Attorney General William Barr said during Senate hearings today that he plans to release a redacted version of the Mueller report within a week, and that he intends to make the entirety of Mueller’s obstruction findings public. There is no reason at this point to believe anything Barr says about the report, but it does now appear that he’s planning to give up the obstruction evidence in the hope it’ll buy him enough cover to keep the collusion evidence under wraps.
Not long after William Barr finished testifying, Donald Trump posted this interestingly timed tweet: “So, it has now been determined, by 18 people that truly hate President Trump, that there was No Collusion with Russia. In fact, it was an illegal investigation that should never have been allowed to start. I fought back hard against this Phony & Treasonous Hoax!” What stands out there is the last sentence.
Trump is doubling down on Barr’s assertion that Mueller found “no collusion with Russia,” even though Barr was instead referring rather narrowly to collusion directly with the Russian government. Even as Trump continues to pretend he’s been exonerated on collusion, when he says “I fought back hard,” he’s confessing to obstruction, no two ways about it. This tells us two things.
First, it’s fairly clear that Trump knows he’s about to get exposed on obstruction of justice when the redacted Mueller report is released next week. It may not have all of the obstruction stuff, but it’s clearly going to be ugly for Trump. Maybe William Barr warned him privately, or maybe Trump watched the hearings today and figured it out himself.
Second, Donald Trump just gave away his strategy: he’s going to insist that his felony obstruction of justice antics were justified because there was “no collusion” and it was an “illegal” investigation to begin with. That’s not at all how the law works, but Trump seems more interested in pandering to his base than in making a legal argument.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report