Nicolle Wallace had an interesting hour of Deadline White House on Wednesday. She and her panel were already discussing the impending release of a redacted Mueller report when news broke that Attorney General William Barr was to hold a news conference Thursday morning at 9:30. Even stranger, this info did not come from the Department of Justice - it came from Trump himself, who blurted it out on a radio program. Toooootally normal. Oh, and Rod Rosenstein, the Deputy AG, would be at the news conference as well, and they'd both be answering questions.
Wallace and her guests were fairly gobsmacked and not quite sure what to make of this info, although they had a few ideas, and none of them reflected kindly on AG Barr.
JEREMY BASH: What I think the DOJ should be doing is putting out the full report unredacted. Period. Full stop. We don't need any more press conferences, we don't need any more summaries, we don't need any more spin. We just need to see the words of the report. We need to see the work of Special Counsel, period. I wouldn't be surprised to learn, Nicolle, if the president directed him or suggested to him that he have a press conference. It's very Trumpian, It's sort of like, get out ahead of it, tell your story so we can have our narrative, and then we can claim no collusion, exoneration total, I'm good, let's go.
Donna Edwards thought the prospect of this additional attempt to spin pre-release actually "ups the ante" for Congress to demand Robert Mueller appear before them to answer questions about the investigation completely free of spin from the White House. Eugene Robinson agreed, and wanted to know when we are going to hear from Mueller, given the fact that the redactions (and Barr's complete lack of credibility at this point) will leave a lot of questions unanswered. "I think there's going to be a push, at least in the House, to get Mueller to testify," said Robinson. Then Wallace and Bash explain why they'll have no basis upon which to refuse to release evidence upon which the DOJ has based its conclusions.
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WALLACE: As it -- let's look at what the justice department -- having been a staffer, they're making extraordinarily polarizing decisions when they're on the eve of presenting material that everyone across the divide of the Trump question is eager to see and consume. They're making extraordinarily weighted decisions. They have a history there, where we know it's been reported, they're running from the ghost of Jim Comey. Where they felt like with Hillary Clinton, he announced no criminal charges against Hillary, and then put out all the evidence you're talking about. They seem to be heading down a path where they're not even going to arrive at Comey's uncelebrated status. There was no decision on obstruction. They did not decide to exonerate him, they did not decide to charge him. They didn't even get that far. They're going out to sell something and there's no indication, no reporting that tomorrow they'll release an unredacted version of the Mueller report or the underlying evidence.
BASH: Right, and I think that even in the James Comey investigation of the Hillary Clinton email matter, all of that underlying investigative matter went running up to the hill as soon as Jim Jordan and the House Republicans asked for it. So, now the Department of Justice has to live up to that precedent. They can't hardly say in this case, "Oh, we can't give over the underlying material." On what basis would they say no?
Then Nicolle Wallace asked the question that reflected a completely justified cynicism in this god-forsaken administration.
WALLACE: Do you think there's any chance that Barr is going to stand there, release the mueller report and announce an investigation into the origins of the Mueller probe?
BASH: I think it's possible, and I think that would even take the problematic role that the attorney general is playing even one, two, three steps further.
WALLACE: And what does that give the Democrats the opportunity to do? I think if they were already suspicious of Barr after his two days of testimony after floating this conspiracy theory, the fact that he's the one that tomorrow is going to almost like -- I don't know. I don't know the role if the report was all done by Mueller, he's already put his finger on the scale on the obstruction decision. What's the role other than passing out -- what is the Attorney General's role tomorrow?
BASH: I don't know about Democrats, but I can tell you I think members of Congress, I think the public will have further reason to question his impartiality.
They went on to speculate about Rod Rosenstein's role at this bizarre presser, assuming he was being used as a "human shield," to lend credibility to whatever conclusions Barr might be attempting to throw out to Trump and his base for consumption, and to deflect mean questions.
And keep in mind. At 9:30 a.m., Barr will be taking questions on a report that reporters likely will have not seen, yet, let alone have had time to digest. In fact, Barr's press conference will be taking place BEFORE CONGRESS has gotten the Mueller report.
Yeah, Barr's super transparent about all this.