Last month, The Wall Street Journal published an explosive scoop that, like most recent mind-boggling political scandals, would have commanded headlines for weeks had it not been superseded by a dozen other explosive scandals in rapid succession. The Journal reported that William Barr, President Trump’s nominee for attorney general, had sent the Department of Justice an unsolicited 20-page memo arguing against prosecuting Trump for obstruction of justice.
The Journal report depicts the Barr memo as a surprise to Trump — something the president learned about only after having selected Barr. “After Mr. Trump offered him the job, Mr. Barr briefly told the president that he had written a memo about aspects of the Russia probe that could spur questions during his confirmation hearing, according to a person familiar with the process,” the Journal reported. “It wasn’t immediately clear how Mr. Trump responded, but a second person familiar with the matter said the memo played no role in his decision to choose Mr. Barr.”
It would be troubling enough that the attorney general just happened to express a tendentiously pro-Trump opinion about his criminal case before going on to oversee it. But now a new report by CNN says the Journal had it wrong. According to “a source familiar with the discussions,” Barr “discussed the memo with Trump prior to his nomination.”
So the fact that the president who believes the attorney general should be his Roy Cohn appointed a candidate who had submitted a long defense of Trump to the president’s lawyers turns out not to have been a massive coincidence. One interesting question for senators interviewing Barr today would be, just how did the original misapprehension get conveyed to the Journal?