Screengrab from https://youtu.be/_X13UvNBBec
In his extraordinary, hour-long interview with CBS This Morning, Attorney General William Barr revealed many things. Among them are that he and Bob Mueller are on the same page and have always been; that the idea the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians was “bogus”; that he still has some questions about how the investigation was handled and that it went outside of normal protocol; that the collusion players were a small cabal of upper echelon employees rather than an entire corrupt system; that, in his view, trying to unseat a duly elected, sitting president was as much of a danger to democracy as foreign interference in electoral processes; and that Utah Attorney General John Huber’s investigation is focused on Hillary Clinton and could be wrapped up soon (!).
But among those many revelations, Barr implies he may give the players in the collusion hoax more latitude than he gives the press and the opponents of Trump who have twisted the investigation and misled the public on all manner of things related to the investigation.
For example, Barr suggests that the the players in the collusion hoax, while certainly endangering the democratic process, were, in some ways, acting on what they believed to be the right thing to do, as misguided as Barr clearly thinks it was.
When interviewer Jan Crawford ask Barr about whether he had concerns about how the counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign was conducted, Barr gives a stunning response.
WILLIAM BARR: Yes but you know, when you’re dealing with official government contact, intent is frequently a murky issue. I’m not suggesting that people did what they did necessarily because of conscious, nefarious motives. Sometimes people can convince themselves that what they’re doing is in the higher interest, the better good. They don’t realize that what they’re doing is really antithetical to the democratic system that we have. They start viewing themselves as the guardians of the people that are more informed and insensitive than everybody else. They can- in their own mind, they can have those kinds of motives. And sometimes they can look at evidence and facts through a biased prism that they themselves don’t realize.
That something objectively as applied as a neutral principle across the board really you know, shouldn’t be the standard used in the case but because they have a particular bias they don’t see that. So that’s why procedures and standards are important and review afterward is an important way of making sure that government power is being conscientiously and properly applied. It doesn’t necessarily mean that there are people- you know, that people have crossed lines have done so with corrupt intent or anything like that.
At a different point in the interview, Barr discusses the “appalling” behavior of Peter Strzok, so he by no means lets the collusion team off the hook. But it’s an interesting response, especially in light of how very little rope he gives to talking heads and media members who have misled the populace in a “hyper-partisan” frenzy. As Barr tells Crawford near the beginning of the interview:
Well, we live in a hyper-partisan age where people no longer really pay attention to the substance of what’s said but as to who says it and what side they’re on and what it’s political ramifications are. The Department of Justice is all about the law, and the facts and the substance and I’m going to make the decisions based on the law and the facts and I realize that’s intention with the political climate we live in because people are more interested in getting their way politically. so I think it just goes with the territory of being the attorney general in a hyper-partisan period of time.
Later, he reveals why he wrote his four-page memo after the redactions he was promised from the Mueller team never came and he realized he had to give the public and the media something as they extended the redaction period for a few more weeks.
BARR: I didn’t think the body politic would allow us to go on radio silence for four weeks. I mean, people were camped outside my house and the department and every- there was all kinds of wild speculation going on. Former senior intelligence officials who were purporting to have it- or intimating that they had inside information were suggesting that the president and his family were going to be indicted and so forth–
JAN CRAWFORD: And saying that publicly?
WILLIAM BARR: Saying that publicly. There was all kind of wild and–
JAN CRAWFORD: And you knew that to be false?
WILLIAM BARR: Yes, and it was wild and irresponsible speculation going on which the very–
JAN CRAWFORD: Wild and irresponsible. The former intelligence officials’ speculation–
WILLIAM BARR: Right, and talking heads and things like that, and these things affect the United States’ ability to function in the world. We have an economy. It could affect the economy. It can affect – it can affect our foreign relations during very delicate period of time with, you know, serious adversaries in the world. So I felt- that in order to buy time, in order to get the report out, I had to state the bottom line just like you’re announcing a verdict in a case. My purpose there was not to summarize every jot and tittle of the report and every, you know, angle that – that Mueller looked into. But, just state the bottom line which I did in the four page memo.
Later he talks about his amusement that people are concerned he might slip up and declassify things that could compromise assets or hurt intelligence recruiting.
WILLIAM BARR: Well in an exceptional circumstance I have that authority but obviously I intend to consult with them. I’m amused by these people who make a living by disclosing classified information, including the names of intelligence operatives, wringing their hands about whether I’m going to be responsible in protecting intelligence sources and methods. I’ve been in the business as I’ve said for over 50 years long before they were born and I know how to handle classified information and I believe strongly in protecting intelligence sources and methods. But at the same time if there is information that can be shared with the American people without jeopardizing intelligence sources and methods that decision should be made and because I will be involved in finding out what the story was I think I’m in the best decision to make that decision
Finally, he marvels at the media’s apparent new focus away from fact-finding and toward protecting government sources.
WILLIAM BARR: Well the media reaction is strange. Normally the media would be interested in letting the sunshine in and finding out what the truth is. And usually the media doesn’t care that much about protecting intelligence sources and methods. But I do and I will.
The interview should be a must-watch for all Americans. Barr, very near the end, hits on what has characterized U.S. politics for the last 10 years or so: a growing partisan opportunism that, arguably, has been fueled and sustained by a media that has their own political agenda.
WILLIAM BARR: Yeah, because I realize we live in a crazy hyper-partisan period of time and I knew that it would only be a matter of time if I was behaving responsibly and calling them as I see them, that I would be attacked because nowadays people don’t care about the merits and the substance. They only care about who it helps, who benefits, whether my side benefits or the other side benefits, everything is gauged by politics. And as I say, that’s antithetical to the way the department runs and any attorney general in this period is going to end up losing a lot of political capital and I realize that and that is one of the reasons that I ultimately was persuaded that I should take it on because I think at my stage in life it really doesn’t make any difference.
For all the revelations, the most astonishing is the one where Barr appears more forgiving of the small group of anti-Trump bureaucrats than he is of the media machine and partisan officials who divide Americans with histrionic misinformation.