Attorney General William Barr doesn’t mind lying for Trump but he’s really awful at it (Chicago Tribune link): There was never any doubt that Attorney General William Barr would be more loyal to Donald Trump than to the American people. Trump would not have chosen him for the job if he were not.
But Trump required something else of the man heading “his” Justice Department. He would have to forfeit all semblances of honesty, dignity and self-respect. And most importantly, he would have to be willing to lie.
His boss isn’t a man who values truthfulness. And, frankly, Trump isn’t even a politician who lies particularly well. So a “skillful liar” was never implied in the job description for attorney general. A “stupid liar” was.
Barr began entangling himself in a web of lies in March when he released his four-page summary of Robert Mueller’s report to Congress. He cherry-picked phrases from the 448-page document in an attempt to vindicate the president, even using Trump’s favorite line in concluding that there was “no collusion.”
He must have realized that most Americans would never buy his shady conclusions and that they would demand the truth. Perhaps that never mattered to him at all. Maybe he knew that if he were to be called before Congress to explain his lies, Republicans would have his back just as fiercely as they have Trump’s. Maybe he realized that Republicans would never let Americans forget that there is a liar walking around much more dangerous than Trump — their nemesis, Hillary Clinton.
What Barr and his Republican cohorts never expected, though, is that Mueller would call him out on his lies. For a man who had been silent throughout his probe, writing a letter stating that Barr’s summary “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance” of the special counsel’s investigation indeed seemed out of character for Mueller.
During Barr’s first appearance before Congress in April, Sen. Chris Van Hollen asked the attorney general out right, “Did Bob Mueller support your conclusion?”
Barr looked the Maryland Democrat in the eye and responded, “I don’t know whether Bob Mueller supported my conclusion.” That was a straight-out lie. He knew exactly how Mueller felt because Mueller had told him in the letter the month before.
On Wednesday, we learned something else about Barr. Not only is he a liar, but he’s an inept liar at that. He is exactly the kind of stupid liar Trump was looking for.
During hours of testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Barr continuously backed himself into a corner trying to defend the lies he had told about the Mueller report. You could see him pausing, looking around and trying to figure out how to tell another lie without putting himself in the criminal position of lying to Congress.
“The letter speaks for itself,” Barr responded, conceding to the senator.
The most telling example of his lack of lying prowess, though, was the exchange with Sen. Dianne Feinstein. The question was about whether Trump had tried to obstruct justice by instructing then-White House counsel Don McGahn to remove Mueller from the investigation under the pretense that he had conflicts of interest. Trump then told McGahn to write a letter saying that Trump had asked him to do it.
Feinstein: “You still have a situation where the president essentially tries to change the lawyer’s account in order to prevent further criticism of himself.”
Barr: “Well, that’s not a crime.”
Feinstein: “So you can, in this situation, instruct someone to lie?”
Some people might wonder why Barr would be willing to enter Trump’s fantasy world so late in the game and put his own career and legacy on the line. The answer is simple. Trump offered him a glass of Kool-Aid and he drank the whole pitcher.
The ultimate goal of Barr and the Republicans is to get Trump through this Russia mess undamaged enough to win a second term. The people who don’t believe their lies aren’t going to vote for him anyway. But he needs the unwavering support of those thirsty people who already have Kool-Aid cups in their hands.
The Republicans’ job, with Barr as the drum major, is to keep reminding their constituents that a lie is only a lie if you hate the person telling it.