Attorney General nominee William Barr testifies during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019.
Andrew Harnik/AP Photo

Barr offers a new reason to question his Russia scandal perspective

Updated

Attorney General William Barr complained to the Associated Press yesterday that House Democrats are trying to create a “public spectacle” by subpoenaing Robert Mueller to testify next week. Barr added that he’d support the former special counsel if Mueller decides he “doesn’t want to subject himself” to congressional testimony.

The Rachel Maddow Show, 7/5/19, 9:00 PM ET

In Barr Trump finds tool against political enemies, investigators

Rachel Maddow explores how Donald Trump’s “Lock her up” mantra could be more than a political gimmick, and how William Barr might just be the attorney general Donald Trump has always wanted both for protecting Trump and for pursuing Trump’s political
Rachel Maddow explores how Donald Trump’s “Lock her up” mantra could be more than a political gimmick, and how William Barr might just be the attorney general Donald Trump has always wanted both for protecting Trump and for pursuing Trump’s political
Or put another way, the attorney general extended public support to a private citizen, offering to help him defy a congressional subpoena.

But Bill Barr’s comments to the New York Times yesterday were arguably even more striking.

…Mr. Barr is pushing forward with his review of the origins of the Russia investigation. “What we’re looking at is: What was the predicate for conducting a counterintelligence investigation on the Trump campaign?” Mr. Barr said. “How did the bogus narrative begin that Trump was essentially in cahoots with Russia to interfere with the U.S. election?”

The first question is less problematic than the second. Indeed, we already know what the predicate was for conducting a counterintelligence investigation of the Trump campaign. Just this morning, the Washington Post highlighted many of the reasons the FBI “might have legitimately suspected or at least wanted to investigate a potential Trump campaign conspiracy with Russians.”

Why the attorney general is eager to ask a question that’s already been answered is less than clear, but if that’s what he and his team are “looking at,” it’s their time to waste.

The second question, however, stands out for a reason: “How did the bogus narrative begin that Trump was essentially in cahoots with Russia to interfere with the U.S. election?”

Federal investigators didn’t have a “bogus narrative”; they had questions and suspicions based on credible evidence. Law-enforcement officials confront situations like these every day. Sometimes investigations lead to arrests, other times not. Sometimes the subjects and targets of probes are convicted, other times not.

None of this has anything to do with “narratives” – a political term more commonly associated with media criticism.

The aforementioned Washington Post analysis added this morning that the attorney general’s rhetoric “seems to give away the game.”

He describes the idea that the Trump campaign conspired with Russia as a “bogus narrative.” But he’s not talking about the broader political debate over it; he’s talking about it in the context of law enforcement. He’s tacitly ascribing the “bogus narrative” to the investigators. […]

This is a guy who sounds like he developed strong feelings long ago — before, even he has admitted, he was privy to all the information — that the collusion investigation was unfounded and launched for suspicious purposes. And his commentary to this day is consistently uncharitable to the law enforcement personnel who serve beneath him.

We didn’t need another reason to question Bill Barr and the integrity of his work, but he’s given us one anyway.