after Barr left office, it was clear that Barr’s summary had failed to fully disclose the opinion’s principal conclusions. It is better to think of Barr’s summary as a redacted version of the full OLC opinion. That’s because the “summary” took the form of 13 pages of written testimony. The document was replete with quotations from court cases, legal citations, and the language of the OLC opinion itself. Despite its highly detailed analysis, this 13-page version omitted some of the most consequential and incendiary conclusions from the actual opinion. And there was evidently no justifiable reason for having withheld those parts from Congress or the public.”
Public and Congressional pressure mounts
“When first asked by reporters about the OLC opinion that Friday, Barr said he could not discuss any of its contents. He said. “The office … provides legal advice throughout the Administration and does it on a confidential basis.”
“The idea that Barr and the administration would not even discuss the content of the opinion could not withstand public pressure. Barr’s stance was especially untenable because his OLC opinion reversed a prior OLC opinion (an unusual event), and the Justice Department had released that prior opinion in full to the public just 4 years earlier.”
“President George H.W. Bush was asked about the Barr legal opinion at a news conference on the day the story broke. “The FBI can go into Panama now?,” a reporter asked in connection with the legal opinion. Bush responded that he was “embarrassed” not to know about the OLC opinion. “I’ll have to get back to you with the answer,” the president said.”
“Within hours, Secretary of State James Baker tried to make some reassuring public comments about the content of the OLC opinion. “This is a very narrow legal opinion based on consideration only of domestic United States law.” Baker said. “It did not take into account international law, nor did it weigh the President’s constitutional responsibility to carry out the foreign policy of the United States.”
“It’s not known whether Baker had first cleared his statement with the Justice Department as is often the case for such matters. But his description of the OLC opinion would turn out to be not just misleading, but false.”
“The Chair of the House Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on civil and constitutional rights, Rep. Don Edwards, then wrote to the Attorney General requesting the opinion, but he was rebuffed. An assistant attorney general wrote back. “We are unable to provide you with a copy of the 1989 opinion because it is the established view of the Department of Justice that current legal advice by the Office of Legal Counsel is confidential,” she stated. But there was no categorical prohibition, as Barr himself would later admit in testifying before Congress. The assistant attorney general’s letter itself included one glaring counterexample. “I am enclosing a copy of the 1980 opinion,” she wrote, and she noted that the Department had released the 1980 opinion to the public in 1985.”
“So why not release the 1989 opinion? Was there something to hide?”
Barr provides a “redacted opinion” to Congress
“On the morning of Nov. 8, 1989, Barr came to Congress to testify before Rep. Edwards’ subcommittee. Some of the events that unfolded also bear a remarkable resemblance to Barr’s handling of the Mueller report to date.”
“First, Barr started out by saying that the history of internal Justice Department rules was a basis for not handing over the full opinion to Congress. “Chairman. Since its inception, the Office of Legal Counsel’s opinions have been treated as confidential,” Barr said.”
“That statement was misleading or false, and Chairman Edwards knew it.”
“Edwards quickly pointed out that the Department had released a compendium of opinions for the general public, including the 1980 one that Barr’s secret opinion reversed. “Up until 1985 you published them, and I have it in front of me—‘Opinions of the Office of Legal Counsel’—the previous opinion.”
Barr retreated. “It has been the long established policy of OLC that except in very exceptional circumstances, the opinions must remain confidential.” The reference to “very exceptional circumstances” backtracked from what Barr had just said and what the letter sent to Rep. Edwards by the assistant attorney general had claimed.”
“But even the assertion that OLC opinions were released only in “very exceptional circumstances” could not withstand scrutiny. The Justice Department had shared OLC opinions with Congress on many occasions during the 1980s, as a letter by Rep. Edwards to the Justice Department later detailed.”
“Barr then pointed out his willingness to provide Congress with “our conclusions and our reasoning.” This was the 13-page written testimony which contained a detail recounting of the views expressed in the OLC opinion. Chairman Edwards complained that Barr had violated the rules of the House by submitting his written testimony only that same morning of the hearing, rather than 48 hours in advance. Barr’s timing meant that members of the committee and their staff were not well equipped to analyze or question the OLC’s analysis. But at least they had the OLC’s views in writing. Or did they?”
“Barr’s description of the OLC’s views included that as a matter of domestic law the President has the authority to authorize actions by the FBI in foreign countries in violation of customary international law.”
Without the benefit of the OLC opinion, Professor Koh explained how Barr could be hiding important matters by asking Congress and the public to trust just the 13-page version. Koh wrote:
“Barr’s continuing refusal to release the 1989 opinion left outsiders with no way to tell whether it rested on factual assumptions that did not apply to the earlier situation, which part of the earlier opinion had not been overruled, or whether the overruling opinion contained nuances, subtleties, or exceptions that Barr’s summary in testimony simply omitted.”
Koh’s words proved prescient.
What Barr left out of his report to Congress
“I’m not the first to notice that Barr’s testimony omitted parts of the OLC opinion that would’ve earned the Justice Department scorn from the halls of Congress, legal experts, and the public.”
“Over one and a half years after his testimony, Congress finally subpoenaed Barr’s 1989 opinion. Another House Judiciary subcommittee issued the subpoena on July 25, 1991. The administration first resisted, but within a week agreed that members of Congress could see the full opinion. That same month, the Washington Post’s Michael Isikoff obtained a copy of the OLC opinion. The Clinton administration, within its first year in office, then published the OLC opinion in 1993 making it publicly available for the first time.”
Link to must read report: Barr’s Playbook: He Misled Congress When Omitting Parts of Justice Dep’t Memo in 1989