William Barr failed Donald Trump miserably yesterday. If you don’t want to take our word for it, just ask Donald Trump himself, who is now moving on from his Barr-as-human-shield strategy in favor of a new and more desperate strategy. Trump and his regime have leaked a letter that Emmet Flood secretly wrote to Barr last month, signaling that Flood is taking over Trump’s obstruction effort – and that Flood is doing it in far more extreme fashion.
If you’re wondering why Barr felt empowered to slam Robert Mueller and his team as being “snitty” yesterday, you need look no further than the Emmet Flood letter, which has been leaked to NBC News. Flood told Barr in the letter that the Mueller report consisted of little more than “political statements” suffering from an “extraordinary legal defect.” Flood also informed Barr that he was instructing all of Trump’s people not to cooperate with Congress on any level.
The key here is that Flood sent this letter to Barr roughly two weeks ago, yet Barr went ahead and testified yesterday anyway, perhaps as a last ditch trial balloon to see if Barr could take the heat off Trump. That clearly didn’t work, and now that Barr has violated the law today by bailing on today’s House Judiciary Committee hearing, the Trump regime has leaked the letter accordingly. The letter signals a few things.
First, William Barr is done. It’s clear that after yesterday’s debacle, Donald Trump and Emmet Flood now view Barr as too much of a liability to continue trying to use him in public. It also means Barr is essentially expendable. If House Democrats impeach him, or hold him in contempt of Congress and arrest him, then so be it.
Second, Flood’s letter makes clear that Trump is shifting to a strategy of attacking Mueller, not only in public discourse, but also as a legal strategy. Flood’s legal experience centers around executive privilege, which Trump has already waived. He can’t un-waive it, so it’s not clear if he’ll try to pretend he never waived it, or if Flood’s strategy will center around unofficially invoking executive privilege while not using those words.
In any case, it’ll be all obstruction, all the time, going forward. The bad news for House Democrats is they’ll have to fight for every bit of progress when it comes to investigating Trump’s crimes and scandals. The good news is that, because Trump is taking this blatantly obstructive strategy, and because Flood’s letter prevents him from being able to pretend he’s somehow cooperating, it gives House Democrats a lot of leverage to move as aggressively as they want against Trump’s own people. Trump just declared that his own underlings are expendable pawns; House Democrats can start expending them accordingly.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report