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Trump’s AG used to oppose the kind of ‘spin control’ he did for Trump

Attorney General William Barr defended Ken Starr’s investigation of Bill Clinton in a way he never did for Robert Mueller’s investigation of Trump.

By Lisa Needham - April 25, 2019
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William Barr

Trump’s attorney general, William Barr, has bent over backwards to protect Trump from the fallout of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report. But back when the independent counsel was Ken Starr and the president being investigated was Bill Clinton, Barr was outraged that anyone might interfere with Starr’s work.

In 1998, Barr gave an interview where he slammed then-Attorney General Janet Reno. He was mad she hadn’t aggressively defended Ken Starr from what he called “spin control” and “hatchet jobs.” He also said that Starr “should be given the chance to get the facts out.”

Under Trump, however, Barr has done exactly what he once railed against.

Shortly after Mueller completed his report, Barr released a hatchet job of a “summary” that completely whitewashed the findings of the report and spun it in Trump’s favor. Then, Barr stonewalled and refused to release the full report when Congress first asked for it.

Finally, on the day Barr sent the redacted report to Congress, he held a press conference before anyone had seen the report. At that presser, he spun and spun, justifying Trump’s obstruction of justice by saying Trump was frustrated — and even used Trump’s favorite phrase, “no collusion.”

Barr also used to be much more concerned about the president criticizing independent investigations into his behavior.

Along with three other former attorneys general in 1998, Barr wrote an open letter in the Wall Street Journal worrying about “the severity of the attacks” on Starr by government officials because they appeared to “have the improper purpose of influencing and impeding an ongoing criminal investigation and intimidating possible jurors, witnesses and even investigators.” Barr was referring to the fact Clinton and other high-ranking officials in the Clinton White House had made public statements about the investigation.

But Barr has not mounted any such defense of Mueller — nor has he condemned Trump for his overt attempts to impede the special counsel’s investigation, intimidate witnesses, and improperly influence jurors.

Mueller concluded there was ample evidence to believe that Trump dangled a pardon in front of Michael Cohen in the hopes it would stop Cohen from cooperating with the special counsel. When that failed to work, Mueller noted, Trump then tried to intimidate Cohen and undermine his credibility.

Mueller also found that Trump made public statements during the Paul Manafort trial that had the potential to influence jurors in the case. Trump said that Manafort was “a very good person” and that it was “sad what they’ve done to Paul Manafort.”

Barr ignored all this, not even bothering to mention it in any of his public remarks about the Mueller investigation.

Back in the Clinton era, however, Barr was distraught that the truth might be getting spun: “The whole system should be geared to getting the truth. But it has been geared to stonewalling and spinning what people think.”

Of course, stonewalling and spinning is exactly what Barr did for Trump.

Back when it was a Democratic president being investigated, Barr was very concerned about making sure Starr was protected and supported by the attorney general. But when it came time for Barr to step up on Mueller’s behalf as attorney general, all he did was defend Donald Trump.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation. 


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