Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, the sole congressional Republican to call for President Donald Trump's impeachment, said Attorney General William Barr had deliberately misrepresented key aspects of special counsel Robert Mueller's report "to further the president's false narrative about the investigation," according to a Washington Post report.
The Post report continued: "In more than two dozen tweets, Amash detailed multiple objections to how Barr had handled Mueller's report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign, starting with a memo to Congress in late March that summarized Mueller's key findings and relayed that he decided not to pursue obstruction-of-justice charges against Trump."
Yes, this took 25 tweets, but each of those tweets could be printed on a poster board for the House Judiciary Committee hearings, with career prosecutors there to explain why Amash is spot on.
Amash does what Democratic leaders to date have not: give concise, piercing data points to prove the overarching point, in this case that Barr intentionally misled voters. For example, Barr's claim that Trump fully cooperated is false.
"Barr says the White House 'fully cooperated' with the investigation and that Mueller 'never sought' or 'pushed' to get more from the president, but the report says Mueller unsuccessfully sought an interview with the president for over a year," Amash said in one tweet.
Likewise, Amash explains, "It's wrong to suggest that the fact that Mueller did not choose to indict anyone for this means there wasn't a basis to investigate whether it amounted to a crime or 'collusion,' or whether it was in fact part of Russia's efforts to help Trump's candidacy." Mueller didn't look for "collusion" because it is not a crime. Nevertheless, as Amash points out, "In truth, Mueller's report describes concerning contacts between members of Trump's campaign and people in or connected to the Russian government."
More critically, Amash points out "Mueller's report says he chose not to decide whether Trump broke the law because there's an official DoJ opinion that indicting a sitting president is unconstitutional, and because of concerns about impacting the president's ability to govern and pre-empting possible impeachment." Barr told Americans that Mueller punted the decision without saying the real reason: His department's rules prohibit indictment of a sitting president, and Mueller took that to mean that he could not recommend indictment.
We've noted before that Democrats' inability to tell a clear, precise and damning story has hampered their ability to explain the stakes to the American people and to put pressure on Republicans to give up their inexcusable defense of Trump's conduct.
The House Judiciary Committee has now announced it intends, just as we suggested, to call former prosecutors to explain Trump's obstruction of justice. The Intelligence Committee can do the same with the Russian cooperation section, calling former prosecutors and/or intelligence professionals.
On obstruction, here are the points the committee must hammer home, whether Mueller appears in public (and he, like any other citizen, has no right to deny public testimony, if need be by subpoena) or not:
- Mueller did not indict because of the Office of Legal Counsel memo. The report serves as a referral for impeachment.
- Barr misrepresented the findings, which include an avalanche of evidence that Trump tried to block, harass and terminate the investigation.
- There are 10 categories of obstruction. (Put them on a slide or poster.) The evidence for at least six of them is greater than what would be needed for prosecution.
- Obstruction is a serious crime because it undermines the legal system. It is certainly grounds for impeachment since Trump specifically is charged with enforcement of the laws.
On the intelligence side, here are the salient points:
- The inspector general already determined how the investigation began. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants were properly obtained and signed off by Republican-appointed judges. The IG found that Lisa Page and Peter Strzok had no influence on the course of the investigation. To call any of this "treason" is slanderous.
- There were more than 100 contacts between members of the Trump team and Russians.
- Trump and his son made clear they were open to receiving opposition research from a hostile foreign power. This was a violation of American sovereignty, a betrayal of our democracy.
- Trump's open invitation to Russia (calling for emails) and obsession with the WikiLeaks documents gave Russia the encouragement to meddle in our election.
- We need to uncover redacted material to see if there is evidence Trump's campaign conspired with WikiLeaks to influence the election.
This is not a legal proceeding or a fact-finding operation. It's an exercise in political communication. It shouldn't be that hard once the House has figured out this is now an urgent task. Along the way, lawmakers should seriously consider impeaching Barr for the very reasons Amash lays out. It's time to set the record straight.
— Jennifer Rubin writes reported opinion for The Washington Post.