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Read the Transcript -- Again

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Richard Drew

Last week, Attorney General William Barr was interviewed by Catherine Herridge, a CBS News correspondent, regarding the Department of Justice decision to end the prosecution of former national security adviser Michael Flynn.


In December 2017, Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the former Russian ambassador to the United States, but he filed in January 2020 to rescind his guilty plea based on the "bad faith, vindictiveness and breach of the plea agreement."

The Justice Department ended the case because "there was not, in our view, a legitimate investigation going on," Barr told CBS last Thursday. "They did not have a basis for a counterintelligence investigation against Flynn at that stage, based on a perfectly legitimate and appropriate call he made as a member of the transition."

Crossfire Hurricane was the FBI investigation opened during the 2016 presidential cycle into whether people in Donald Trump's campaign were "coordinating, wittingly or unwittingly, with the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election," per the final report issued last year.

Crossfire Hurricane concluded that there was no collusion, but the investigation was used to trap Flynn in a lie. "There was no underlying investigation that was legitimate," Barr said last week. "And the whole exercise was just about creating the lie," for which Flynn was prosecuted.

During the interview, Barr said he was concerned that the Justice Department had been used for political purposes under the previous administration and that that political use could upend the democratic process our country is built upon. "We should choose our leaders through the election process," he said. "And efforts to use the law enforcement process to change leaders or to disable administrations are incendiary in this country and destroy our republic."


When asked by Herridge how the Justice Department decision would be regarded in the future, Barr responded: "Well, history is written by the winner. So, it largely depends on who's writing the history. But I think a fair history would say that it was a good decision because it upheld the rule of law. It helped. It upheld the standards of the Department of Justice, and it undid what was an injustice."

Three days later, on NBC's "Meet the Press," a clip of Barr's interview was played in which Barr said: "Well, history is written by the winner. So, it largely depends on who's writing the history." Following the clip, host Chuck Todd said that Barr "didn't make the case that he was upholding the rule of law. He was almost admitting that, yeah, this is a political job."

Todd -- political director of NBC News -- either hadn't seen the whole clip or intentionally misrepresented what Barr said. On Tuesday, Todd apologized, saying: "We did not edit that out. That was not our edit. ... We should have looked at both (clips) and checked for a full transcript, a mistake I wish we hadn't made and that I hadn't made. The second part of the attorney general's answer would have put it in the proper context."

Let me translate: "I should have done my job and ensured the show was reporting accurately."

What Todd didn't focus on is the most important part of Barr's response, which came at the end of the interview. "Well, I said we're gonna get to the bottom of what happened," Barr concluded. Barr has appointed U.S. Attorney John Durham to lead this effort.


"Well, as you know, I'm not gonna predict the outcome. But I said that we're certainly -- there probably will be a report as a byproduct of his work," said Barr. "But we also are seeing if there are people who violated the law and should be brought to justice. And that's what we have our eye on."

Here's a tip for those of us who are trying to keep track of what's happening: Assume mainstream media is going to clip segments and misrepresent. Do your homework, and read the transcripts. From Barr's perspective, it keeps your eye on the ball, and don't worry about those who spread disinformation. We will bring people to justice.

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