Politics

Barr Is Trying to Erase the Truth

He’s smearing the Russia investigation and covering up Trump’s guilt.

William Barr holds his hand up while standing behind a podium.
Attorney General William Barr in Washington on Dec. 3. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

In December 2018, President Donald Trump nominated William Barr to be his attorney general. Trump wanted Barr to bury the Russia investigation, and in April, Barr did just that. Brushing aside the evidence compiled by special counsel Robert Mueller, Barr decreed that Trump wouldn’t be prosecuted. Now Barr is trying to erase the truth from public memory. He’s claiming that the investigation found no evidence against Trump.

When Barr scrapped Mueller’s findings, he asserted that Mueller never pressed for an interview with Trump, that Trump fully cooperated with the investigation, that Trump never tried to fire Mueller, and that Trump’s cover-up attempts were directed only at the press. Barr also claimed that Trump “did nothing wrong,” that the investigation found “no evidence” against Trump, and that suspicions of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign were “without a basis.” Every one of these claims was demonstrably false. Barr even defended Trump’s attacks on the investigators. He said that if he were in Trump’s shoes, “I’d be comfortable saying it was a witch hunt.”

At first, Barr seemed to be an ordinary liar. But in recent months, he has displayed a fanatical streak that suggests he might sincerely believe his fictions. “People are saying that it’s President Trump that’s shredding our institutions. I really see no evidence of that,” Barr opined in May. The true threat, he argued, came from Americans “resisting a democratically elected president.” In October, Barr accused “so-called progressives” of a “campaign to destroy the traditional moral order.” Last month, he denounced these same “so-called progressives,” along with a “hyper-partisan media,” for waging “a scorched earth, no-holds-barred war of ‘Resistance’ against this Administration.”

This week, Barr pounced on a Justice Department report about the Russia investigation. The report, issued on Monday by the department’s inspector general, faulted the FBI’s surveillance of a marginal Trump adviser, Carter Page, but found no “documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation influenced the decisions” of investigators. A normal attorney general would have welcomed this vindication of his department. But Barr works for Trump, not for law enforcement. Instead of embracing the report, he’s disparaging it, smearing the FBI, and pretending that Trump has been exonerated.

On Tuesday, at a forum hosted by the Wall Street Journal, Barr called the Russia investigation “a travesty.” He asserted that “from day one,” it produced “nothing that substantiated any kind of collusion” between Russia and the Trump campaign. In an interview with NBC News, Barr called the investigation “completely baseless” and claimed that there “never has been any evidence of collusion.”

Barr dismissed the FBI’s portion of the inquiry, which lasted a year. “From the very first day of this investigation, which was July 31, 2016, all the way to its end in September 2017, there was not one incriminatory bit of evidence to come in. It was all exculpatory,” he told NBC. He also dismissed Mueller’s portion of the inquiry, which ran from May 2017 to April 2019, as well as media reports of secret dealings between Russia and the Trump campaign. “Our nation was turned on its head for three years, I think, based on a completely bogus narrative that was largely fanned and hyped by an irresponsible press,” said Barr. He protested that “the entire case collapsed” in January 2017 but that Trump’s persecutors “kept on investigating the president.”

This account bears no resemblance to reality. The FBI had lots of evidence. The investigation began with a forensic analysis that Russia had hacked the Democratic National Committee in early 2016. A Trump adviser privately alluded to a Russian offer to help Trump by releasing dirt on Hillary Clinton. On July 27, Trump openly declared, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.” In August, another Trump adviser predicted trouble ahead for Clinton’s campaign chairman, and WikiLeaks soon released the chairman’s hacked emails. The investigation would later confirm a two-way channel between WikiLeaks and the Trump campaign.

In November and December, Russian officials conferred secretly with Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and Trump’s incoming national security adviser, Michael Flynn. When the FBI asked Flynn about these talks, he lied. In February, Trump asked then-FBI Director James Comey to drop the bureau’s investigation of Flynn. In May, Trump fired Comey, shared highly sensitive intelligence with Russian officials in a private meeting, and told them that by getting rid of Comey, he had eased pressure on the U.S.-Russia relationship.

Two episodes show clear collaboration between Trump and Russia. First, in July 2017, the New York Times published emails proving that Kushner, Donald Trump Jr., and Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort met with Russians during the campaign to hear an explicit offer of “information that would incriminate Hillary” as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” The proposal was abandoned only because the Russians couldn’t explain how their information would nail Clinton. Trump later ordered a cover-up of the offer and, when it became public, tried to shut down the Russia investigation.

Second, Mueller’s investigators found that in July 2016, “within approximately five hours” of Trump’s televised request to find Clinton’s emails, hackers working for Russian intelligence “targeted for the first time Clinton’s personal office” and a slew of email addresses connected to her campaign. Trump asked, and Russia answered.

Barr’s propaganda is completely false. Mueller, the FBI, and the press found considerable evidence that Trump and his campaign sought to collaborate with Russia to win the election. They also found that Trump obstructed the investigation. The only reason Trump remains unindicted is that Barr declared the evidence insufficient. Now Barr is saying the evidence never existed. If he’s not delusional, he’s a liar.