Donald Trump was “frustrated and angered by a sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency,” Attorney General William Barr said in Thursday morning’s press conference, suggesting that frustration and anger exonerated Trump from obstruction of justice. Trump and the White House cooperated with the investigation, Barr insisted, omitting the fact that Trump himself did not testify and that Mueller details a list of ways witnesses withheld relevant information from the investigation. According to Barr, “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.” So: The simple fact that Trump was frustrated and yet (semi-)cooperated with the Mueller investigation shows that he did not obstruct—or so his attorney general-slash-defense attorney would have us believe.
When a reporter followed up to ask why he was being so generous to Trump, Barr insisted that “The statements about his sincere beliefs are recognized in the report that there was substantial evidence for that.” Okay … Trump was frustrated and angry. He’s an angry man in general. How many people are currently imprisoned for crimes committed when they were frustrated and angered by sincere beliefs?
Barr presented a sympathetic vision of a president facing “an unprecedented situation,” with scrutiny from law enforcement and “relentless speculation” from the media. The poor guy! Sounds terrible, doesn’t it? Remembering that Trump did not fully cooperate with the Mueller investigation and that Mueller did not clear Trump of obstruction, let’s take a look at what was frustrating and angering Trump, in Mueller’s words rather than Barr’s.
Trump was “frustrated.” Search brings up six uses of “frustrat” (to include frustrating as well as frustrated), four of which refer directly to Trump’s feelings:
- “Gates recalled candidate Trump being generally frustrated that the Clinton emails had not been found.”
- “Christie told the President not to talk about the investigation even if he was frustrated at times.”
- “According to McGahn and Donaldson, the President had expressed frustration with Comey before his March 20 testimony, and the testimony made matters worse.”
- “The President expressed frustration with the Russia investigation, saying that it made relations with the Russians difficult.”
Trump was “angered.”
- “[A]fter Sessions announced his recusal on March 2, the President expressed anger at the decision and told advisors that he should have an Attorney General who would protect him.”
- “President-Elect Trump called Priebus after the story [about Michael Flynn’s contacts with the Russian ambassador] was published and expressed anger about it.”
- “Hicks said that the President thought Flynn had bad judgment and was angered by tweets sent by Flynn and his son[.]”
- “The President paid careful attention to negative coverage of Flynn and reacted with annoyance and anger when the story broke disclosing that Flynn had discussed sanctions with Kislyak.”
- “After Sessions announced his recusal on March 2, the President expressed anger at Sessions for the decision and then privately asked Sessions to ‘unrecuse.’”
- “The President expressed anger at McGahn about the recusal and brought up Roy Cohn, stating that he wished Cohn was his attorney.”
- “After Comey publicly confirmed the existence of the FBT's Russia investigation on March 20, 2017, the President was "beside himself' and expressed anger that Comey did not issue a statement correcting any misperception that the President himself was under investigation.”
- “Evidence indicates that the President was angered by both the existence of the Russia investigation and the public reporting that he was under investigation, which he knew was not true based on Comey's representation.”
- “The President became very upset and directed his anger at Sessions.”
- “Comey's refusal angered the President, who criticized Sessions for leaving him isolated and exposed, saying ‘You left me on an island.’”
Results for “angry” are along much the same lines.
So, yeah, Trump was frustrated and angry to be under investigation … enough so that it poisoned his relationship with his attorney general because he expected the attorney general to serve as his personal lawyer and protect him. This is not exonerating stuff. The idea that Trump’s fee-fees were relevant sounded like an indicator that Barr was serving as Trump’s personal lawyer when he said it in Thursday’s press conference, and reading these passages doesn’t make Barr look any more like a principled defender of justice.