Bill Barr is wrong about the Mar-a-Lago raid for the same reason Barr’s critics were wrong about his decision to investigate the Russia-collusion hoax.
Barr’s opinion now and those of his adversaries when he served as Trump’s attorney general both rest on the assumed veracity of leaks, spin, and misleading narratives. The facts have since vindicated Barr’s decision to investigate the investigators who targeted Trump, and until the details surrounding the latest attack on Trump are proven, nothing said by the Biden administration or its partners in the press should be accepted as true.
On Friday and again on Tuesday, Barr appeared on Fox News to discuss the Mar-a-Lago raid and the Department of Justice’s investigation into former President Donald Trump. During both appearances, Barr repeated the storylines pushed by the D.C. media cartel since news first broke that the FBI had raided Trump’s Florida home.
In his appearance on “America Reports” on Friday, Barr told hosts Sandra Smith and John Roberts he personally thought that for the DOJ “to take things to the current point they probably have pretty good evidence.” Barr continued:
Now let me just say I think the driver on this from the beginning was loads of classified information sitting in Mar-a-Lago. People say this was also unprecedented but it’s also unprecedented for a president to take all this classified information and put it in a country club, OK. How long is the government going to try to get that? They jawbone for a year. They were deceived on the voluntary actions taken. They then went and got a subpoena. They were deceived on that, they feel. And the facts are starting to show they were being jerk around. And so how long do they wait?
While he caveated his comments as “speculation,” and noted that until we see the evidence, “it’s hard to say,” Barr’s conclusions flow from the assumption that the details made public by the DOJ and the leaks to the media represent the truth — and the whole truth.
But those very same leaks should make Barr leery. Special Counsel John Durham’s team is leak free. Similarly, the other men Barr trusted to handle the sensitive investigations into the Clinton Foundation, the inappropriate prosecution of Michael Flynn, and the evidence of the Biden family corruption coming from Ukraine, ensured their teams kept the investigations confidential. Conversely, the previous get-Trump plots all relied on media leaks to push falsehoods about the investigations, whether it was Crossfire Hurricane, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, or the impeachment efforts.
The evidence also indicates that the “driver” of the investigation was not the “loads of classified information sitting in Mar-a-Lago,” but Trump: He was the man; the government just needed a crime.
As I detailed soon after the raid, the trail to Mar-a-Lago began at the White House long before the discovery of classified material in boxes returned to the National Archives. The now-retired head of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), David Ferriero, recalled “watching the Trumps leave the White House and getting off in the helicopter that day, and someone carrying a white banker box, and saying to myself, ‘What the hell’s in that box?’” According to Ferriero, “that began a whole process of trying to determine whether any records had not been turned over to the Archives.”
NARA then made a criminal referral to the DOJ based not merely on the presence of classified materials but also suggesting Trump violated 18 U.S.C. § 2071 because the former president returned a document that he had previously torn up. NARA’s interactions with Trump contrast sharply with its handling of former President Barack Obama’s presidential documents and how it handled Hillary Clinton’s violations of federal law, as I’ve detailed extensively here, exposing the referral as a political hit.
Not only has Barr accepted the false narrative that the “driver” of the investigation was “loads of classified information sitting in Mar-a-Lago,” but during both yesterday and Friday’s interviews, the former attorney general repeated several of the storylines seeded by the leakers. While Barr made clear that the outcome of any charging decision depended on what the evidence showed and how clear it was, he has clearly internalized the leakers’ version of events.
“If they clearly have the president moving stuff around and hiding stuff in his desk and telling people to dissemble,” Barr noted at one point, the DOJ is more likely to charge the former president. “They were deceived on the voluntary actions taken. They then went and got a subpoena. They were deceived on that, they feel,” Barr remarked. Then yesterday, Barr told Fox News’s Martha MacCallum that there is “evidence to suggest they were deceived.”
The evidence, though, consists of select documents released by the DOJ, including heavily redacted documents, and media leaks. In other words, it’s precisely what convinced half the country that Trump colluded with Russia.
While it is possible that Trump deceived the DOJ or that he defied the grand jury subpoena, the entire Mar-a-Lago episode tracks the Russia-collusion-hoax playbook too closely to give credence to any of the accusations levied against the former president. And Barr is wrong to trust them.