All eyes on William Barr
As various major news outlets continue to speculate about the conclusion of Robert Mueller’s investigation, the spotlight will inevitably begin to shine on William Barr. Before being confirmed as Attorney General, Barr penned a memo to Rod Rosenstein and Steven Engel stating that Trump’s firing of Comey did not rise to the level of legal obstruction because as president, he has the right to hire and fire staff as he sees fit.
Barr did, however, say in his memo that a president can be charged with obstruction if he destroys evidence, suborns perjury, or interferes with a witness with the intent of changing his or her testimony. Trump has been accused of doing most, if not all, of these things. Barr did disagree with Trump that Mueller’s investigation was a “witch hunt” though this public declaration reveals little of what Barr is thinking.
So, what’s it going to be for Barr? Is he going to allow Mueller’s report and everything contained therein to proceed, even if those findings support obstruction by the president? The Democrats are now demanding that Mueller’s report be made public or, at the very least, turned over to Congress. Barr is the only person who can make that ultimate decision.
Most believe that Trump nominated Barr because of the June 8 memo, erroneously thinking that his writing meant he was willing to protect Trump from criminal charges. Keep in mind that when Barr wrote his memo, it was from the standpoint of an outsider, giving his “two cents.” Barr acknowledged that he was not privy to any evidence or information held by the Justice Department. The bulk of Barr’s memo centered on the legal definition of “obstruction,” a category which he does not believe the firing of James Comey fits. He was clear that obstruction is “evidence of interference in finding the truth or otherwise compromising the integrity of such an investigation.” In that case, if it is proven that Trump tampered with witnesses (and we know he has), will Barr do the right thing and allow the report – good or bad – to be public?
Barr has stated that he will “summarize” Mueller’s report, but do his plans include leaving out pertinent parts that point to Trump’s guilt? If he follows the very law he quotes, he cannot. Barr could base much of his decision on whether or not people mentioned in the report will be indicted. Congress is pushing back, however, by reminding Barr that information that should have been confidential about Hillary Clinton was publicly released, though she was never indicted. Is one investigation more important than the other? No.
Where this ends up is anyone’s guess, but rest assured that if they are not given the opportunity to read Mueller’s full report, Congress will demand access. One way or the other, Mueller will find a way to make his findings public. We’re just getting started with this, so stay tuned. We won’t know anything until the report is released. Then, we will be able to see just how this plays out.
Shirley is a former entertainment writer and has worked in the legal field for over 25 years