MSNBC anchor Brian Williams was deeply disappointed in Attorney General William Barr Thursday, calling him "Baghdad Bill Barr" after his press conference declaring Robert Mueller found no collusion by the Trump campaign with Russia.
The nickname is a reference to Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf or "Baghdad Bob," the information minister for Saddam Hussein who lied to the public about the Iraq War. Barr made a statement and took questions Thursday morning before the release of the full report, and Williams expressed deep disappointment in Barr's declaration there was not collusion.
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"It would harken back to a conflict decades ago, we would not be surprised if some headline writer somewhere came up with Baghdad Bill Barr for what we saw today," Williams said.
He went on to repeat all the ways Barr said Mueller found "no collusion," as if this were a strange thing for the attorney general to talk about when Mueller's findings on collusion were a singular obsession of the media for the better part of two years.
Former Obama Administration U.S. attorney Joyce Vance declared Barr's defense of the president "a sad day for all of us." She expressed concern, along with Williams, that Barr had shredded his credibility by exonerating the president in his presser, which had not made people feel "certain about this outcome."
"Instead of bringing this episode to a close, Barr's participation will in many ways make people less certain about this outcome and it is a sad day for all of us," Joyce said.
Joyce's argument rested on the fact that Barr's stated position had been, in line with Justice Department policy, that the president cannot be indicted. To her, Barr was never trustworthy because he had written about that before, and she said she had hopes institutional pressure in the department would have made him change his mind, against the president.
"It's very difficult to see an attorney general doing this. And you know, so many of us had hoped that once Bill Barr returned to that building on Pennsylvania Avenue he would feel gravitational pull inside DOJ and do the right thing," Vance said.
Vance wrote an article in Slate opposing Barr's confirmation on the grounds that the American people wouldn't have confidence in him and referred to it in her remarks.
"During the confirmation process, I wrote a piece for Slate and pointed out that, because he had written this 19-page audition letter to get the president to hire him, the people of the United States would probably lack confidence in his outcome. And that seemed to be disqualifying for him as an attorney general. I think that's even more true today," she said.