“Very strong evidence”: Bill Barr says Trump should be “most concerned” about documents case

"It will gravely weaken Trump" in the general election, his former attorney general predicted

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published April 10, 2023 8:53AM (EDT)

U.S. President Donald Trump makes a statement on the census with Attorney General William Barr in the Rose Garden of the White House on July 11, 2019. (Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump makes a statement on the census with Attorney General William Barr in the Rose Garden of the White House on July 11, 2019. (Getty Images)

Former Attorney General Bill Barr criticized the indictment of former President Donald Trump in Manhattan but predicted that there is a "good chance" that his former boss will be indicted for refusing to turn over classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago.

Barr in an interview with ABC News' Jon Karl on Sunday argued that Trump's indictment on 34 felony charges of falsifying business records in New York is "an unjust case" and an "abuse of prosecutorial power." But, he added, "that's not to say every legal challenge that the president faces is unjustified."

"I'd be most concerned about the document case in Mar-a-Lago," he said.

"He had no claim to those documents, especially the classified documents. They belonged to the government. And so, I think he was jerking the government around. And they subpoenaed it. And they tried to jawbone him into delivering documents," Barr explained. "But the government is investigating the extent to which games were played and there was obstruction in keeping documents from them. And I think that's a serious potential case. I think they probably have some very good evidence there."

Smith's team has collected evidence including emails and texts turned over by former Trump aide Molly Michael suggesting potential obstruction by Trump in the Mar-a-Lago investigation, The Washington Post reported last week. Trump attorney Evan Corcoran, who drafted a statement claiming that all sensitive documents were returned before the FBI discovered 100 more top-secret documents during the August search of Mar-a-Lago, was ordered to testify before a grand jury after prosecutors successfully pushed to pierce attorney-client privilege, citing evidence that Trump may have used Corcoran's services to violate the law.

Barr predicted that there is a "very good chance" that special counsel Jack Smith will indict Trump in the case.

"It depends on how sensitive the documents were, but also what evidence they have of obstruction and games-playing by the president and whether he directed people to lie or gave them information that was deceitful to pass onto the government," he said.

"The president, unfortunately, has a penchant for engaging in reckless and self-destructive behavior that brings these kinds of things on him," he added. "In many respects, he is his own worst enemy. I don't think that's the case with Bragg's case. But certainly he has dug himself a hole on the documents. And also on the January 6th stuff. That was reckless behavior that was destined to end up being investigated. So it doesn't surprise me that he has all of these legal problems. He was warned about this before he left office."

Despite criticizing Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, Barr acknowledged that Trump's personal attacks on the prosecutor are neither "appropriate or wise."

Trump notoriously "lacks self-control and he frequently gets himself into trouble with these midnight tweets and other things," he said. "The thing with the baseball bat, for example, was very imprudent of him to do in the middle of the night, and, you know, these are gratuitous comments and aren't particularly helpful."

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Barr predicted that Trump's legal woes could stretch through the 2024 Republican primaries, which will boost Trump among the GOP in the process.

"I also think though, as far as the general election is concerned, it will gravely weaken Trump," he added. "He is already, I think, a weak candidate that would lose. But I think this sort of assures it."

Trump also faces a potential indictment in Georgia's Fulton County over his efforts to overturn the election in the state.

"Georgia has bothered Trump personally for a while, possibly because there are tapes of him telling officials to find votes," New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman told CNN last week. "Some of his aides are very worried about the documents investigation that the Justice Department has. It's a clearer-cut issue, and a federal judge overseeing grand jury matters showed in a recent ruling that she's taking the government's claims seriously."

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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Aggregate Alvin Bragg Bill Barr Donald Trump Jack Smith Mar-a-lago Politics