Republicans Trash Trump On CBS

[ Posted Monday, June 19th, 2023 – 16:42 UTC ]

Since it is a holiday (Happy Juneteenth!), I considered taking the day off. But rather than totally punt today, I thought I'd just run large excerpts from the official CBS transcript of this week's Face The Nation, since it was a rather extraordinary show.

I'm not usually a big fan of Face The Nation, in terms of the Sunday morning political chatfest lineup, but occasionally they manage to do a good job. This week we had Robert Costa guest-hosting, but it wasn't his presence so much as the guest list itself that made the program notable. The first two segments might have been subtitled: "Republicans Explaining Why Trump Is So Screwed" (if you'll forgive the language).

First up was Bill Barr, who served as attorney general under Donald Trump. Barr spent his time in office toadying to Trump while trying not to cross the line too far into full-on partisan hackery. From my perspective, he did not walk this tightrope very well. But after the 2020 election, Barr stepped down as Trump grew increasingly deluded about his Big Lie that the election had been stolen from him. Barr then wrote a book, in an effort to rehabilitate his own public image, which is now out in paperback (the ostensible reason for Barr being invited yesterday). The less said about this rehabilitation attempt the better.

I will give Barr credit, though, he was pretty scathingly unequivocal about where Donald Trump finds himself today -- in legal jeopardy, directly brought on by his own reckless and selfish behavior. Which, as I said, Barr does not mince words in pointing out:

Q: Former President Trump now says everyone except you says this indictment is about election interference and should not have been brought. He said you know the indictment is total B.S. That's his -- that's our shorthand for what he actually said.

He's also known for watching the Sunday shows. And he obviously saw your appearance on another network last Sunday.

Why is he wrong about this?

FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL BILL BARR: Well, he -- you know, this is -- this is not a circumstance where he's the victim or that this is government overreach.

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 situations, calamitous situations, like this, which are very destructive and hurt any political cause he's associated with.

And this was a case that -- entirely of his own making. He had no right to those documents. The government tried for over a year quietly and with respect to get them back, which was essential that they do, and he jerked him around. And he had no legal basis for keeping them.

But, beyond that, when -- when he faced a subpoena, he didn't raise any legal arguments. He engaged in a course of deceitful conduct, according to the -- the indictment that was a clear crime, if those allegations are true, and were -- was outrageous.

What he did was, he -- according to the indictment, is, he took the documents out of storage, led his lawyer to believe that he'd be conducting a full search of the boxes, and then caused his lawyer to file with the court something saying that he had completed a search.

Q: How strong is the special counsel's case on obstruction specifically?

BARR: Well, it's very strong, because a lot of the evidence comes from his own lawyers. And, furthermore, there's evidence of him saying things that are completely incompatible with any idea that this was an innocent document dispute.

Q: Do you believe he lied to the Justice Department?

BARR: Do I personally believe it? Yes, I do.

Q: And do you believe that -- that -- he continues to claim that he has all these privileges and rights under the Presidential Records Act. Is he mischaracterizing the act?

BARR: Absolutely.

The legal theory by which he gets to take battle plans and sensitive national security information as his personal papers is absurd. It's just as wacky as the legal doctrine they came up with for having the vice president unilaterally determine who won the election.

The whole purpose of the statute, the Presidential Records Act, is -- was to stop presidents from taking official documents out of the White House. It was passed after Watergate. That's the whole purpose of it. And, therefore, it restricted what a president can take. It says it's purely private that had nothing to do with the deliberations of government policy.

Obviously, these documents are not purely private. It's obvious. And they're not even now arguing that it's purely private. What they're saying is, the president just has sweeping discretion to say they are, even though they squarely don't fall within the definition. It's an absurd argument.

. . .

Q: Republicans remain critical of the attorney general, who spoke out this week, as well as Director [Christopher] Wray at the FBI. They have rallied to Trump's side. Are they wrong to say that this Justice Department is acting in a political way?

BARR: Well, if they're pointing to this case, I think they're wrong.

I think the department had no choice but to seek those documents. Their basic argument really isn't to defend his conduct, because Trump's conduct is indefensible. 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 -- 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.

Q: You say Trump's alleged conduct is indefensible. So many Republicans continue to defend him.

What will it say if the party, your longtime party, puts him forward as their nominee?

BARR: Well, that's the problem.

I don't think they're actually defending his conduct, but they are saying it's unfair to prosecute him. But that then raises another question. OK, if it's unfair to prosecute him, that's not the whole answer. The question is, should we be putting someone like this forward as the leader of the country, leader of the free world, who has engaged in this kind of conduct?

The other thing is, this is not just an isolated example. Trump has -- you know, has many good qualities, and he accomplished some good things. But the fact of the matter is, he is a consummate narcissist. And he constantly engages in reckless conduct that -- that puts his political followers at risk and the conservative and Republican agenda at risk.

Q: Would he put the country at risk if he was in the White House again?

BARR: He -- he will always put his own interests and gratifying his own ego ahead of everything else, including the country's interests. There's no question about it.

This is a perfect example of that. He's like -- he's like a 9-year-old, a defiant 9-year-old kid who is always pushing the glass toward the edge of the table, defying his parents to stop him from doing it. It's a means of self-assertion and exerting his dominance over other people. And he's -- he's a very petty individual who will always put his interests ahead of the country's, his personal gratification of his -- you know, of his ego.

But our country...

Q: This is...

BARR: Our country can't -- you know, can't be a therapy session for, you know, a troubled man like this.

Again, for the record, this is not a Democrat saying these things about Donald Trump. It's not just any Republican, either. This is the man who was Trump's own attorney general, who oversaw the same Justice Department for almost all of the final two years of Trump's term in office. He was named to the post when Trump grew upset with Jeff Sessions for not bending the Justice Department to Trump's will enough. It's a fairly safe bet that when Barr calls Trump "a defiant 9-year-old kid," "a fundamentally flawed person who engages in reckless conduct," and a "consummate narcissist," he knows exactly what he is talking about.

As a legal expert who ran the Justice Department for two separate Republican presidents, Barr sums up Trump's legal defense as "wacky" and "absurd." Again, this is Trump's own former attorney general saying this.

If Barr's condemnation of Trump and his legal position wasn't damning enough, we then got the icing on the GOP Trump-bashing cake, in the person of former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Unlike Barr, Christie never served in Trump's cabinet (although like Barr, Christie did serve as one of Trump's toadies for a period). Also unlike Barr, Christie is now running against Trump for the Republican presidential nomination.

Christie is one of only two Republican candidates in the race who are actually willing to call Trump out over the matter (Asa Hutchinson is the other). Christie, as he begins by pointing out, was a former federal prosecutor. He knows how serious the indictment is and how serious the crimes are that Trump has been charged with. And unlike most of the GOP presidential field, he is unafraid to say exactly what he thinks of the whole mess:

Q: We turn now to the 2024 presidential campaign and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. He is in Bay Head, New Jersey.

Good morning.

Governor, have some Republicans, especially those in Congress, been too quick to rally behind Trump this week without knowing the full scope of the evidence in the records case?

FORMER GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE (R-New Jersey) (Presidential Candidate): Look, if you read that indictment -- and, as you recall, Bob, I did this work for seven years at the United States attorney in New Jersey, the fifth largest office in the country.

And that indictment lays out some very, very disturbing facts about not only the president, the former president, keeping all these documents and national security documents that he had no right to keep on to the Presidential Act -- Records Act, or any other law, but, worse, instructing his lawyers to lie and to obstruct the government from getting those documents back.

There's some very disturbing conduct in there, including the showing of these documents to other people that were not cleared to be able to see them. So, I think that we've got to have a full trial here and a fair one. The president, the former president, is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

But the conduct in there, Bob, is deeply disturbing. And what I'm concerned about is, look, we need change at the Department of Justice. And, if I'm president, you can be guaranteed that we'll put an attorney general in there who will lead without fear or favor and clear out anyone who does show partisanship.

But that's a different issue than the conduct that Donald Trump engaged in. And, in my view, that's not the conduct that we should have from someone who wants to be president of the United States again.

. . .

We would not be here if Donald Trump had simply returned the documents the dozens of times the government asked him to return them, the times that the grand jury served a subpoena for them.

He waited, waited, and waited, defied the government, and then wound up having his -- his house raided. And, when they did, they found over 100 more classified documents, after he had told everybody months earlier he had returned everything.

That conduct is indefensible, in my view. And if it's true, as alleged in the indictment, he is in severe legal trouble.

It's a bit bizarre to hear the best case against the Republican presidential frontrunner only being made this strongly by his fellow Republicans. President Joe Biden, quite understandably, is not out there making political hay over the issue, as he attempts to depoliticize the situation to the best of his ability. However, if Biden had chosen not to run for a second term, right now we would have an open field of Democratic candidates all trying to outdo each other in denouncing Trump's behavior -- but that situation simply doesn't exist.

In any case, as we said, we didn't set out to write an entire column today (due to the holiday), but we did want to highlight these two appearances on CBS, as to date we have not heard a better case made against all the distractions and sand-throwing from Trump and most of the rest of the Republican Party.

To wit: These are serious charges. Trump brought all of this on himself with his own reckless actions and defiance in the face of a subpoena. He put the nation's national security at risk, just to boost his own ego. He got caught red-handed. And he has no legal defense that is not completely wacky and absurd.

Happy Juneteenth, everyone!

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


14 Comments on “Republicans Trash Trump On CBS”

  1. [1] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    politicians actually telling the truth? gosh, it must be end-times!

    as to the merit of donald's initial claims of rigged voting machines, bill barr would certainly know. he's the guy who ushered in diebold electronic voting machines in 2004, and defended them at hearings where it was essentially proven that they were easier to hack than a box of cheerios.

  2. [2] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    [23] Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    If NATO on Russia’s border is the paramount concern of the Kremlin then they’d pack up and go home now that Finland has joined NATO, right?

    WRONG! The paramount concern is NOT NATO on Russia's border but rather NATO in Ukraine. Finland is most decidedly not Ukraine - not in this context or in any other.

    Yeah, only Putin apologists think Putin has any fucking say in the matter.

  3. [3] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I did not write that! You said that first bit!

    Give it a rest, Caddy. Or try acting with a tad more civility.

  4. [4] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Why have you resorted of late to so much name-calling?

  5. [5] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    Am I really being that freaking unclear!!!

    not unclear, inaccurate. you've conflated past, present and future, and presumed agreement on points that are in dispute.

    when zelenskiy took office, donald trump was president of the usa, and the military conflict for eastern ukraine was already in progress. when he spoke to trump hoping for military aid to protect his country from the ongoing russian invasion, what he got was the attempted extortion of anti-biden propaganda.

    the change that occurred last year was not from no-war to war, it was from war to total war.


  6. [6] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    You're still missing my point(s)! Sigh.

  7. [7] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Btw, Donald Trump has very little to do with what has happened over the last 30 years wrt the Ukraine/Russia/NATO problem.

    But, don't worry ... I'm close to giving up trying to explain it.

  8. [8] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    You’re right Elizabeth. Name calling is the refuge of scoundrels (and Trumpanzies) and I apologize. Of course that first part is mine — I followed the practice of italicizing other’s words for context and thence replying.

    Despite my (and other Weigantian’s) efforts you are unwavering in your belief that somehow sovereign nations Ukraine and the NATOs owe Putin any obedience or even consideration. You also ignore Russian revanchism in the Georgian Civil War, Transnistria, North Ossetia, Abkhazia, Tajikistan, two wars in Chechnia bracketing war in Dagestan, the Russo-Georgian War, suppressing insurgencies in Ingushetia and the North Caucuses in general along with Crimea and the Donbas. Toss in cyber attacks along with interference in Brexit and America’s 2016 and 2020 and…

    You know, you’re right: Putin is a badass and everybody should simply give him whatever he wants. *sarcasm off*

  9. [9] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    i'm not missing your points, i'm disagreeing with them and saying they're wrong.


  10. [10] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    at this point, putin should absolutely not be given ANYTHING he wants without exacting a heavy price for it. he has been negotiating in bad faith for twenty years, so it makes sense to presume he still is and act accordingly.

  11. [11] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Despite my (and other Weigantian’s) efforts you are unwavering in your belief that somehow sovereign nations Ukraine and the NATOs owe Putin any obedience or even consideration.

    I've never said that and I don't believe that.

  12. [12] 
    Kick wrote:

    Elizabeth Miller

    You're still missing my point(s)! Sigh.

    Nobody on this blog is "missing" your elementary and wholly incorrect points. Repeat: Nobody. You're just totally missing the big picture.

    But, hey, we're not averse to "diplomacy" here. You should just "roll it up" and surrender to us now; it's the only way you'll have anything left after we get done with you. If you get my meaning. :)

  13. [13] 
    Kick wrote:


    Well stated sarcasm. :)

  14. [14] 
    Kick wrote:



Comments for this article are closed.