So What About Bill Barr’s 2018 Memo?: Liner Notes

Another new column up at The Federalist today: “Attorney General Bill Barr Will Be Targeted By House Democrats For No Particular Reason.” House Dems want to put AG Barr on the hot seat for saying there was insufficient evidence of President Trump obstructing justice, and they’ll use a 2018 memo Barr wrote to drag him over the coals. But there’s less there than meets the eye.

What got left out for space? Although it’s in the subtext, I think Barr’s expansive view of executive power, which takes up a significant portion of the memo, colors people’s views about the much narrower point of statutory interpretation that is the at the heart of the memo.

Also, while I ask whether Barr and Mueller clashed over that statutory issue (something I suspect we’ll find out in the weeks and months to come), there’s another way to read Barr’s letter summarizing the Mueller report.

The special counsel may have punted on the obstruction issue in part because of Barr’s known views, but the Daily Beast reported: “A source with direct knowledge of the investigation told The Daily Beast that it was their interpretation that ‘Mueller was making a case to Congress, who (unlike DOJ, in Mueller’s view) is empowered to weigh the lawfulness of a president’s conduct.’ ” As I note in my column, Barr’s argument is that Presidential acts that he views as outside the scope of the obstruction statute are left to the people or to the impeachment process. So the gap between Mueller and Barr may not be as large as generally thought.

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