Attorney General Weasel Word

14536155 - long tailed weasel performing a flexible stretch to look behind

William Saletan looks at the Barr letter and calls out ten weasily phrases.

Some of you may think that partisan commentators are just looking for stuff that isn’t really there.

No, ladies and germs, clever, weasily language is what lawyers employ to defend guilty clients.

I know. Been there. Done that.

Let me call your attention in particular to this paragraph from the Saletan post, which addresses much the same issue I wrote about previously:

“Absence of such evidence.” One reason to be suspicious of Barr’s conclusions is that in the course of the letter, he tweaks Mueller’s opinion to look more like his own. Mueller’s report, as excerpted by Barr, says “the evidence does not establish that the President was involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference.” Barr quotes that line and then, in the same sentence, concludes that “the absence of such evidence bears upon the President’s intent with respect to obstruction.” But the excerpt from Mueller’s report doesn’t refer to an absence of evidence. It refers to a presence of evidence, and it says this evidence isn’t enough to prove a crime. Throughout the investigation, this has been a standard Republican maneuver: misrepresenting an absence of proof as an absence of evidence. Barr’s use of this maneuver in his letter is a red flag that he’s writing partisan spin.