Perhaps the central issue in this week’s confirmation hearings for Donald Trump’s attorney general nominee William Barr, 68, has been whether or not Barr will interfere with the investigation into possible collusion between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia. The investigation, led by Robert Mueller, is described by Trump as a “witch hunt,” as Vox.com explained, and a “hoax” dozens, perhaps hundreds of times.
Before Barr’s testimony on Tuesday, and after it as well — as writer Adam Server wrote for the Atlantic magazine — serious questions have been raised as to Barr’s impartiality regarding the Mueller investigation, and prevailing speculation has it that Trump nominated Barr specifically to protect him from Mueller’s findings.
Perhaps as a result, according to a new CNN report on Thursday, Trump was “startled” when he watched Barr testify that he and Mueller have been close friends for the past three decades. But Trump’s surprise itself would be a surprise because Barr also testified that he told Trump in advance of his warm relationship with Mueller.
“I told him how well I knew Bob Mueller and that the Barrs and Muellers were good friends and would be good friends when this was all over,” Barr told the Senate Judiciary Committee in his Tuesday testimony.
“I have known Bob Mueller for 30 years,” Barr testified, as quoted by CNN.
“We worked closely together throughout my previous tenure at the Department of Justice under President Bush. We’ve been friends since. And I have the utmost respect for Bob and his distinguished record of public service. And when he was named special counsel, I said his selection was ‘good news’ and that, knowing him, I had confidence he would handle the matter properly. And I still have that confidence today.”
But when Trump heard Barr’s testimony, despite knowing earlier that Barr and Mueller were friends, he “bristled,” and began “complaining to aides he didn’t realize how much their work overlapped or that they were so close,” per CNN‘s report.
Trump has previously attempted to discredit Mueller — a 74-year-old former FBI director — by claiming that Mueller was close friends with James Comey, the FBI director who succeeded Mueller and who was fired by Trump in May of 2017, three months after Comey had refused to drop an FBI investigation of Trump’s then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, over Flynn’s Russia ties, according to a CNN account.
Trump, according to an MSNBC report, claimed that Mueller and Comey were “best friends,” adding falsely, “I could give you 100 pictures of him and Comey hugging and kissing each other.”
In later congressional testimony, Comey said that he was not “best friends” with Mueller, or even friends at all “in any social sense,” Politico reported. “I admire the heck out of the man, but I don’t know his phone number,” Comey testified. “
I’ve never been to his house, I don’t know his children’s names.”