I posted the video of Bill Barr’s Fox News interview on the Trump charges over the weekend. I’ve had several of you ask to see the transcript itself. So here it is.
BREAM: I want to bring in former Attorney General Bill Barr, who served in the Trump administration, knows the former president very well.
Mr. Attorney General, welcome back to “FOX News Sunday”. Good to have you.
BILL BARR, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Thank you.
BREAM: What about this chief argument that comes up from the president’s allies and his legal team that this should have been handled under the Presidential Records Act, not this Espionage Act charge and other federal statutes that were used here.
BARR: Well, it started out under the Presidential Records Act and the Archives trying to retrieve documents that Trump had no right to have, but it quickly became clear what the government was worried about were these classified and very sensitive documents. I was shocked by the degree of sensitivity of these documents and how many there were, frankly.
And so, the government’s agenda was to get those — protect those documents and get them out. And I think it was perfectly appropriate to do that. It was a right thing to do, and I think the counts under Espionage Act that he willfully retained those documents are solid counts.
Now, I do think we have to wait and see the defense says, and what proves to be true. But I do think that half of what Andy McCarthy, which — if even half of it is true, then he’s toast. I mean, it’s a pretty — it’s a very detailed indictment, and it’s very, very damming.
And this idea of presenting Trump as a victim here — a victim of a witch hunt is ridiculous. Yes, he’s been a victim in the past. Yes, his adversaries have obsessively pursued him with phony claims. And I’ve — and I’ve been by his side defending against them when he is a victim.
But this is much different. He’s not a victim here. He was totally wrong that he had the right to have those documents.
Those documents are among the most sensitive secrets the country has. He — they have to be in the custody of the archivist. He had no right to maintain them and retain them, and he kept them in a way at Mar-a-Lago, that anyone who really cares about national security would — their stomach would churn at it.
BREAM: So, you see these as different and separate from what he would term the Russian hoax, from what we saw from the Durham report?
BARR: Of course, yes.
BREAM: You see these as two totally separate tracks?
BARR: Yes, because in the Russia — there was nothing — there was no problem or issue underlying the Russia-gate claim. It was an effort to knock him out with a false claim.
Here, I think the government acted responsibly. They gave him every opportunity to return those documents. They acted with restraint. They were very differential to him and they were very patient.
They talked to him for almost a year to try to get those documents and he jerked them around. They finally went to a subpoena, and what did he do? According to the government, he lied and obstructed that subpoena.
And then they did a search and they found a lot more documents. And they’re not even — I don’t think they’re even sure now whether they have everything.
So, they acted in a very patient way. And what they were met was, according to the government, and the indictment, very egregious obstruction.
BREAM: Let me ask you this and clarify, because the Justice Department has wanted to say over and over again, this is not something Merrick Garland, the attorney general was involved. This is — the special counsel Jack Smith has complete autonomy, makes his important decision.
But in a case of this important, with this special counsel statute, would this have to go to the attorney general for some kind of review or decision making process before this indictment happens and goes public?
BARR: Well, under — under the regulation, you know, the — a call can be made just by the special counsel. But I’m sure they had worked out an agreement whereby he would keep the attorney general in the loop and if the attorney general had strong feelings, he’d voice them.
But I think the attorney general said pretty earlier on, he would be guided by the recommendation of the counsel.
Now, we can’t forget here, that this entire thing came about because of reckless conduct of the president. If he had just turned over the documents which I think every other person in the country would have done, they’re the government’s documents, they’re official records. They’re not his personal records.
Battle plans for attack on another country or Defense Department documents about our capabilities are in no universe Donald J. Trump‘s personal documents. They are the government’s documents.
BREAM: What about arguments, they’ll say, okay, when it came to President Obama leaving or, you know, President Biden was vice president when some of these documents allegedly that he’s got, that’s a different question. But when you think about somebody like President Obama, or President Clinton, the sock drawer case with President Biden —
BREAM: — they’ll point to these and say, listen, they were other documents.
BARR:: So, there are two big lies, I think, that are out there right now. One is all these other presidents took all these documents. Those were situations where they arranged with the archives to set up special space under the management, control, and security provided by the archivists to temporarily put documents until the libraries were ready. These were not people just putting them in their basement, OK.
And the second thing that the President, this idea that the President has complete authority to declare any document personal is obvious. It’s facially ridiculous. That opinion had to do with the distinction between official records, which are records prepared by government agencies for the purpose of government action, and personal documents, as opposed to official documents, which are things prepared by the President, such as a diary or notes, which are not used in the government’s deliberations.
And yes, as to the second-class stuff that the President himself generates, the President has some discretion. But these are official documents. It’s an arguable. The President’s daily brief provided by the intelligence community is not Donald J. Trump‘s personal document, period.
BREAM: I’m guessing that you’re not going to join his legal team, together, a new legal team.
BARR: Well, you know —
BREAM: Do you still talk to the president? Like how is he going to feel about your public take on this case?
BARR: Well, he’s been angry with me for a while, but, you know, I defend the president on Russiagate. I stood up and called out Alvin Bragg’s politicized hit job. And I have spoken out for 30 years about the abuse of the criminal justice process to influence politics, but this is simply not true. This particular episode of trying to retrieve those documents, the government acted responsibly, and it was Donald J. Trump who acted irresponsibly.
BREAM: So, again, innocent until — presumed innocent unless otherwise proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, Jack Smith said that in a court of law when he talked to us on Friday about this. So we’ll watch and see as they now get to present a defense.
I want to make sure while we have you here, though, to ask you about this FBI document that the House GOP has been warring with the FBI over this 1023, Jamie Raskin, the top Democrat on House Oversight, has said, because he’s seen it too, that there was something there that under your administration, that it was closed out. He said it’s linked to Rudy Giuliani. You guys have had some back and forth. This is what he says now. I stand 100% by my statements that we were told by the FBI team that visited us on Monday, June 5, that the Department of Justice team of prosecutors and FBI agents under U.S. attorney Scott Brady determined that there were no grounds to escalate the probe from an initial assessment of the allegations surfaced by Rudy Giuliani to a preliminary or full-blown investigation and that was therefore closed down.
So was it closed down? Was Rudy Giuliani connected to any of what you see?
BARR: The investigation of the allegations made in that document was not closed down. As I’ve repeatedly said, I set up a process at the beginning of 2020 to vet evidence before it went to the open, pending investigations for their example. There was one in Delaware. Apparently there still is one in Delaware.
BREAM: With Hunter Biden?
BARR: Yes. And the financial transactions and so forth. And we were worried because a lot of stuff was coming in, that we wanted to make sure what the source was, whether there was obvious disinformation before it was disseminated to investigations because we wanted to protect the integrity of those investigations.
So the Pittsburgh office vetted it. They did some great work. They actually went back and developed more information that apparently had been overlooked by the FBI. And they developed this 1023 that has a lot of detail.
And then they took it to the Delaware and to other offices and briefed them on it for their use and for follow up. The reason the Pittsburgh people didn’t escalate it is because they weren’t authorized to start a new investigation. They were simply performing a unique and limited task of vetting information that would then go to pending already open investigations.
BREAM: And again, this is about allegations that a source came to the FBI saying they had information about payments to the Biden family from foreign executives. But quickly, on the Rudy Giuliani point, true or false? I mean, he gets —
BARR: My recollection is false. I don’t think this did not come from Rudy Giuliani. It actually came from the FBI.
BREAM: OK. Mr. Attorney General, always great to have your expertise. Thank you for coming in today.
BARR: Thank you.
BREAM: Up next, we’re going to bring you a trio of legal and political experts for an in depth look at what comes next in this case as the former president prepares to head to court again this week. Back in a moment.