By Joseph Lord
Former Attorney General Bill Barr says he’d be willing to testify against former President Donald Trump in the ongoing case related to Trump’s handling of classified documents as president.
Trump is accused of mishandling an array of classified documents, including documents classified as “top secret,” the highest level of classification. Trump has dismissed the investigation, led by President Joe Biden’s Department of Justice, as “partisan” and a “witch hunt.”
Now Barr, who has already been critical of his former boss, said he’d be willing to testify against Trump if asked by Special Counsel Jack Smith, who is leading the federal action against Trump.
“If they called me in as a witness, of course I would testify,” Barr said during a June 18 appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” adding that he doesn’t expect to be called in for any such testimony.
Barr, a former Trump ally who served as his attorney general, has increasingly sought to distance himself from Trump since the end of the 2020 election. The former attorney general now says he’s “adamantly against” another Trump presidency.
Barr rejected Trump’s claims that widespread voter fraud had tainted the election result in several key swing states, as he testified to the now-defunct House Select Committee on Jan. 6. Barr has said that Trump was “responsible in the broad sense” for the Capitol breach.
Barr also rejected Trump’s position during his appearance on CBS, criticizing his former commander in chief of having brought it on himself.
“This is this is not a circumstance where Trump is the victim or this was government overreach,” Barr said. “He provoked this whole problem himself. Yes, he’s been the victim of unfair witch hunts in the past, but that doesn’t obviate the fact that he’s also a fundamentally flawed person who engages in reckless conduct.
“And that leads to calamitous situations like this, which are very disruptive and hurt any political causes he’s associated with.
“This was a case that entirely of his own making,” Barr added.
Barr said that Trump had “no legal right” to the documents, and applauded the government for its efforts to get the documents back “quietly and with respect,” which Barr said was “essential” to the case.
Trump has argued that his conduct was protected under the Presidential Records Act, a bill governing presidential management of documents taken from the White House upon leaving office. However, rather than the Presidential Records Act, Special Counsel Smith is seeking charges under the Espionage Act; World War 1 legislation that has been substantially amended and expanded over the years.
Barr argued against Trump’s position that the president outlined on CBS.
“The legal theory by which he gets to take battle plans and sensitive national security information, as his personal papers is absurd,” Barr said.
“The whole purpose of the statute … was to stop presidents from taking official documents out of the White House—it was passed after Watergate. … It restricted what a President can take,” Barr said, citing the law’s standard of “purely private” papers, meaning papers “that had nothing to do with the deliberations of government policy.
“Obviously, these documents are not purely private,” he said. “They’re not even arguing that it’s purely private. What they’re saying is the President just has sweeping discretion to say they are purely private even though they squarely don’t fall within the definition. It’s an absurd argument.”
On the other hand, Barr expressed discomfort with Trump going to prison over the controversy. If convicted on all counts the government has against him, Trump could face over a decade in prison.
“Do you believe if he is convicted he should serve his prison sentence?” the anchor asked Barr.
“We haven’t even gotten to the point of whether he’s been convicted,” Barr said, adding, “I don’t like the idea of a former president serving time in prison.”
Some in the GOP have also said that pursuing charges against Trump would be hypocritical after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was let off the hook in 2016. Clinton allegedly asked a staffer to acid wash a laptop of hers that contained classified information. Then-FBI Director James Comey controversially chose not to pursue charges against her.
Barr addressed this position as well.
“Republicans’ basic argument really isn’t to defend Trump’s conduct because Trump’s conduct is indefensible,” Barr said. “What they’re really saying is, he should get a pass because Hillary Clinton got a pass six or seven years ago. Now, I think, you know, that’s not a frivolous argument but I’m not sure that’s true.
“I think if you want to restore the rule of law and equal justice, you don’t do it by further derogating from justice. You do it by applying the right standard here and that’s not unfair to Trump because this is not a case where Trump is innocent and being unfairly hounded. He committed the crime or if he did commit the crime, it’s not unfair to hold him to that standard.”