On Thursday, former federal prosecutor and NBC legal analyst Mimi Rocah wrote an editorial scorching Attorney General William Barr for spinning former special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, and then criticizing Mueller himself, in order to protect President Donald Trump.
“Over and over again, Barr seemed to bank on the fact that few people would actually read the full Mueller report and so Trump’s and Barr’s false narrative of ‘no collusion, no obstruction’ would be accepted in the media and by the public,” wrote Rocah. Now that the report is out and Mueller himself has contradicted this, “Barr has done what many good defense attorneys do — attack the investigation and the investigator,” insinuating there was misconduct in the investigation and going after Mueller’s prosecutorial judgment for not explicitly determining whether the president committed a crime.
“If Barr really thought that it was Mueller’s obligation to announce a conclusion about whether he thought Trump had committed a prosecutable crime, he could have directed Mueller (who worked for him) to render one,” said Rocah. “But Barr didn’t do that. And what about the other investigations into Trump? Shouldn’t any other United States attorney’s office with evidence of Trump’s participation in a crime announce their conclusions? The Southern District of New York has already implicated Trump in a campaign finance fraud scheme. This is surely not the outcome Barr intends, but it is the logical outgrowth of his critique of Mueller.”
In contrast to Mueller, who made clear the precedent he was following in his investigation and analysis, Barr is muddying the waters on the basic issues.
“If Mueller had indeed made a mistake in his legal analysis, it would be within Barr’s power to correct that. But nothing about what Barr has said suggests any error by Mueller,” said Rocah. “In his April 18 press conference, Barr claimed that because Trump was ‘frustrated and angered by a sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents, and fueled by illegal leaks,’ these were ‘non-corrupt motives’ that weighed ‘heavily against any allegation that the President had a corrupt intent to obstruct the investigation.’ That logic is laughable. Most people charged with obstruction of justice (or any crime) are frustrated and angry. That doesn’t negate the seemingly illegitimate and corrupt motives Trump had when attempting to impede the Mueller investigation and other federal investigations. There is just no question that the ‘angry and frustrated’ defense would not be recognized in federal court by a judge or a jury.
Similarly, Rocah added, Barr’s claim that obstruction requires an underlying crime to be proven is not true. “There are dozens of examples of cases brought by the DOJ under different administrations of people prosecuted for obstruction and perjury where no underlying crime was proven,” she wrote. “Plus, if this was true, only the least successful obstructors would ever be prosecuted.”
“The Mueller report’s lack of a grand finale is vexing. But, like it or not, Mueller was clearly guided by important principles of prosecutorial fairness and he preserved as best he could the objectivity of his fact-finding,” Rocah concluded. ” Barr, in his capacity as the nation’s top lawyer, is the one who has strayed from the ideals of the DOJ and everything it should stand for. His criticisms of Mueller have little to do with justice or law and everything to do with legitimizing the ‘no collusion, no obstruction’ false narrative. It is now up to Congress to finish what Mueller began: revealing to the American public the president’s crimes and cover-ups.”