But as these attempts to defend themselves have multiplied, a perhaps unlikely source has stepped forward to refute many of them: Trump’s own attorney general, William P. Barr, who was once stalwart.
Here’s a sampling of Barr’s comments over the past week, along with the Trump defenses they refute.
Defense: Trump declassified the documents
Bar : “I don’t believe he did.”
“Frankly, I’m skeptical of this claim that ‘I declassified everything’. I think it’s highly unlikely. … If in fact he kind of stood in front of dozens of boxes, not really knowing what was in them, and said, “I’m declassifying everything here,” that would be such an abuse, and – it shows such recklessness that it’s almost worse than taking the documents.
Defense: Trump might have had a valid reason to take them
Bar : “I can’t think of a legitimate reason why they should have been – could be removed from government, away from the government if they are classified. (Barr added that there was “no justification” for taking such documents.)
“The there is no scenario, legally, in which the president can keep government documents – whether classified or unclassified. If it’s government stuff, it’s up to the government.
Defence: The search is unprecedented — what about Hillary Clinton?
Barr: “People say it was unprecedented. But it’s also unprecedented for a president to take all this classified information and put them in a country club, okay? »
What about Clinton’s emails? How the Trump documents controversy differs.
Defense: Trump was cooperating before DOJ launched a search on him
Bar : “They [the government] in the jaw for a year, they were cheated on the voluntary actions taken, then they went to get a subpoena, they were cheated on that – they feel. The facts are starting to show that they were getting jerked off, so how long will they wait? »
“There is evidence to suggest they were deceived. … And none of this is really about the content of the documents. It’s about the fact that there were documents there, and the fact that they were classified and the fact that they were subpoenaed and never delivered.
Defense: The government took other documents that were not classified
Barr: “What people miss is that all the other documents seized, even if they claim to be executive privileges, either belong to the government because they are government documents — even if they are classified, even if they are subject to executive privilege. They still belong to the government and go to [National] Archives.”
Defense: Special master’s ruling shows Trump had executive privilege
Barr: “The opinion, I think, was wrong, and I think the government should appeal it. It is deeply flawed in many ways.”
“I think if the DOJ appeals it will eventually be overturned. I hope they speed things up, but it could take several months to sort this out.
“I don’t think appointing a special master will hold up. But even if it does, I don’t see it fundamentally changing the trajectory. In other words, I don’t think it changes the ballgame so much that we might have a rain delay for a few innings.
“[Judge Aileen Cannon] did not answer the only question in dispute, that is, can the former president have standing to say that investigators can’t even review the documents — the classified documents he mistakenly had at Mar-a-Lago? That’s the only question. And she dodges it.
Barr becomes the latest key Trump ally to come forward to break with the former president and undermine his defenses for his actions. And in the past, perhaps not coincidentally, these red lines have often involved matters of national security and foreign policy. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis eventually broke with Trump over the president’s plans to withdraw from Syria and the Lafayette Square photo op. Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Trump tried to do illegal things and was not disciplined enough. National Security Advisor John Bolton spoke about the Ukraine scandal and Trump’s handling of Russia. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland confirmed a quid pro quo in the former. And after Jan. 6, 2021, several key figures, including Cabinet secretaries, resigned, with some (including, notably, Barr) providing key testimony against Trump to the House Select Committee.
Almost all of these personal developments have bristled at Trump’s critics who have long wondered where these people were during the many controversies that preceded their breaking points. Certainly, reputation management has some value now that Trump is out of power. Barr is also promoting a book. And perhaps no one has gone further for Trump, and controversially, than he did during his short stint as attorney general.
But it also reinforces the importance of what Barr is saying now. He’s the guy, according to a judge’s findings, who misled and hijacked the Russia investigation in a way that greatly benefited Trump. He’s the guy who took an extraordinarily broad view of presidential power, but even tells him now that a president can’t do that.
He might have an agenda — specifically, preventing the GOP from naming a former president it doesn’t want at the top of the ticket in 2024. But it provides some of the most significant rebuttals yet to the idea that Trump is keeping those documents was nothing and that the FBI search was overzealous. And he does it too, and this is important, on Fox News.