Gene Collier: Get ready for the weaponization Olympics

Gene Collier, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on

Published in Op Eds

William Barr took another spin through the news cycle last week, and though it wasn’t anywhere near as uplifting as his star turn before the Jan. 6 committee, you can be sure he came out wearing the identical self-assured smirk he’s long since perfected.

A high polish precision tool of the interminable Trump campaign to stay out of prison, the former attorney general last year took a run at rehabilitating his legacy when he denounced on camera Donald Trump’s 2020 election conspiracies as “crazy,” “nonsense,” “disturbing,” “idiotic,” and “absolute rubbish,” a magnificent cadenza that will still prove spectacularly insufficient at keeping Barr from historical ignominy.

America has long endured attorneys general who’ve demonstrated far less interest in the law or the Constitution than in the political goals of the presidents who appointed them — John Mitchell went to prison for serving Richard Nixon’s nefarious purposes, for example — but Barr might well set new standards for duplicity by the time his total machinations are fully understood.

That effort got a serious boost last week thanks to an investigative piece in The New York Times. Sadly, it flushed from the same news cycle without much notice by anyone outside the political punditry, another in an endless series of classical Trump “bombshell” that never explode.

Not content to have delayed and mischaracterized the damning conclusions of the Mueller report into Trump’s extensive Russia connections and their impact on the 2016 election, Barr soon unleashed special counsel John Durham to investigate the investigators, no doubt looking for the so-called deep state operatives who were always out to get the president (and doing a terrible, terrible job).

In the expose by Times reporters Charlie Savage, Adam Goldman and Katie Benner, rich detail emerges not only on the extent Barr and Durham went to turn up nothing save for two dubious charges that resulted in acquittal, but also on how they came across evidence implicating Trump in a series of questionable international financial dealings (Trump?!). Those allegations, provided by officials in Italy, led to criminal investigation that Barr appears to have allowed everyone to think was homing in on the deep staters instead of on his boss.

The Times article further alleges that when Michael Horowitz, the Justice Department’s inspector general, issued a report debunking the very premise of the Durham inquiry, Barr tried to pressure Horowitz to keep the report private. And that when it became public, Barr mischaracterized that as well.

“This is all about the Trump weaponization of the DOJ,” tweeted Andrew Weissmann, who spent 20 years at the Justice Department. “But we know the House Republicans won’t give a damn about it.”

And this, of course, is what Barr needs so desperately right now, for the Republicans of Animal House to smoke screen this weaponization with their own weaponization hearings under the direction of inveterate agitator Jim Jordan.

Jordan is set to lead a select subcommittee looking into every conceivable Trumpian fever dream — Hunter Biden’s laptop, the Jan. 6 investigation, the Mar-a-Lago search, Big Tech’s liberal bias, the Education Department’s liberal bias, Madison Avenue’s liberal bias relative to M&M’s, the radical social communist woke media’s leftist agenda, and, I wouldn’t be surprised, Benghazi III: The Final Beginning.


While all that’s going on, Bill Barr should be able to stick to the back streets and smirk off into the sunset, unless Democrats in the Senate counter with their own weaponization.

The Senate Judiciary Committee at the direction of chair Richard Durbin of Illinois should probably subpoena Barr and Dunham to describe what “weaponization” means to them. This would provide a valuable counterpoint to the House’s antics, except that by the time that happens, the vast public audience will have turned it all out in utter disgust.


It’s the exact strain of malignant cynicism now virtually endemic in a country where you can plan and execute an attempted coup in broad daylight and never have it alter your golf schedule.

Merrick Garland, rumored to be the current AG, appears to be too busy appointing special counsels to move the needle on the one person accountable for all these machinations and all the cynicism they produce.

Investigations of Trump in Georgia are at the stage where indictments are said to be “imminent,” and have been “imminent” for weeks. Investigations in New York going back to 2016 — including the one that prompted Bill Barr to fire head prosecutor Geoffrey Berman for looking too energetically into the Trump Organization — are said to have found renewed traction in the general vicinity of Stormy Daniels.

But Trump golfs, Barr smirks, and on we go.


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