Multiple Felony Indictments, Part 2

I don’t know where all of this will lead—we are all on one hell of a rollercoaster ride—but my instinct tells me the former prosecutors signing the statement, now numbering more than 700, might be beginning to make a difference. I particularly appreciated the comments in the video from one of Kenneth Starr’s henchpersons.

Meanwhile, Dr. Aardvark and I dined at Happy Acres this evening with four of our progressive friends. (Crabmeat stuffed flounder. Very good.) Some of my friends took me to task for “continuing to defend Barr.” I deny that’s what I’m doing, but I adhere to the view that Barr’s performance is so bad that it isn’t a defense of Trump, it’s a parody of a defense of Trump. In short, on the available evidence, I believe Barr’s throwing the game. Certainly, he doesn’t seem to be trying very hard to fool anyone except Trump.

For a related perspective, see Barr has set himself up — and Trump — for embarrassment.

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Today’s readers come from Canada, Germany, Pakistan, South Africa, the United States, and some unidentified location in the European Union. Greetings to all. Recent readers from Bosnia and Denmark appear to have had enough. I feel their pain.

The Devil’s Advocate

Trump in hell

Alexandra Petri writes,

… Barr then is in another hearing room. It is about the same as in Congress, only the light all feels artificial, as though it is deep underwater, seen through feet of smeared glass. Perhaps deeper than that. The walls of the room seem to heave and breathe and perspire.

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) is still running the hearing, but he looks a little more concerned, and hotter. Barr is in the midst of talking. There is a Bible in front of him, but for some reason he does not wish to touch it. …

“I have not read the full evidence,” Barr says, “but I am confident this so-called Good Book largely exonerates my client. The serpent did no wrong.” …

“There isn’t any law against offering people free apples. Though it could be argued that those apples were planted there by his opponent and, thus, any attempt to use them to indict him is fruit of a poisoned tree. In fact, the real question is why a nude woman was trying to take ownership of a garden. The real question is what she was trying to cover up afterward.”

“All these allegations that they saw him transform into a serpent are just mind-bendingly bizarre, and I don’t know why they were spying on him. He should be allowed to transform into a serpent in privacy, although, of course he did not. ‘Spying’ is not a pejorative term.” …

“Tormenting a righteous man and covering him with boils and demolishing his cattle — some would call that Job creation. That’s what I call it.”

A deep sulfurous rumble, almost like laughter, like the belch after you had eaten a soul that did not agree with you.

“The real question is why this framework for judgment and investigation was constructed in the first place. My client has a right to retaliate when he feels he is being treated unjustly. If anyone comes along and seeks to cast you out of a place, you are entitled to retaliate. You are where you are because you deserve to be there.” …

“Did he try to lead people into temptation? I am struggling with the word temptation. I will spend up to 40 days struggling with it. Tempt? Did he tempt people? I’m sorry, I do not know what the word means. I am confused. Did he suggest that people do bad things? What are words? What is bad? I am sorry, I have forgotten the meaning of all words. I have forgotten even myself. I am just a little baby who has gotten here for the first time today. No word carries any value or meaning. I say them and they flutter away and I forget them, like instructions from a president.” …

“Yes, I am familiar with the people who have called him directly and personally responsible for every bad thing that happens, and who have castigated me for my willingness to serve as his personal defender. But afterward, I called them on the phone and they said they did not mean it. They said really they were upset because of the way it was talked about. They regretted denouncing me. I wish that instead of the evidence of all the derogatory things they said publicly in writing, you had evidence of all the good things that they said afterward, definitely, in secret, where only I could hear them. And my client, who hears all things. No matter where we are.” The light is gone. His voice echoes. “Where are we?”

If this were a nightmare, the sound would wake him, but it has not awakened him yet. He meant well enough. He knows where he is.

Impeach Barr?

grab him

Rich Lowry lives in a rightwing house of mirrors, but he gets an anomaly that pretty much everyone else is overlooking: “Let’s be clear. If Barr wanted to cover for Trump, he could have crimped the Mueller probe, sat on the report, or redacted it into meaninglessness. He did none of the above.”

Having grasped the apparently large gap between what Barr says and what Barr does, Lowry leaps to the risible conclusion that only what he does is important; what he says makes no nevermind. (Or, at least I think that’s the burden of his essay; I couldn’t make myself read the whole thing.)

Today, there’s talk of beginning impeachment proceedings against Barr. My initial impression is that might not be the world’s worst idea. Not mainly because he richly merits removal from office—for lying to Congress, lying to the public, and holding heterodox and authoritarian legal opinions. No, in my view, the best reason to start the process would be establishing a stronger basis to watch him like a hawk, in respect of his supervision of ongoing investigations.

My hypothesis is that Barr is playing Trump for a sucker—a strategy that implies he has to play the rest of us like suckers for the next little while. As of now, I adhere to that hypothesis.

But I might be wrong. So, to ensure Barr’s good behavior, it might be well to begin the impeachment process> Let Nancy Pelosi grab him down where the hairs are short, get a good and steady grip, and give a strong squeeze as and when necessary.

Also, there is this. If my hypothesis happens to be right, Trump will wake up one day and realize what is happening. He will want to fire Barr. But if he fires Barr while Barr is under threat of impeachment, it will look weak. Paradoxically, then, beginning the process of impeachment might help ensure that Barr isn’t replaced by someone worse.

On Thursday, William Barr Needs to Wash His Hair, Get a Pedicure, and Pick Up Some Groceries

pedicure

So he will not be able to testify before the House Judiciary Committee.

Pundits continue to marvel that William Barr Didn’t Really Need This Job—and that in his testimony today he showed “casual contempt and disdain”for the proper role of the attorney general. He was just sort of phoning it in.

But the Trumpster, we are told, loved it. Ate it up with two spoons. Saw Barr’s testimony as a great victory for his team.

But don’t forget: what Barr redacted is important, but so is what he didn’t redact.

And what Barr says is important, but so is what he does.

Most importantly, will he obstruct the many ongoing investigations? (Dr. Aardvark asked, “How will we know?” Good question. The answer is that, if he obstructs, there will be leaks. Man o man, will there be leaks.)

A performance so wretched as materially to diminish his, and Trump’s, already diminished reputations. Imbecilic exclamations of delight from Trump—elicited by a man who “really didn’t need this job.”

I become increasingly persuaded that Barr has decided that if he is going to live in Looneytown, then the only way he will be effective is to act the part of the looniest loon around.

That’s what Looneytown’s mayor wants. That’s what Barr is giving him.

Meanwhile, overacting so badly that sometime soon the only one who will not get the joke is the mayor.

Looneytown

Just Bonkers

crazy like a fox

Jennifer Rubin, William Barr and his horrible hearing:

So far, Attorney General William P. Barr’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee has done himself and the administration no favors. To the contrary, former acting solicitor general Neal Katyal observes, “Barr has been evasive and misleading from the first paragraph. It’s conduct totally unbecoming of an attorney general. He’s not even very good at misleading.”

Fordham law professor Jed Shugerman were more blunt. “This is nuts . . . just bonkers, ” he told me mid-morning. …

The attorney general seems determined to incinerate his professional reputation. Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti says, “Barr is deliberately misleading the U.S. Senate by making statements that are highly deceptive but technically accurate.

Putting Barr’s Testimony in Context

As Freud may or may not have said, sometimes a pencil is just a pencil. Sometimes bonkers behavior is just bonkers behavior.

But Barr comes out of a “BigLaw” and big business environment where people often deceive others about their true motivations. A fair share are crazy—or become crazy with time. Some are crazy like a fox. Some THINK they can act crazy like a fox, and achieve some hidden objective.

So, I’m tellin’ you, whether you believe me or not, something other than simple bonkers behavior is going on here. If Barr “seems determined to incinerate his professional reputation”—and that’s a very fair summary of the situation—then it’s a conscious decision, and there’s a reason behind it. Maybe not a good reason. Maybe not a reason that you or I would approve. But there is a reason.

Tonight’s News

meat puppet

Washington Post, Mueller complained that Barr’s letter did not capture ‘context’ of Trump probe

One of many valid ways of looking at this evening’s developments is see the opportunity for a fun parlor game: trying to figure out what in the world Bill Barr is doing.

Barr has been acting as Trump’s meat puppet. He has repeatedly lied his ass off in public. And he has either lied under oath to Congress, or gone within about one millimeter of committing perjury in his congressional testimony. What he may have done in private, we don’t know at this point.

One theoretical explanation is that Barr does not know what he is doing and does not grasp the consequences of what he is doing. Despite the news tonight, I believe that explanation is highly implausible. It might apply to fifth-raters like Sarah Sanders or Kellyanne Conway. But Barr’s experience and accomplishments prove he knows how to think ahead three steps in the chess game. Hell, he can probably think ahead twenty-four steps in the chess game.

A second theoretical explanation is that, blinded by the glory of a second gig as Attorney General of the United States, and covetous of the money and career advancement that might come from high government service, Barr has simply sold out. This is unpersuasive. Barr has all the money he will ever need, his resume needs no burnishing, and he risks going down in the history books with the likes of Aaron Burr and John Mitchell. Seeking money and prestige as an explanation for Barr’s bizarre conduct just does not cut the mustard.

A third theoretical explanation is that he has just swallowed the Kook-Aid and joined the Cult of Trump. I regard this as slightly less unlikely than the first or second explanations, but it’s certainly not consistent with his background and associations.

The fourth possibility is that he sought the post of Attorney General so that he could achieve some as-yet-publicly-unidentified goal. That, to keep his position as Attorney General, he has to appear to the world, and appear to Donald Trump, to be Trump’s shameless meat puppet. And that that is exactly the role he is playing—pretty much to the point of parody—in order to keep his job and thus to have some chance to achieve whatever it is he returned to Washington to achieve.

Barr is not stupid. He understands that, to keep your job under Trump, you have to kiss Trump’s ass effusively and you have to kiss your own reputation goodbye. And he has made a clear choice to do just that.

He does not grit his teeth and kiss the ring, like General Mattis and others. Oh, no. He goes into full-throated prevarication and shameless neglect of duties.

I’ll go even a little further. Barr’s act is so comically bad at actually doing anything to protect Trump that it may go beyond parody. It may approach sabotage.