Is Barr really helping Trump by slowing the release of the Mueller report?

5 April 2019

3:09 AM

5 April 2019

3:09 AM

Poor Donald Trump. Even Mar-a-Lago may not provide much of a refuge from his cares now that it has been exposed as a nest of Chinese spies. Trump, who campaigned against Hillary Clinton for jeopardizing national security with her private email server, makes her look like a piker when it comes to keep state secrets. Come one, come all. Mar-a-Lago is open to the highest bidder with access to the president as the highest prize. And to think that Americans were once scandalized that Bill Clinton was renting out the Lincoln bedroom for campaign contributions. Trump’s pocketing the proceeds personally. For him it’s always and only about the bottom line. According to the Washington Post, ‘“The president has no idea who most of the people around him at the club are,” said another White House official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations. “You pay and you get in.”’

It’s this ethos that’s prompting congressional Democrats to make a run at Trump’s personal financial records, including his tax returns. Yesterday, Richard Neal, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, resorted to an obscure 1924 law to request the past six years of Trump’s personal and business tax returns. Once again, the Trump presidency is bringing to the fore all kinds of arcane American constitutional law and political history. Perhaps Trump, who has claimed that he cannot release them because he is under audit — a claim that his former lawyer Michael Cohen has said is baloney — will now claim that because they are being requested he cannot divulge them.

Another storm front remains the Mueller report. The members of the Mueller team are not taking Attorney General William Barr’s lapidary summation of the report lying down. They don’t want to let Barr obstruct their work on presidential obstruction. ‘It was much more acute than Barr suggested,’ one source explains . It also appears that Mueller himself drafted capsule summaries that Barr has declined to release. True to form, Rudy Giuliani denounced ‘disgruntled’ staffers who are a ‘bunch of sneaky, unethical leakers. And they are rabid Democrats who hate the president of the United States.’

In trying to slow the release of the report, Barr may not be doing Trump any favors. Trump can swan about bellowing ‘complete and total exoneration’ all he wants, but interest in the report’s contents is only being heightened. The longer it stays buried, the more controversial it’s bound to become — and the more Trump’s claims of exculpation are bound to appear like a gigantic belly-flop.

Democrats are ready to pounce. Last night, Adam Schiff,  the head of the House Intelligence Committee, said, on MSNBC, ‘I think it’s inevitable that Bob Mueller is going to have to testify before Congress. It’s been my assumption that a 400-page report has an executive summary already, and so of course it begged the question: why did Barr feel the need to release his own summary? Why didn’t he release a summary produced by Bob Mueller itself instead of trying to shape it through his own words?’

Why indeed. Barr should beware. Trump has a long history of dragging down his enablers, whether it’s Jeff Sessions or Michael Cohen.

By contrast, if anyone is enjoying Trump’s troubles, it must be the Clintons. The miasma of corruption that tenaciously clings to him should be a source of jubilation. His presidency is so mendacious that it will likely end up conferring a kind of retroactive absolution upon them.

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