I am embarrassed to admit that when William Barr became Donald Trump’s Attorney General a couple of months ago, I did not remember that he had been here, done that as George H. W. Bush’s Attorney General back in the previous century.
They did have television back then, however, and students of history, as well as students of politics, can profit from watching Barr’s original confirmation hearings, presided over – drum roll, please – by a younger, much more acute Joe Biden, who, like the poor, we seem to have always with us. It’s a long clip, but very much worth sampling, especially for the adroit, no-nonsense performance of William Barr and mildly challenging but still respectful performance of Joe Biden.
What a difference a few decades make! William Barr, though he has gained a few pounds, is still the razor sharp and amusingly unflappable character he was in 1991. Joe Biden – well, charity requires that we draw a veil over that subject. Let’s just say that President Trump’s epithet of ‘Sleepy Joe’ (or ‘SleepyCreepy Joe’) is generous.
Watching the histrionics of the Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee (as well as the Democrats on its Senate counterpart, especially the cognitively challenged Mazie Hirono), I am somewhat at a loss to explain their behavior.
For the past two-plus years, elements of the Obama administration, then the Obama administration in exile, have been swarming like termites over the enterprises of Trump, Inc., first his campaign and then his administration. The vast apparatus of the United States intelligence services, the Department of Justice, and other representatives of the Executive Branch have busied themselves burrowing into the record of Donald Trump’s business dealings, his foreign contacts, and contacts between anyone associated with him or his campaign and the outside world. Low-level staffers such as George Papadopoulos were set up by British or Australian-run intelligence assets. A fake, completely unverified dossier, compiled from dubious sources, paid for by the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign, was the chief, possibly the only ‘evidence’ used to obtain a FISA surveillance warrant against Carter Page, an American citizen, as a pretext to tap into (or, in the vernacular, ‘spy’) on the Trump campaign and then his administration. The compiler of the dossier, ex-British spy Christopher Steele, has admitted that he was desperate to have the dirt he had hoovered up about Donald Trump air before the election.
Then of course there was the investigation of Robert Mueller and his pack of anti-Trump prosecutors who spent millions turning over rocks under which they found people like Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer, and Paul Manafort, his former campaign manager, scuttling. They and others were duly indicted – but not for anything to do with ‘Russian collusion,’ the manufactured pretext of Mueller’s heavy-handed, made-for-TV investigation.
Finally, at last, Mueller and his team dumped their two-volume, nearly 500-page report on Attorney General Barr last month. Case closed? I thought so. I hoped so.
Not a chance. Volume One, as all the world knows, exonerated the president of anything like ‘Russian Collusion.’ Volume Two declined to exonerate him from the charge of obstruction, instead leaving the ball in the Attorney General’s court. It also, thanks apparently to Andrew Weismann, was a sort of midden of malicious accusation, innuendo, gossip, and calumny directed at the president. Its legal value is precisely zero. But its value as weapon? That remains to be seen.
If the histrionics emanating from the Democratic sides of the House and the Senate are any indication, the end of the Mueller investigation, though profoundly disappointing for those who hoped it would spark the removal of Donald Trump from the White House in handcuffs, signaled merely the end of chapter one of the great Get Trump Saga. At the end of the chapter, it looked as though the villain was eluding justice. With a twirl of his Twitter handle, he makes for the finish line, but the next chapter opens the the revenge of the gerontocracy, as Mazie Hirono, Jerry Nadler, Richard ’Nam Blumenthal and the rest of the capeless wonders waddle back on to stage screeching ‘impeachment’ and emitting charges of obstruction of justice and issuing subpoenas that will elicit quizzical looks but little else from William Barr, Donald Trump, Jr., Don McGahn, and anyone who happens to have been wetted by the spray of Jerry Nadler’s incontinent piffle.
James Piereson, in ‘Roadblocks to Impeachment,’ has outlined some of the many obstacles to that holy grail, impeachment, the consummation of removing Donald Trump from office. ‘Democrats and their loud supporters outside Congress,’ Piereson notes, ‘seem shocked that the president should be throwing up roadblocks in their campaign to remove him from office.’
‘But if Mr. Trump is as ruthless as they claim him to be, then it should be expected that he will fight back with all the tools at his disposal – which is exactly what he is going to do, much to the delight of his own substantial army of supporters. As it turns out, the president has many such tools to blunt the march to impeachment –enough of them, in fact, to extend the controversy well into next year, when it will become a polarizing issue in the 2020 elections.’
Indeed. And then it will be game, set, match, Donald J. Trump. Check back in early 2025 when The Donald, having completed a full two terms can look with satisfaction over his remaking of the courts, including the Supreme Court, his transformation of the regulatory environment, his bolstering of the US military, robust growth rates often north of 3 percent, low unemployment, a revitalization of the Anglosphere, a secure Southern border, and much, much more.
It is pretty clear that the Democrats are hoping, praying that they can, by a deft smoke-and-mirrors legerdemain, make this war on the president seem like a re-run of their favorite movie, Watergate! But the public looks at Trump, it looks at the seemingly interminable Mueller investigation and the fact that, even with the worst will in the world, Mueller, Weismann, and the rest of the anti-Trump jackals simply could not, after more than two years, scrape together any indictable offense with which to charge the president: they look at that, and then they turn to regard Jerry Nadler, Mazie Hirono, and the Democratic media hacks working for the DNC and they say (as more and more are saying) ‘What’s all this? Donald Trump let Mueller have his romp for two years and Mueller found nothing, nothing about Russian conspiracy so give it a rest, already.’
Then how to explain the deranged posturing of the Democrats? Jerry Nadler keeps demanding the full, unredacted Mueller report. But, as Andrew McCarthy and others have pointed out, the report of Special Counsel Mueller is legally the province of the Attorney General – ‘Barr did not owe Congress a single comma,’ said McCarthy, ‘because federal law calls for it to be confidential.’ Nevertheless, because of the intense public interest in the report, Barr made it available, redacting only those few portions that he was required by law to redact (those relating to ongoing investigations and those relating to grand jury material). Apparently only about 10 percent of the total report has been redacted, only about 1.5 percent of the version made available to select members of Congress.
But that hasn’t satisfied Congressman Nadler. Why? Because he is not interested in the report. In that same piece I just cited, Andy McCarthy suggests that the reason behind the Democrats’ apparently unhinged behavior is ‘politics’. That is undoubtedly true, in some sense. But it is not, I think, politics in any usual sense. Rather, it is politics as an exercise in self-preservation. The Democrats had a field day accusing AG Barr of cowardice, of being ‘chicken,’ because he refused to submit himself to being grilled by staff lawyers for the Members of Congress. Some showed up before the television cameras with rubber chickens. One deployed a big tub of fried chicken on his desk to make the point.
But here’s the truth of the matter. William Barr has pledged to answer the following questions: ‘How did the Trump-Russia investigation get started? Who started it? On what authority? For what reason? What was the rationale for the FISA warrants taken out against Carter Page and renewed several times? It has been alleged that assets of the DOJ spied on the Trump campaign: did they? The entire investigation was plagued by leaks of classified information, a felony: who leaked it that information? Who, for example, leaked the transcript of the phone call between Michael Flynn, Trump’s first, ill-fated director of the National Security Council and the Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak? There is only a small circle of possible candidates.’
If William Barr’s behavior over the last month or two doesn’t convince you that he excels in doggedness and is very likely to answer all of these questions, take a look at his performance in that 1991 clip I linked to above. The man is part terrier (and another part Sphinx). He will get to the bottom of this whole rotten story and (as he explained in that earlier confirmation hearing) he will neither pursue anyone groundlessly because he has influential enemies, nor will he forbear to indict someone who has broken the law because he is politically powerful. I believe this is true. Like Koko in The Mikado, I have a little list on which are the names of several prominent Democrats who I believe have broken the law. William Barr surely has a similar list, though his is probably longer.
The only thing that will stop the Democrats from attempting to repeal the results of the 2016 election is unavoidable evidence that the man they seek to destroy will not acquiesce in his own destruction. This Donald Trump is doing. Part of his energy has been channeled from an Attorney General who is both phlegmatic and determined. It won’t be long before the Democrats will need a quiet pool in which to play with those rubber chickens, more and more of which are coming home to roost.