Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Barr Sets the Bar

 

On Wednesday, April 10 Attorney General William Barr appeared before the Senate. Why does that merit a post on Ricochet? For one thing, I wouldn’t have blamed the man if he’d headed back to retirement from government service after the contemptuous disrespect he was shown the day before by House Democrats at their DOJ budget hearing. A Trump administration official has to be made of some pretty stern stuff to weather an appearance before Congress, but he made it to his scheduled Senate appearance.

This clip where he answers why he wants to evaluate the genesis/conduct of investigation(s) into the Trump campaign prompted my post.

“I want to pull together all the information from the various investigations that have gone on, including on the hill and in the department. See if there are any remaining questions to be addressed.”

When asked why he felt a need to do that, Barr responded:

“Well, for the same reason we’re worried about foreign influence in elections. We want to make sure that — I think spying on a political campaign is a big deal. It’s a big deal.

“The generation I grew up in which is the Vietnam War, a period, you know, people were all concerned about spying on anti-war people and so forth by the government and there were a lot of rules put in place to make sure that there’s an adequate basis before our law enforcement agencies get involved in political surveillance…”

“I’m not suggesting that those rules were violated, but I think it’s important to look at that. And I’m not just — I’m not talking about the FBI necessarily, but intelligence agencies more broadly.

Not shown in this CBS clip, but Barr was also asked by Dem Senator Shaheen, “You’re not suggesting that spying occurred?’ To which Barr replied, “I think spying did occur. The question is whether it was adequately predicated. I’m not suggesting it was not adequately predicated, but I need to explore that.”

Predictably, not everyone was happy with AG Barr’s comments. It’s to be expected given coverage over the past two years that most media and Democrats like Adam Schiff and Eric Holder are of course taking exception to the United States Attorney General’s use of the word “spying”, claiming he’s merely carrying water for POTUS or that it’s not spying if there’s a legitimate basis. Trump supporters like Sean Hannity obviously feel vindicated.

I’m not familiar with the US Code or regulations about spying, but a simple dictionary working definition includes “keep[ing] close and secret watch on the actions and words of another or others.” Grammatically speaking, some of the previous administration’s justice/intelligence actions regarding the GOP candidate then incoming POTUS — actions uncovered/corroborated by two congressional committees (House Intelligence and Senate Judiciary) and a few reporters – were spying.

To me, an average conservative American citizen with a strong sense and love of country, those words from the head of the Dept of Justice were a breath of fresh air. Just maybe we finally have an AG who’s neither POTUS wingman nor recusal-happy single issue figurehead; one who knows the law, and perhaps most importantly: how and when to apply it.

I’ll admit to skepticism about whether William Barr was the right person for AG. To be blunt, Justice needs an enema, and Barr’s CV puts him in Establishment territory on paper; exceptionally qualified, but Establishment nonetheless. Frankly, I wondered if there existed a really good attorney who would willingly subject themselves to the House investigations coming toward the Executive Branch and the challenge of a boss who history shows can be quite vocal in his displeasure with low functioning AGs. Also, Mueller’s choices and methods turned out to be far less stellar than the “impeccable reputation” “he’ll be fair-minded and get to the bottom of it” mantra even many in the GOP chanted when he was appointed, leaving one to wonder if their similar pleasure in Barr was misplaced.

There have been glimmers of hope that Barr might be just what DOJ needs. Glimmers like his memo last year to Rosenstein and Engel (head of Office of Special Legal Counsel) well before he was being considered for AG expressing concern as a former AG and private citizen that there needed to be clear and incontrovertible indication of serious obstruction (e.g., destroying evidence) to cite/indict a POTUS for obstruction of justice – not something cobbled together from existing guidelines in never-before-used ways. A second point in his favor is that Barr knows the job very well yet doesn’t need it, making it highly improbable that he’s doing it for any reason other than wanting to right the Ship of Justice he saw foundering.

Barr’s capable-without-being-arrogant demeanor and responses April 10th were masterful. The man used two of the Dems’ own talking points – Russian election interference and Watergate (without ever mentioning the word) – in ways that not only left them with nowhere to go but also explained to Americans watching/reading his statements what was wrong with what the government did and why it’s important to know. Barr has seen/read/heard enough to have a good idea he was right to be concerned and plans to address it, or he would never have said what he did in public to the Senate today.

At least 10 years now, maybe 20, we’ve needed an ethical, tough son-of-a-gun with the mental acuity of a SCOTUS justice in the AG chair. Boys and girls, I think we’ve got one, one who will do the right thing at the right time for the right reason. An AG who can balance what the law requires with what the country needs to know, no more and no less…all of which makes him an AG I can believe. Here’s hoping we can keep him long enough to finish the much-needed clean-up on Aisle 9.

Update: Edited to correct to Engel as head of Office of Legal Counsel (OLC)

There are 14 comments.

  1. I Walton Member

    God lets hope so, but we must be prepared for the constant screaming and accommodation to the screaming and legal and political efforts to shut it all down or close it up peacefully. The most powerful coalition of interests that has ever existed in this country except during the second world war is on the wrong side of this issue. It’s really comparable to the Civil war. But it has to be so clear, well and professionally done that at least a large portion of the Democrats come to understand what was done to destroy this President.

    • #1
    • April 11, 2019, at 5:07 AM PST
    • 7 likes
  2. EDISONPARKS Member

    Bill Barr simply states an undisputed fact which is public knowledge to everyone everywhere. The Obama FBI used a FISA warrant to surveil Trump campaign associate Carter Page. Not to mention all that anyone with a pulse can infer about what the Obama DOJ/FBI/IC was doing with unmaskings … contacts with other Trump campaign associates George Papadopoulos, Paul Manafort, Sam Clovis(that we are aware of) …. accepting information from spy Christopher Steele and information from Fusion GPS employee/former(?) CIA contractor Nelly Ohr, ….. I could go on.

    And the collective (D) establishment is taken aback and offended AG Barr would state the obvious and use the word SPY.

    The scary thing to watch now is how the MSM accepts the terminology “SPY”. Let’s observe and take note if the MSM is still going to play along with the (D) narrative even after they were caught dead to rights playing footsy with the (D) Trump/Russia collusion narrative blatant lie/scam/hoax.

    If your audience is predisposed to believe anything which supports any (D) narrative, no matter that the facts indisputably refute said narrative, then just double down on the lie and sell it hard, the (D) base so very badly want’s the lie to be the truth they will suspend their rational thought process to believe!/resist!

    The (D)/MSM combine has put the Constanza Principle to work:

    • #2
    • April 11, 2019, at 5:46 AM PST
    • 9 likes
  3. Jon1979 Lincoln

    Barr at least had the advantage of being able to reply to his critics face-to-face in the committee room, where it’s more difficult to make spurious charges and get away with them if the accused can answer back (see Ted Lieu and Jerry Nadler v. Candance Owens from earlier this week as well). But you can assume that the media is going to try and turn any investigation into those involved in surveilling the Trump campaign into put-upon patriots just doing their job, while any threat of prosecution will be akin to the Dreyfus trial. That will be an effort to shape The Narrative about what Barr is doing, but without Barr’s participation, and likely will be part of the 2020 election cycle, since it’s unlikely any investigation the AG does is going to wrap up in under a year’s time.

    • #3
    • April 11, 2019, at 5:51 AM PST
    • 9 likes
  4. Percival Thatcher

    Intrusive clandestine surveillance is, in a word, spying.

    Suck it up, Sen. Shaheen.

    • #4
    • April 11, 2019, at 5:58 AM PST
    • 8 likes
  5. Susan Quinn Contributor

    Mim526: At least 10 years now, maybe 20, we’ve needed an ethical, tough son-of-a-gun with the mental acuity of a SCOTUS justice in the AG chair. Boys and girls, I think we’ve got one, one who will do the right thing at the right time for the right reason. An AG who can balance what the law requires with what the country needs to know, no more and no less…all of which makes him an AG I can believe. Here’s hoping we can keep him long enough to finish the much needed clean-up on Aisle 9.

    Good to see you, @mim526, and good post! I’m counting on your conclusion. He knows the job, indicates he is very clear on what’s going on, and I think he’s actually going to embrace the opportunity to see that justice finally happens. Go, Bill Barr!

    • #5
    • April 11, 2019, at 6:36 AM PST
    • 9 likes
  6. Mim526 Member
    Mim526 Post author

    If the Left’s reaction to Barr’s comments so far is any indication of their level of discomfort with the prospect of a highly capable AG ready, willing and able to hold the federal govt apparatus up to legal scrutiny, “they” are afraid. Unlike Congress and the IG, Bill Barr has the power to indict and haul people into court. Whatever he does will be for cause and commensurate with evidence, which is another reason for him to be feared.

    I expect he and probably his family will be targeted throughout the public and private sectors by the Left and those heavily invested in keeping focus on removing Trump. I also expect Barr knew all that, though, yet set up his own team and opened his mouth to Congress anyway. 

     

    • #6
    • April 11, 2019, at 7:08 AM PST
    • 7 likes
  7. Mim526 Member
    Mim526 Post author

    I Walton (View Comment):

    God lets hope so, but we must be prepared for the constant screaming and accommodation to the screaming and legal and political efforts to shut it all down or close it up peacefully. The most powerful coalition of interests that has ever existed in this country except during the second world war is on the wrong side of this issue. It’s really comparable to the Civil war. But it has to be so clear, well and professionally done that at least a large portion of the Democrats come to understand what was done to destroy this President.

    Re: clear, well done, and professional, that applies beyond the AG as well I think. IMO, at this stage POTUS can help by giving him room to do his thing without a running public commentary from the WH. Would also help if concerned GOP members of Congress and non-Leftist pundits framed their comments more in terms of the law/procedure/protocol and refrained from using “Democrat” every other word to minimize giving appearance of partisan backlash. More than 2020 elections are at stake here.

    • #7
    • April 11, 2019, at 7:17 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  8. Profile Photo Member

    Mim, I too feared that Barr would not apply the law to the Democrats. So far so good though. 

    Barr is actually in a tough situation; if he does his job he will piss off a whole lot of Democrats, if does not do his job and sugar coats the criminality of the DOJ,CIA, FBI et al he will piss off a whole lot of Republicans. Either way he will piss a lot of people off, so why not do the right thing and fully investigate and prosecute the criminality of these government officials?

    Great post btw. 

    • #8
    • April 11, 2019, at 11:07 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  9. Sweezle Member

    AG Barr is on the right path. Why would anyone not want to know what was behind the political surveillance of a presidential candidate? Thank you for this post. Very informative.

     

    • #9
    • April 11, 2019, at 11:32 AM PST
    • 7 likes
  10. WI Con Member

    Will be fascinating to see what happens. Barr having the job for a second time adds interesting dimension- he knows what he’s doing, how/where bodies are most likely buried, knows how subordinates can drag their feet, hide what they want-knows how subjects of investigations do as well. There’s also some ego here as well. He wasn’t known (for ill or good, as leaving a mark, a legacy, during his last tenure). He’ll most likely want to now -either as a bureaucratic water-carrier or an American patriot that went a long way towards ‘righting the ship’ – I have hope and faith in the man. His being on the job for such a short period of time has broken some logjams already (Mueller wrapping it up). Could be an indication of good things to come.

    • #10
    • April 11, 2019, at 12:09 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  11. Fritz Member

    Advice to AG Bill Barr: avoid Ft. Marcy Park.

    • #11
    • April 11, 2019, at 1:09 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  12. Mim526 Member
    Mim526 Post author

    A bit more analysis on Barr’s comments published same day as the hearing from two of the more evenhanded individuals in today’s media (my opinion, of course :-):

    — Andrew McCarthy commenting on the John Batchelor Show (just over 20 minutes to listen to the two clips)

    https://audioboom.com/posts/7230258-barr-intends-to-investigate-the-failure-among-a-group-of-leaders-at-the-upper-echelon-in-2016

    https://audioboom.com/posts/7230257-barr-intends-to-investigate-the-failure-among-a-group-of-leaders-at-the-upper-echelon-in-2016

    — Byron York writing on “spying”

    https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/columnists/byron-york-barr-is-right-spying-on-trump-campaign-did-occur

    I thought John Solomon’s description of Barr’s demeanor in The Hill was spot on:

    “Attorney General William Barr showed us Tuesday, in his first testimony since the end of the Russia probe, that he’s not big on emotion, animation or flashy presentations. Calm, scholarly and precise was his modus operandi…”

    “…the even-keeled nature of his two-hour-plus performance…”

    • #12
    • April 11, 2019, at 6:44 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  13. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… Thatcher

    The issue for Barr is whether he has enough staff he can trust at DOJ to conduct an investigation. He’s going to need some seasoned people to do this right but DOJ, like much of the DC bureaucracy, is dominated by partisan Democrats. The US Attorney in Utah who was appointed by Sessions to do an investigation has, at least as of a couple of months ago, done nothing.

    • #13
    • April 13, 2019, at 8:21 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  14. Mim526 Member
    Mim526 Post author

    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… (View Comment):

    The issue for Barr is whether he has enough staff he can trust at DOJ to conduct an investigation. He’s going to need some seasoned people to do this right but DOJ, like much of the DC bureaucracy, is dominated by partisan Democrats. The US Attorney in Utah who was appointed by Sessions to do an investigation has, at least as of a couple of months ago, done nothing.

    Good point. Similar thoughts occurred to me. When I went digging for info about him, most items were from around time of his AG nomination and usually by press not enamored of this POTUS. One article from a law journal, however, discussed who he’s selecting for his Main Justice crew…includes some folks from his old law firm.

    • #14
    • April 13, 2019, at 10:13 PM PST
    • 1 like