Just when you thought Special Counsel Robert Mueller would remain in the shadows forever, a letter comes fluttering out of his super-secret office! On Tuesday, The Washington Post reported that it had got hold of the missive, from Mueller to Attorney General William Barr, taking the AG to task for the misleading way in which he had characterized the findings in Mueller’s report on Russian election interference. The letter complained that Barr’s four-page summary “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance” of the document. In other words, those endless assertions of “no collusion, no obstruction” on the part of the president and his AG didn’t just drive us nuts—it even forced the notoriously taciturn Mueller to cry foul.
The letter notwithstanding, Barr stuck to his script on Wednesday, when he appeared before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. He ducked and dodged and split legal hairs in response to pointed questions, and when he was asked about Mueller’s communication, he said, “The letter?is a bit?snitty, and I think it?was probably written by one of?his staff people.” He went on to suggest that what Mueller was really upset about was media coverage of the whole affair—a baseless claim, since nothing in what Mueller wrote even hints at anything of the kind.
At least Barr turned up for that hearing. In a snitty hissy fit, on Thursday morning he refused to appear for questioning before the House Judiciary Committee, with the flimsy excuse that he didn’t want independent attorneys to interrogate him, as the committee had demanded. (That’s funny—the Republicans hauled in an independent lawyer to grill Christine Blasey?Ford at the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, and nobody uttered a peep.) The real reason for Barr’s no-show, it is strongly suspected, is that the Dems who run the house were licking their lips at the prospect of holding his feet to the fire.
In other news, on Monday The Washington Post announced that since taking office, the president has told more than 10,000 lies—an average of eight whoppers a day. Also on Monday—and this is no lie—Trump and his three eldest kids sued Deutsche Bank and Capital One in an attempt to block congressional subpoenas of their financial records. And in yet another Monday development, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein?proffered a resignation letter in which he shamelessly sucked up to the president, who had often derided him and reportedly called him Mr. Peepers behind his back. “I am grateful to you for the opportunity to serve,” it read, “for the courtesy and humor you often display in our personal conversations, and for the goals you set in your inaugural address: patriotism, unity, safety, education, and prosperity, because ‘a nation exists to serve its citizens.’ ” (Courtesy? Humor? Are we talking about the same guy whose unhinged inaugural oration included the bizarre vow: “This?American carnage?stops right here and stops right now”?)
There was no doubt a surfeit of courtesy—and maybe a bit of nervous humor?—on display Friday morning, when the president rang up Vladimir Putin. They schmoozed for about an hour and a half, and Trump confessed that they even chatted about the Mueller report. “We discussed, he sort of smiled when he said something to the effect that it started off as a mountain and it ended up being a mouse, but he knew that, because he knew there was no collusion whatsoever, so pretty much that’s what it was,” Trump told reporters. Questioned repeatedly by NBC’s Kristen Welker whether he had asked Putin about Russian election meddling, the president first tried to tried to dismiss Welker as rude. Nevertheless she persisted, and he finally admitted that in fact the subject hadn’t come up at all.
Lastly, if you have been wondering how so many seemingly reasonable government officials, people you don’t agree with but had never thought of as outright nuts, have fallen under Trump’s spell, we refer you to an op-ed in Wednesday’s New York Times by former FBI Director James Comey. The piece, entitled “How Trump Co-opts Leaders Like Bill Barr,” relates in detail the steps in which small moral compromises—I’ll just sit here and not say anything while Trump foams at the mouth!—and rationalizations—Things will be even worse if I leave!—spiral, until Comey concludes, “Of course, to stay, you must be seen as on his team, so you make further compromises. You use his language, praise his leadership, tout his commitment to values. And then you are lost. He has eaten your soul.”