By Tim Mullaney
Normally, the first sign that a Donald Trump minion is lying is when his lips begin to move.
In the case of Attorney General William Barr, excusing the long-running conduct of the president of the United States, it was when he began to go on Thursday morning about Trump’s frustration, not corrupt intent, being the source of his repeated, public cases of obstruction of the Justice Department’s investigation of the 2016 election.
“As the special counsel’s report acknowledges, there is substantial evidence to show that the president was frustrated and angered by a sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents,” Barr said. “Apart from whether the acts were obstructive, this evidence of non-corrupt motives weighs heavily against any allegation that the president had a corrupt intent to obstruct the investigation.”
Oh, my. It couldn’t have been less convincing if he had conjured the tiniest of tears. It evoked the work of actress Meghan Markle on “Suits” before she roped in Prince Harry. And it got even less so when the report of Special Counsel Robert Mueller came out later Thursday morning.
Keystone Kop president
Reading the report, as we all are, let’s cut to some chases. There’s actually plenty of evidence, both of conspiracy with the Russian government by Trump campaign officials to improperly influence the election and accept criminal acts by the Russians that the campaign knew were intended as in-kind contributions to the campaign. Arguably the candidate himself sought to custom-order one of those moves. Certainly there are plenty of facts disclosed about the president’s repeated, if Keystone Kop-like, moves to obstruct justice. That the department decided not to go forward with more charges than the indictments already brought, and no indictment of the president, is a matter of discretion.
What’s not in doubt is this: When it counted, Trump could be counted on to put himself first. And America last.
Because, let’s recall, how Donald Trump actually spent his first days in office — courtesy, in part, of the Twitter feed on which he lavishes so much executive time. Remember, the Mueller probe officially started May 17, 2017. Here’s some of what Trump did for four months before that.
An inauspicious start
On Jan. 20, he went to parties after giving the most hateful inaugural address in memory — in fact, pretty much the only hateful, hate-filled inaugural address in memory.
On Jan. 21, he sent then-Press Secretary Sean Spicer to the White House podium to tell absurd lies about the tiny crowd at the inauguration, a drop-off from past soirees amply documented by everything from photos to ridership figures from the Washington Metro.
Also on Jan. 21, he spent time tweeting about the worldwide series of women’s marches resisting his agenda.
On Jan. 27, he signed the so-called Muslim Ban barring visitors from majority-Muslim nations, which was promptly tossed out in court because Trump had so many times advertised its discriminatory intent on the campaign trail. A revised version later passed court review.
Days later, Trump spent a couple of days lying on Twitter about his telephone argument with Australia’s prime minister about immigration.
On Feb. 3, he got into a flame war with Arnold Schwarzenegger about ratings for “The Apprentice” and “Celebrity Apprentice.” He also managed to tweet about TV ratings for his inauguration, gave a badly received speech at Central Intelligence Agency headquarters (and lied about it on Twitter), and took time to claim he didn’t know Russian strongman Vladimir Putin.