Rachel Maddow tore into Donald Trump’s attorney general, William Barr, on Monday for breaking historical precedent in order to clear his boss of wrongdoing.
The MSNBC host pointed to the Watergate era, when special prosecutor Leon Jaworski produced a report similar laying out all the facts related to Richard Nixon’s potential obstruction of justice.
In 1974, as Maddow noted, the report was passed along to the House Judiciary Commitee, which decided what to do based on the facts and evidence presented.
On Sunday, William Barr broke that norm and instead issued a four-page letter in which he made the decision himself that Trump did not obstruct justice – and he did it without presenting any underlying facts.
“Barr could have just passed that information (from the Mueller report) onto the Judiciary Committee for them to decide what to do with it, following in Jaworski’s footsteps in the handling of the Watergate road map in 1974,” Maddow said. “But instead, somewhat inexplicably, he decided to take it upon himself to declare definitively … there is no crime there.”
— PoliticusUSA (@politicususa) March 26, 2019
When that exact sort of document was handed over to the Judiciary Committee in the House by Leon Jaworski in the Watergate grand jury in 1974, the Judiciary Committee in 1974 looked at that factual record of information they had obtained from the grand jury and the special prosecutor and they decided, in fact, that based on that information they would draw up impeachment proceedings against Nixon primarily for obstruction of justice. This time, this factual record, this description of the president’s behavior, it didn’t go over to the House Judiciary Committee. Instead, they got a letter, because the actual information went instead to the president’s newly appointed attorney general who has been on the job for a month and who got the job after submitting to the White House an unsolicited 19-page memo which claimed that the president inherently can’t obstruct justice and Robert Mueller can’t even investigate him for that. Whatever information Attorney General William Barr just received from Robert Mueller about the president’s behavior, as it pertains to potential criminal obstruction of justice, Barr could have just passed that information onto the Judiciary Committee for them to decide what to do with it, following in Jaworski’s footsteps in the handling of the Watergate road map in 1974. But instead, somewhat inexplicably, he decided to take it upon himself to declare definitively, yeah, you know, I looked at all that stuff and I can tell you there is no crime there. It’s fine. At which point, whatever you think about the quoted conclusions about the other half of Robert Mueller’s report, on this obstruction stuff, it’s like, what? Where did this come from? I mean, on what grounds are you saying that you have concluded there is no crime here? What facts did you consider about the president’s behavior when arriving at that conclusion?
William Barr’s summary is just political noise
William Barr’s four-page summary he released on Sunday – 48 hours after Robert Mueller submitted his final report – was a political document. It should be treated as such.
As Maddow noted on Monday, the important facts will be found in the Mueller report, which nobody – outside of the highest ranking officials in the Justice Department – has seen yet.
Congress and the American people should ignore Barr’s political flackery and instead let the facts in the Mueller report guide their decisions on what to do next.
It’s another reason why the full special counsel report should be released to Congress and the public immediately.
Sean Colarossi currently resides in Cleveland, Ohio. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and was an organizing fellow for both of President Obama’s presidential campaigns. He also worked with Planned Parenthood as an Affordable Care Act Outreach Organizer in 2014, helping northeast Ohio residents obtain health insurance coverage.