The following is a transcript of an interview with former Attorney General William Barr that aired on “Face the Nation” on June 18, 2023.
ROBERT COSTA: We’re joined now by William Barr. He served as Attorney General under former President Trump. His book One Damn Thing After Another is now available in paperback. Good morning. Mr. Barr, thank you for being here.
FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL WILLIAM BARR: Thanks for inviting me, Bob.
ROBERT COSTA: 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?
FMR. ATTORNEY GENERAL BARR: Well, 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 has 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, 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 them around. And he had no legal basis for keeping them. But beyond that, when- when he faced his 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 cause his lawyer to file with the court something saying that he had completed a search.
ROBERT COSTA: How strong is the special counsel’s case on obstruction specifically?
FMR. ATTORNEY GENERAL 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.
ROBERT COSTA: Do you believe he lied to the Justice Department?
FMR. ATTORNEY GENERAL BARR: Do I personally believe it? Yes, I do.
ROBERT COSTA: 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?
FMR. ATTORNEY GENERAL 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 have 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.
ROBERT COSTA: Do you believe if he is convicted, he should serve his prison sentence?
Well, I don’t- we haven’t even gotten to the point of whether he’s been convicted and also what his sentence should be–
ROBERT COSTA: If it happens?
FMR. ATTORNEY GENERAL BARR: You know, I don’t like the idea of a former president serving time in prison.
ROBERT COSTA: Republicans remain critical of the Attorney General who spoke out this week as well as Director Wray at the FBI, they’ve rallied the Trump side. Are they wrong to say that this Justice Department is acting in a political way?
FMR. ATTORNEY GENERAL 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 them to that standard.
ROBERT COSTA: You say Trump’s alleged conduct is indefensible. So many Republicans continued to defend him. What will it say if the party, your longtime party, puts him forward as their nominee?
FMR. ATTORNEY GENERAL 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. Okay, if it’s unfair to prosecute, and 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 is 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- and- and the conservative and Republican agenda at risk–
ROBERT COSTA: Would he put the country at risk if he was in the White House again?
FMR. ATTORNEY GENERAL BARR: He- he will always put his own interests, and gratifying his own ego, ahead of everything else, including the country’s interest, there’s no question about it. This is a perfect example of that. He’s like, you know, he’s like a nine year old, defiant nine year old kid who’s 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 a very petty individual who will always put his interests ahead of the country’s, his personal gratification of his, you know, his ego, but our country- our country can’t, you know, can’t be a therapy session for you know, a troubled man like this.
ROBERT COSTA: This is not the only special counsel investigation, an ongoing one on January 6th, so many witnesses being called in, you were the star witness for the House January 6th. Committee. Are you willing to testify? Or have you already testified before the special counsel?
FMR. ATTORNEY GENERAL BARR: Well, if they, you know, if they call me in as a witness, of course, I would- would testify, but all I said was what I said, you know, what I recounted in my book about this full story about a stolen election.
ROBERT COSTA: Have you talked to them in any way behind the scenes, if not formal testimony?
FMR. ATTORNEY GENERAL BARR: Well, I’m not going to get into any communications I had with the government, but I don’t expect to be a witness, but I’ll be glad to be one if I’m called.
ROBERT COSTA: Trump was just indicted and arraigned in the records case. Do you believe he’s a target, potentially, in the January 6th case?
FMR. ATTORNEY GENERAL BARR: Yes. And I’ve said from the beg- by the way, I’ve defended him when I think there’s cases that are unfair, like the one up in New York and so forth. And I’ve always said, I think the January 6th case will be a hard case to make because of First Amendment interest. But I’m actually starting to think they will pull the trigger on that, and I would expect it to be this summer.
ROBERT COSTA: Do you believe the Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis will indict Trump in Georgia?
FMR. ATTORNEY GENERAL BARR: Yeah, I don’t know much about her case. I don’t know if it’s, you know, a sound case or not. I’m skeptical about that. But I will- if–
ROBERT COSTA: Why are you skeptical?
FMR. ATTORNEY GENERAL BARR: Again, because of the First Amendment interests. You know, we don’t want to get into a position where people can’t complain about an election, and claim that an election–
ROBERT COSTA: Trump said on tape he wants the Secretary of State to find votes.
FMR. ATTORNEY GENERAL BARR: Yeah, I know. But, you know, there’s- they’re innocent interpretations of what he said, you know, which is, look, of all the votes that we think are bad. you certainly can find among them some that are slam dunk, but whether that’s the proper interpretation or not, I- I am more skeptical of that case. But on the other hand, I think it’s likely that will be brought.
ROBERT COSTA: Former Attorney General William Barr, we really appreciate you taking the time to stop by. And “Face the Nation” will be right back. Don’t go away.