William Barr is trying desperately to replay his role as Attorney General (1991 -1993) for George H.W. Bush in the Iran-Contra scandal and cover-up. The scandal began when Republican operatives illegally negotiated with Iranian officials to sell them arms provided Iran retain American hostages beyond the 1980 elections. Customs, immigration, and ATF officials turned their heads as arms were dealt, in violation of the Boland Amendment, to the Nicaraguan Contras, and drugs from Nicaragua were imported to the U.S. market to pay for those weapons. Later, funds obtained from the illegal sale of U.S. arms to Iran, in spite of the prevailing embargo, were used to pay for weapons sent to Nicaragua.
As Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh’s investigations were closing in on high-level U.S. officials in the Reagan/Bush administrations, Barr, as Attorney General, recommended Bush pardon five convicted administration officials and Caspar Weinberger (whose trial was pending) involved in Iran-Contra. Large volumes of documents relating to the scandal were destroyed or denied to investigators, no doubt with Barr’s concurrence. Fawn Hall and Oliver North had shredded what documents they could in their offices and smuggled the rest outside for destruction. The impact was immediate and devastating to Walsh’s ability to complete the investigation and refer indictments. There was no rodeo, but this was William Barr’s first major cover-up and obstruction of justice.
Fast forward to Barr’s release of the highly redacted report of Independent Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of the Trump Administration’s election conspiracy with Russia, the following cover-up, and obstruction of justice. Barr’s depiction of the report in his summary was inaccurate and misleading at best. Mueller sent two signed letters to Barr, and Barr spoke at least once with him via telephone. The letter revealed to the public was quite clear in that Mueller did not concur with Barr’s characterization of the report. In testimony to Congress, Barr was asked how Mueller felt about the summary. Barr said he did not know. He then called the letter “snitty” and said it must have been written by staffers, hinting that Mueller may not agree with it. One might wonder why Mueller would have signed both letters if he did not agree with their content or tone, which were formal and quite logical in construction. Clearly, Barr’s sworn testimony was dishonest.
Barr is getting a head start down the path he took in 1991-1993. The white-wash is well under way. The obstruction is on-going as the Justice Department denies Congressional and Judicial access to witnesses, documents, and intelligence reports. The cover-up most likely is underway also with the destruction of embarrassing and incriminating documents and other evidence.
With one lone exception, Republicans in Congress are complicit in the greatest threat to our democratic system and institutions since Joe McCarthy’s day. Rep. Justin Amash is the last principled, patriotic Republican extant in Congress. It is absolutely imperative that Robert Mueller once again honor his duty to our country and testify before an open Congress, with or without the President’s consent.
Dwight W. Polk is a resident of Niceville.