William Barr suddenly has a whole new problem

This evening the federal judge in the Michael Flynn criminal case decided that it’s time for the American public to know about Donald Trump’s crimes. The judge revealed in a court filing that Trump’s underlings, including one of his personal attorneys, tried to scare Flynn out of cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller – and some of it was captured on voicemail. Then the judge issued a separate ruling that creates a whole new problem for Attorney General William Barr.

The judge has ordered that everything in the Mueller report, that has anything to do with Michael Flynn, must be promptly released to the public in unredacted form; this was first flagged by Rachel Maddow this evening. This ruling means that William Barr has to comply with this, or the judge can hold him in contempt of court and have him hauled in.

Contempt of court comes with more immediate and harsh penalties than, say, contempt of Congress. Based on the fierceness with which the Flynn judge has decided that the public deserves to know what really went on with Flynn and Trump, we have little doubt that the judge will take aggressive measures against Barr if he refuses to follow the order. To be clear, neither Trump nor Barr has any ability to fire or discipline this judge, because he works for a different branch of the government.

So now William Barr will either have to publicly release the Michael Flynn related portions of the Mueller report, which would get him in trouble with Donald Trump, or Barr will have to sit on his hands to please Trump while running into immediate legal trouble with a judge. Based on what the judge released tonight, it’s clear that the Flynn-related portions of the Mueller report are brutal for Trump when it comes to both collusion and obstruction. Barr can’t win this; we’ll see which losing path he chooses.

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