An ABC reporter could hardly conceal his delight at a federal judge’s recent rebuke of Attorney General Bill Barr.
ABC legal analyst Dan Abrams said “there is nothing more insulting” for an AG to hear than the claim from Judge Reggie Walton that Barr is someone who can’t be trusted, a news clip shared by the Washington Examiner shows. The Washington, D.C. judge issued an opinion Thursday accusing Barr of a “calculated attempt” to spin the Robert Mueller report in President Donald Trump’s favor, according to TIME.
“What makes this so striking, as you’re discussing, is that the judge isn’t just saying, look, I want to review this, and I want to decide,” Abrams said on MSNBC’s The Beat with Ari Melber Friday, according to the Examiner. He went on:
The judge is saying, “I don’t trust the attorney general because of what we’ve seen so far, and as a result, I’m going to need to review even the things you have told me there are reasons you have redacted. But I don’t trust you, so I’m going to have to review it myself.”
Almost a year since Barr’s Department of Justice (DOJ) released the Mueller report in redacted form, Walton issued a blistering opinion last week calling Barr’s redactions into question, according to The Hill. The judge, who was presiding over a case seeking the unredacted report from BuzzFeed and a nonprofit group, laid out what amounted to an attack on Barr’s character.
Echoing many longstanding left-wing talking points about Barr, who Democrats have likened to a nefarious henchman of Donald Trump since the Mueller report’s release, Walton called out Barr for a “lack of candor,” according to The Hill, and expressed “grave concerns about the objectivity” of the pre-release process.
He also demanded that an unredacted version be provided to the court for comparison, thrilling commentators on networks like MSNBC, which saw in his opinion the official sanction of a media smear campaign against Barr.
Reacting to Walton’s opinion, Abrams noted that the judge was not just criticizing Barr but calling his integrity into question. The analyst could barely contain his awe, noting that Barr is the attorney general, not some prosecutor getting chewed out by a judge, a fairly routine occurrence.
Abrams also dug into the “even Republicans agree with us” liberal cliché, noting that Walton was appointed by Ronald Reagan and both Bushes. “I hate doing that stuff with the Republican versus the Democrat-appointed judge,” he said, “but it’s an important point to say this is not someone who is in the tank for Democrats. And he’s furious.”
“We see, a lot of times, prosecutors get rebuked by judges, right? They say, ‘This should have been turned over to the defense,’ or ‘You guys messed up here.’ But to say you simply cannot trust the attorney general of the United States,” Abrams added, according to the Examiner. He continued:
The judge is saying, “I’m concerned you politicized the process.” There is nothing more insulting to the attorney general of the United States, not to say you’re wrong, not to say I’m not sure I can trust you, but you know what, I think you may have politicized the process. That’s big.
The DOJ responds
It was just the latest controversy to involve the embattled attorney general, who just weeks ago was facing calls to resign over his involvement in the case of Roger Stone, Trump’s confidante and longtime friend. Barr had intervened to lighten Stone’s recommended nine-year punishment for obstruction crimes, prompting howls of anger from the liberal media about an alleged plot to cut Stone a sweetheart deal. Over 3,000 attorneys signed a letter all but accusing Barr of treason.
Such uncalibrated assessments of Barr’s tenure have become garden-variety in an era as hyperpartisan as the Trump presidency. According to the standard account, Barr is the second most important player, after Trump himself, in a shadowy plot to transform the United States into some kind of a dictatorship.
The evidence for this dictatorship has often amounted to mild criticism of perceived political mistreatment of Trump, whether by Robert Mueller’s team or members of Obama’s FBI who spied on the Trump campaign in 2016. Barr has prompted by far the most criticism for simply deviating from the official, media approved narratives on numerous controversies — for stating that Trump’s campaign was spied on, a simple fact; for questioning the official basis of the Mueller probe; and for clearing Trump of any wrongdoing in his summary of the Mueller report.
The Justice Department, in response, defended Barr and his team.
“The original redactions in the public report were made by Department attorneys, in consultation with senior members of Special Counsel Mueller’s team, prosecutors in U.S. Attorney’s Offices and members of the Intelligence Community,” DOJ spokesperson Kerri Kupec said in a statement, according to the Examiner. “There is no basis to question the work or good faith of any of these career Department lawyers. The Department stands by their work.”