Let’s not permit our collective political bias to blind us to the fact that William Barr is not a stupid man. When Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen asked the Attorney General if Robert Mueller supported his summary of the Mueller Report, Barr replied, “I don’t know whether Bob Mueller supported my conclusion.” That was not only an unequivocal lie, it was an unequivocal lie that Barr must have known would come out sooner rather than later.
I’m not willing to allow that Barr is shocked or surprised that the content of Mueller’s letter contradicting Barr’s assertion would come out. It just doesn’t seem possible that Barr could believe that an upright straight arrow like Bob Mueller would hide – forever – so glaring a perfidy, merely to protect the reputation of William Barr.
So we must ask the question: what the hell is going on here? If Barr is lying, then his perjury could get him held in contempt of Congress. The last person to be convicted of contempt of Congress and actually receive a jail sentence was EPA official Rita Lavelle, who, on April 26, 1983, was found guilty of Contempt of Congress and sentenced to six months in prison (of which she served half). The last Attorney General to be held in contempt of Congress was Barack Obama’s own AG Eric Holder, who was convicted on June 20, 2012. Holder was later cleared of any wrongdoing by the Department of Justice.
So as crimes go, contempt of Congress is not particularly draconian in its consequences, and hasn’t resulted in a prison sentence in 36 years. And when you have the president of the United States and the DOJ on your side, the probability that you will ever go to jail because of it becomes vanishingly small.
Clearly William Barr is unconcerned about this. He is deeply vested instead in repeating the fiction that the Mueller Report clears the president of collusion. So too, it would appear, is Senator Lindsey Graham, who made a sickening regurgitation of that very claim in his opening remarks to the Senate Judiciary committee on Wednesday morning.
Repeating the lie is the key, and, it would appear, the personal cost for repeating that lie is not to be considered. So again, why? What do they hope to gain?
No one can say for sure. But one possibility is, they believe that Trump will be around as president for a second term. It makes no difference exactly how likely or unlikely that may be, the important thing to remember is William Barr, Lindsey Graham and other key Republicans believe it. It is up to us to find out why they believe this. We can only hope the reason is ideological self-delusion, and not something we don’t know about but very well may learn too late – and learn it to our infinite peril.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.