By Bob Maistros
Out of the mouth of babes – and slimy Democratic Senators.
A mere day after my crowing about the meager media ripples about the Special Counsel’s Report just 10 days after its release, a New York Times story about a letter from Robert Mueller to Attorney General William Barr coincided with a highly revealing Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that featured a cadre of the above-referenced characters annoying the AG.
Among them was alleged valor-stealer and all-around smarm-meister Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) uttering the line of the day – which made exactly the opposite point than he intended.
Blumenthal thundered to Barr that Mueller’s letter – which whined that the AG’s initial report summary didn’t offer enough “context” about the Special Counsel’s conclusions – was “an extraordinary act, a career prosecutor rebuking the attorney general of the United States.”
You bet it was an “extraordinary act.” Extraordinarily out of line.
Just where does a Special Counsel get off “rebuking the attorney general of the United States” to whom he is fully answerable?
Especially when the full version of the report, with the Special Counsel’s “laughable” theories and unicorn case on obstruction on full display, was coming out within a few weeks anyway?
And when the Attorney General was not obliged to release even a syllable of said report in the first place?
And when Mueller, confronted in a phone call by Barr, agreed that the AG had not misrepresented his report in any way?
And when, “context” or no context, the AG accepted for the sake of determining the obstruction question Mueller’s looney legal reasoning – with which he had previously disagreed on the record?
And when Barr’s summary unflinchingly delivered the Special Counsel’s over-the-top and over-the-edge money line: that the report “did not exonerate” the President on obstruction?
Moreover, how exactly does “an outstanding lawyer,” in the words of Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, essentially go over the head of his boss to the American people and Congress by allowing the fact and content of his “snitty” letter – in Barr’s words – to be leaked?
I don’t doubt that at the tip of Barr’s lips was a word one letter off from “snitty.” The AG gave Mueller the benefit of the doubt by suggesting the letter might have been “written by one of his staff people.” But his characterization in the typically understated world of Justice Department officials was the equivalent of Bluto shouting “food fight!”
Meanwhile, the letter and its leak make it clear that Mueller is even more craven and devious than one previously imagined.
Mueller may be a proud Marine, but he had neither the goods to go after Trump and his team on collusion nor the guts to go out on a legal limb and conclude that The Donald was actually guilty of obstruction. Rather, he built a mountain of 10 preposterous grounds that he had to know would never stand up to Justice’s standards for prosecution of the crime – then insisted he nevertheless couldn’t “exonerate” the President.
That formulation both set-up Barr, who actually has to carry out the duties of his office, to be the fall guy in making the obvious call that the President wasn’t guilty – and sent a “dog whistle” (I misused the term “wolf whistle” previously) to Congressional Democrats to take up the cause and his non-existent “evidence” under the looser impeachment standard of “high crimes and misdemeanors.”
Still, two decades after Democrats worked to get Bill Clinton off the hook for obstruction for bald-faced mistruths, on camera, under oath, because he was only “lying about sex,” even they can’t pursue Mueller’s sorry excuse for an obstruction case with a straight face.
So a new controversy was needed to keep the pot boiling. Hence the Times’ previous story quoting various Mueller staffers to the effect that Barr’s summary “failed to adequately portray the findings of their inquiry” – the issue being “who shapes the public’s initial understanding of one of the most consequential government investigations in American history.” (As I noted previously, the public picked up on Mueller’s “shaping” of the issue just fine.)
And now, right on time for Barr’s back-to-back scheduled hearings, a new leak, building on the first, just in time to feed more red meat to ravenous Hill Democrats about to grill the Attorney General. (Although the AG quite properly refused to show up at a House Judiciary Committee hearing where he would have had to condescend to “snitty” and worse questions from snot-nosed Committee staffers rather than Members.)
Moreover, it matters not a whit who composed the letter to Barr or revealed its existence, or who conjured up the goofy obstruction volume of Mueller’s report. The Special Counsel is either hiding behind his staff to get his dirty work done – or lacks the backbone to put a lid on them and make them act like professionals and public servants.
The new news that has occurred since the publication of my previous article doesn’t change the reality I described: it doesn’t lower the bar to make grounds for impeachment. But it does change one reality: it certainly further lowers my opinion of the Special Counsel.
Bob Maistros is a messaging and communications strategist, crisis specialist and former political speechwriter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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