NBC Asks if Barr ‘On the Level,’ Fears Mueller ‘Cop Out’ on Obstruction

During her hostile interview with White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Monday’s Today show, co-host Savannah Guthrie worried if Attorney General William Barr was “on the level” when he made the decision not to pursue obstruction of justice charges against President Trump after Special Counsel Robert Mueller found no conclusive evidence to warrant such charges. In a later segment, she even suggested Mueller made a “cop out” move on the issue.

“In point of fact, you have a Special Counsel because the person is supposed to be independent and supposed to make this legal judgment. In this case, for whatever reason, Mueller didn’t,” Guthrie lamented to Sanders. The NBC anchor then fretted: “Attorney General Barr took it upon himself to issue a legal conclusion, and some critics are saying, wait a minute, is this on the level?”

 

 

Guthrie further feared: “He did it in 48 hours, and he wrote a memo six months ago, eight months ago, in June last year, stating there wasn’t an obstruction of justice case. So the criticism is here’s a guy making a snap judgment who had already made up his mind about the case and it’s on the record.”  

Sanders corrected her: “It’s not a snap judgment....it wasn’t that he took this upon himself. That’s the process of the law. When the Special Counsel couldn’t make a decision, couldn’t make a final determination, they refer that to the Attorney General to make that decision.”

In a discussion with Justice Correspondent Pete Williams and MSNBC host Nicolle Wallace in a segment that followed, Guthrie expressed disappointment in Mueller:

You know, the biggest question I have is, you know, Robert Mueller, here he’s the special counsel, he’s here to investigate two things, this collusion issue, this conspiracy issue, and obstruction of justice. On one he issues a prosecutorial judgement, he comes to a legal conclusion and on the other one, he sidesteps. Why? Is that a cop out? Isn’t this his job?

Williams agreed: “I think it’s a surprise to many prosecutors that he would pass this hot potato to the political appointees at the Justice Department when he’s supposed to be the outside special counsel...”

Moments later, Guthrie wished that Barr had avoided making any judgment on obstruction: “Could Attorney General Barr have just let it stand, ‘Well, Mueller says he doesn’t know which way to go,’ and we just leave it there, and it’s just basically a non-decision and that’s what we have, or did the Attorney General have to, by law, reach in and render a legal judgment?”

Williams noted that he was “not sure that he had to by law,” but pointed out: “I don’t know what that would have gained.” He then justified Barr’s decision:

...it’s understandable what the Justice Department said. Number one, there’s no underlying crime that they say he was trying to cover up if there were obstruction....if you’re going to charge the President of the United States with a crime, you’ve really got to have it. And even Mueller says, “We really don’t have it.”  

After breathlessly awaiting the Mueller report for two years, many in the media are having a hard time concealing their disappointment at his findings.

Here is a transcript of March 25 discussion between Guthrie, Williams, and Wallace:

7:14 AM ET

(...)

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: You know, the biggest question I have is, you know, Robert Mueller, here he’s the special counsel, he’s here to investigate two things, this collusion issue, this conspiracy issue, and obstruction of justice. On one he issues a prosecutorial judgement, he comes to a legal conclusion and on the other one, he sidesteps. Why? Is that a cop out? Isn’t this his job?

PETE WILLIAMS: I think it’s a surprise to many prosecutors that he would pass this hot potato to the political appointees at the Justice Department when he’s supposed to be the outside special counsel or at least the somewhat independent special counsel. So, yes, why, I don’t know, but yes, I’d say it’s a surprise.

(...)

GUTHRIE: Can I ask you, Pete, to fact check, or if you know the answer to what Sarah Huckabee Sanders was just saying? She suggests that William Barr, the attorney general, had to issue the legal conclusion that Mueller chose not to issue. Is that true? Could Attorney General Barr have just let it stand, “Well, Mueller says he doesn’t know which way to go,” and we just leave it there, and it’s just basically a non-decision and that’s what we have, or did the Attorney General have to, by law, reach in and render a legal judgment?

WILLIAMS: I’m not sure that he had to by law, but he’s the only one who could have. I suppose he could have recused himself and left it to Rod Rosenstein –

GUTHRIE: Or just said nothing at all.

WILLIAMS: I don’t know what that would have gained. Let me just say this about the decision on the obstruction case. If Mueller says, “It’s close and I can’t – you know, how can I tell?,” which is a surprise, it’s understandable what the Justice Department said. Number one, there’s no underlying crime that they say he was trying to cover up if there were obstruction. Now, of course, as you know as a lawyer, you don’t have to have that. You can still have obstruction if someone’s just trying to throw sand in someone’s face.

But the second thing is, I suppose, it would have – a potential tie breaker would be if you’re going to charge the President of the United States with a crime, you’ve really got to have it. And even Mueller says, “We really don’t have it.” 

NICOLLE WALLACE: But then clear him. So then clear him. He didn’t do either. I mean, so then clear him. And he is an unindicted co-conspirator in the case out of the Southern District of New York, where he’s been named in federal prosecutor sentencing documents a as “Individual Number One.” But if they didn’t have it, clear him. They did neither. So if the public was expecting some clarity, they did not get it from Robert Mueller.

(...)

NB Daily Mueller Report Conservatives & Republicans NBC Today Video Savannah Guthrie Pete Williams Donald Trump Bill Barr

Sponsored Links