On the eve of the revelation of the Mueller Report, as futzed with by Attorney General William Barr, be prepared for a politically motivated edit, leaving out much of the good stuff. Whatever he leaves in will be for appearances only. No less an authority of putting party before nation than Mitch McConnell has described Barr as:
It takes a jaywalker like Mitch McConnell to recognize another one in Barr.
This is not Barr’s first rodeo. After Bush took office in 1989, he sought to force Manuel Noriega out of power as Panama’s military strongman. He wasn’t having much success. Bush then hit on a plan to prosecute Noriega for drug trafficking. One problem was getting hold of the perp. Barr, then an Assistant Attorney General at the Office of Legal Counsel, penned a legal opinion giving cover for the FBI to enter Panama and extract Noriega. The FBI did just that. Congress got wind of the memo and hauled Barr into for a hearing, demanding to see his full legal opinion. No need, Barr said. Let me just summarize it for you. Congress eventually got the legal opinion and supporting information by subpoena. Lo and behold, Barr’s synopsis did not match his summary given at the hearing. Barr had omitted “significant findings” from his summary, which did not reflect well on the administration. Not my idea of a credible crossing guard, but it’s obvious why McConnell thinks highly of him.
Barr is the Zelig of Republican legal-political scandals, popping up when someone has to throw cold water on a hot investigation. During the Iran-Contra Scandal of Reagan’s second term, Barr put distance between independent counsel Lawrence Walsh and President Bush, Barr’s patron. Barr thwarted Walsh’s investigation, keeping heat off the president. He went on to support the pardons of six participants who had been indicted or convicted. The pardon of former secretary of defense, Casper Weinberger, averted a trial scheduled to begin only two weeks later.
Before Barr was a public servant or a prosecutor, he was a pol. Notably, in the Barr entry in the Horace Mann year book of 1968, he is established as a staunch member of the school’s Republican Club. A Nixonite in the Age of Aquarius. But then, he also was known for his sense of humor. Barr’s loyalty always has been, first, to party, then to country, So, while wondering what Barr’s black-inked redactions have blotted outthink time, remember that he has been working his partisan Sharpie for a long time.
The best medicine for our sick republic is transparency. Unfortunately, Bill Barr has signaled that there will be redactions which go way beyond those the law requires. Unlike his predecessors, he does not intend to seek disclosure of the grand jury testimony. In addition, he has added a new category for redaction – concerned with the embarrassment and privacy rights of third parties. Someone acting in public office has no expectation or right of privacy in official or political functions. If something done is material to the investigation, he or she will have to live with the consequences. It is more important that the report make sense than to protect those the tainted from their own taint.
There is no reason to believe that Barr suddenly appreciates the need for transparency. He has proven shameful in his own right. He has taken bullets for his patrons before. Odds are good that he is about to do it again.