Attorney Robert Barnes, a contributor to the LawNewz blog, analyzed the New York Times story that Donald Trump Jr. met with a Russian lawyer last June. He also discussed at length with Breitbart News Daily on Tuesday the appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate the 2016 election.
In the latest development of the email story, three anonymous sources described an email which informed Trump Jr. in advance that information was provided by the Russian government as part of a plan to help his father win the 2016 election. Donald Trump Jr. subsequently released the entire email chain via Twitter, shortly after Barnes completed his Breitbart News Daily interview.
SiriusXM host Alex Marlow noted that a comparable meeting between a Democratic campaign and an activist foreign lawyer would have been spun as international outreach and “bringing more voices to the table” in a campaign with global vision.
“Oh, exactly,” Barnes agreed. “In fact, you see Hillary’s people and the DNC, as Politico reported, directly had Ukrainian government officials propagandizing issues related to the election. “Of course, Jeb Bush was involved, and Democrats were involved in the hiring of the dossier, which was an ex-British spy, to get information illegally out of Russia. You have people like Stuart Stevens saying he’s never heard of such a thing, when it was done repeatedly in the 2016 election.”
“Of course, it’s nothing like what Ted Kennedy did when he got on the phone and asked the Russian ambassador to help with the 1984 elections and contaminate the arms treaty process in order to help defeat Reagan,” he added. “Those are actual, real, meaningful methods of interference, not just listening to a lawyer give, supposedly, information about an opponent that didn’t turn out to have much information anyway.”
“This is the biggest nothing burger of nothing burgers in terms of a scandal,” Barnes contended. “There’s no crime here. Don Jr. did nothing wrong here. The allegations and accusations against him, I think, will be proven to be mostly lies and libel.”
Marlow observed that the Politico story about Clinton’s campaign and Ukraine that Barnes referenced has suddenly popped back into the news, despite receiving relatively little attention when it was written in January.
Barnes said it was because of “fake lawyers who are increasingly an embarrassment to the practice and profession of law and whose state bars should decertify or at least do an actual competency exam on for some of their legal theories, propounding the idea that somehow what Don Jr. did was illegal – that somehow it was a crime to receive information from a foreign person or foreign entity.”
“People are pointing out, well, if that was a crime, then clearly what happened with Ukraine was a substantial and much more severe crime, given that it was their actual government officials involved in propagandizing information against then-candidate Trump in order to help Hillary Clinton win the election,” he said.
Barnes predicted that the Trump White House’s response to the story would be determined by how much traction it gains, noting that if it fades quickly, they would be wise to let it go.
“I think ultimately this will be like every other Russian story that’s come out, that within 72 hours it will be documented as not having the substantiation that was originally claimed,” he predicted. “The substance of the story will fade, but the headline will stay in the liberal mindset and the Democratic mindset, so they’ll continue to propagate it.”
He agreed with Marlow’s point that Donald Trump Jr. was being targeted because he was effective, while the Clinton-Ukraine story faded quickly in part because Hillary Clinton lost the election.
“In Tennessee, we call it ‘only a stuck pig squeals,’” he said. “That’s how the media has reacted towards Trump in general.”
Barnes said there was “no admissible evidence of any kind” to support the widely accepted assertion that agents of the Russian government were behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s computer systems and the email of Clinton campaign chief John Podesta, just “speculation” and “third-party opinion.”
“The key fact that refutes it is first, that Podesta was subject to a phishing process, which doesn’t make sense if Russia was the one that did it,” he said, joining Marlow in lambasting Podesta’s extremely poor password security.
“His password was ‘password.’ That’s the genius who wanted to be the next chief of staff for the next presidency of the United States,” Barnes chuckled.
“On top of that, you had the DNC refuse to allow their servers to be examined by anybody, despite multiple requests from intelligence agencies to do so, which is a dead giveaway that they know it was likely a leak and not a hack,” he continued. “If it was a hack, they would want someone to know how it was accessed.”
“Russia’s defense is likely right. Russia likely had nothing to do with hacking any aspect of those emails. All they did was tell the truth about the corruption of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton anyway,” he said.
Marlow turned the conversation to another story from the 2016 election making headlines this week: the revelation that about half of former FBI Director James Comey’s ostensibly personal memos contained classified information, which raises the possibility that some of what he deliberately leaked to the media was classified.
“It could be a very big deal because if you have the head of the FBI knowingly and deliberately leaking classified information when he was supposed to be running an investigation into people leaking classified information because according to his own testimony to Congress, he took it very seriously, then you have issues about whether he committed perjury because he made statements about his memos not having classified information before Congress,” Barnes noted.
“You’ve got potential perjury charges on that side. You have, depending on what type of classified information was leaked and what way it was kept secure or insecure, the exact same Hillary Clinton criminal issues now present with James Comey,” he added. “It would be awfully hard for him to now argue that he doesn’t know what ‘intent’ is, and he didn’t ‘intend’ to do anything, which was his excuse for Hillary.”
“Third, it would raise issues related to sort of civil suit process,” he continued. “There are various people that may have been harmed by that leak. Under the Privacy Act, they would have a right to sue Comey, including people like Carter Page, other people if they were mentioned. There are civil remedies and criminal remedies that may be available against Comey, depending on what precisely took place here.”
“It also, of course, would change the whole narrative and re-raise the question of Bob Mueller’s appointment, given his closeness and proximity to Comey,” Barnes suggested. “He should not be involved in any case investigating his longstanding close friend.”
“Bob Mueller is putting together a team of politically ambitious Democratic hit men who have a history of ethics accusations being raised against them for the way in which they’ve handled prosecutions,” he elaborated. “As a general rule, prosecutors do not make donations while they’re being prosecutors because it’s seen as raising issues of partiality. The only prosecutors who make donations to candidates are the ones who want to become judges or congressmen or senators. Those are the people he’s literally gone out of his way to find. It’s actually hard to find them. Those are rare, not commonplace, in the judicial process.”
Also, Barnes said Mueller has “hired people that do very politicized cases, that have had a history of ethics allegations being raised against them, constitutional violations being raised against them.”
“One interesting thing about Bob Mueller is, wherever you see allegations of Deep State corruption, Bob Mueller just accidentally somehow shows up,” he said. “Whether it’s the Noriega case and how that went down, or whether it’s Boston – he was in Boston during all of those issues with FBI corruption with the Irish mob. Somehow, Mueller just pops up, pops up, pops up. He’s like a ‘Where’s Waldo?’ version of covering up for the Deep State.”
“I think he’s seriously problematic, and he’s put all of his cards on the table, as ex-congressman Gingrich pointed out, by who he’s chosen to staff his team with. He shouldn’t have even been hired legally. It was done in an improper process,” he charged, finding it significant that Mueller did not cite his retirement to turn the appointment down.
“I always say that the kind of people who should recuse themselves don’t, and the kind of people who don’t need to recuse themselves, often do,” Barnes observed wryly, citing Attorney General Jeff Sessions as an example of the latter.
He compared Sessions’ recusal from matters related to the 2016 election to how Democrats “button down, go aggressive, stay strong.”
“They never recuse themselves. They never hire special counsel, even though it screamed for it in Hillary Clinton’s case,” he argued. “Here Session is overly ethical because he’s overly concerned about the appearance of propriety. He recuses himself, and a guy who should have recused himself since Comey became involved, Bob Mueller, refuses to recuse himself at all, as to anything. It shows that he doesn’t respect the rules in that sense.”
“I think he’s very much a creature of the Deep State swamp who thinks the rules just don’t apply to him,” Barnes said of Mueller. “Comey had that same Hooveresque mindset that really thought the FBI was supposed to be ahead of the president. As Professor Dershowitz pointed out, that was sort of an absurd and ludicrous legal theory the Democrats were propagating, that the FBI could somehow be above the President of the United States from whence they derive all legal power.”
“Bob Mueller is a serious problematic concern. My view is that he should have been canned, but I understand the political problematic consequences of trying to do so now. But you have a highly unethical, highly partisan special prosecutor, unlawfully appointed, running a witch hunt against the president and his allies,” Barnes said.
He also felt that Comey should not have been retained as FBI director after the election, but quoted White House strategist and former Breitbart News executive chairman Steve Bannon’s advice that “once that mistake had been made, you had to eat it for a while.”
“I understand why the president wanted to. He saw he had this Deep State pawn who was going to make his life difficult, for bases that were not trustworthy or legal or democratic,” Barnes said of President Trump’s perspective on firing Comey sooner. “But at the same time, he was in a political bind where he could not be the one to really make that decision. If anybody should have done it, Sessions should have stepped up and done it himself at the appropriate time and place, and there were multiple opportunities to do that.”
“One of the things that should have happened was there should have been an independent investigation of McCabe, who is now the head of the FBI until there is a replacement by Ray, and Comey and his involvement in McCabe,” Barnes added. “Here you had a guy running the Clinton Foundation investigation whose wife was receiving from a key Clinton Foundation ally, and Comey let that happen. Comey cares so much about ethics, he writes down personal memos when he feels ethically bothered, reportedly.”
“They should have set this story framework up in a way that justified his firing, that didn’t make it look like it appeared to be. I think Trump really regretted his decision and maybe was a little tempestuous in his reaction, and there weren’t key people around to give the right advice,” he said.
Barnes then revised his assessment to say, “I think somebody gave him the right advice, but ultimately, the media has played this out very differently from what Trump was told it would be played out as, according to the reports of certain of his advisers.”
“But some of those advisers have the kind of relationships that are hard to terminate,” he added coyly.
Marlow proposed that the larger strategic problem facing the Trump White House is that stories from the Comey firing to the Trump Jr. email story leave them perpetually playing defense, with little media attention left for any portion of President Trump’s policy agenda.
Barnes agreed that burying the Trump agenda has been a largely successful objective of the media war against this presidency and faulted the president’s team for not understanding that such attacks have been launched against all populist outsider candidates.
“Here you have the most powerful government in the world – the most powerful Deep State in the world – that was out to get Trump, and you notice any time Trump deviates from a Deep State narrative or objective, such as, ‘Hey, let’s do a detente with Russia. Let’s see if we can solve the Syrian crisis. Let’s see if we can get that done,’ within 48 hours, you have some personal hit attack come out on Trump, usually connected to some sort of leak story, often leaked national security information,” he noted.
“It clearly has been he’s in an ongoing war with both the Deep State and the Democratic media that wants to discredit him or, at a minimum, derail and distract him and the public and the public debate from issues of consequence and of public policy,” Barnes said. “There’s probably not a lot he can do to control that. All he can do is try to handle it the best he can while he pushes through his policy agenda.”
“The one upside, as you mentioned, is that the Democrats are foolishly squandering an opportunity to take shots at some of the weak links of the agenda that’s going through Congress,” he told Marlow. “There’s controversial aspects of healthcare reform, tax reform, that might put Republicans at some level of vulnerability in the midterms, but they’re not talking about that. Instead, they’re obsessing over Russia.”
“The one downside for Democrats is, as long as they obsess over Russia, as Michael Tracey talked about the other day for CNBC, the Democrats don’t have a coherent, cohesive agenda going into 2018, and they risk self-parodying themselves. It’s what happened to Republicans in ’97 and ’98. They became so obsessed with Clinton and Lewinsky that in the end, it was they who became self-parodying and self-satire, and it hurt them in the midterm elections that term. That cycle that was supposed to be good turned out to backfire pretty bad,” he recalled.
He cited the Democrats’ defeat in the Georgia District 6 special election as an example of such political fallout.
“It was after the talk of Trump impeachment went up that Republican turnout went up, and they lost that seat and the opportunity to steal a seat,” said Barnes. “In time, I think they will regret this decision because it won’t play out the way they want it to play out.”
“Going into the swamp is going to get dirty, ugly, messy, and smelly. That’s where Trump is, and he’s just doing the best he can under difficult circumstances,” he concluded