Bill Barr calls Donald Trump’s defense in retaining classified documents as ‘wacky’

Former attorney general William P. Barr on Sunday compared his former boss, Donald Trump, to a “defiant, 9-year-old kid” and continued his condemnation of the actions described in Trump’s recently unsealed federal indictment.

Speaking to CBS News’s “Face the Nation,” Barr, a Republican, pushed back on a number of his party’s talking points in excusing the former president’s alleged actions.

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

Barr said that Trump did some good things as president but that he does not believe Trump should continue to be the Republican standard-bearer.

“He will always put his own interests and gratifying his own ego ahead of everything else, including the country’s interests,” Barr said. “This is a perfect example of that.”

Barr, who drifted away from Trump after the deadly Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, resigned from Trump’s Cabinet in December 2020 amid disagreements with the president over whether to accept the election results.

Barr also said on CBS that he believes Trump is vulnerable in the Jan. 6 case. Special counsel Jack Smith and his team are also investigating Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election and whether he is criminally culpable for aspects of the Jan. 6 attack.

On June 18, Republican presidential candidates responded to former president Donald Trump’s classified document indictment and federal charges. (Video: Jackson Barton/The Washington Post)

Last weekend, Barr told Fox News’s Shannon Bream that Trump’s federal indictment “came about because of reckless conduct of the president.”

“I think the government acted responsibly,” Barr said on Fox. “They gave him every opportunity to return those documents. They acted with restraint. They were very deferential to him and they were very patient.”

Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie (R), Trump’s loudest critic among Republican presidential hopefuls, also appearing on Sunday’s “Face the Nation,” described Trump’s conduct as “indefensible.”

“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,” Christie said.

While Rep. Michael R. Turner (R-Ohio) compared Trump’s case to the ongoing investigation of President Biden, who also had documents in private offices before returning them to authorities, Turner allowed in an interview with CNN’s “State of the Union” that Trump kept his documents for a longer period of time.

“I’m certainly not going to defend the behavior that is listed in that complaint,” said Turner, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. “But they’re going to have to prove it. And it’s a legal process that’s going to have to go forward.”

Trump is accused of keeping documents even after receiving requests from the National Archives and Records Administration and the Justice Department to return them. Biden’s lawyers have said that they have cooperated with authorities at every step of the investigation after documents were found at a think tank office in Washington that Biden had used before he became president. The lawyers said they readily returned all classified materials found in the office and at the president’s home in Wilmington, Del.

More Republicans piled on criticism of Trump on Sunday, with Mark T. Esper, former defense secretary under Trump, stressing the dangers to the United States of anyone retaining such classified documents.

“I mean, it’s just irresponsible action that places our service members at risk, places our nation’s security at risk,” Esper said on CNN. “You cannot have these documents floating around. They need to be secured.”

Some Republican presidential hopefuls, however, are refusing to condemn the former president.

In an interview with Fox News, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) repeated the same baseless claim Trump and his allies have been making ever since the investigation into the missing documents began: that the Justice Department and the FBI have been weaponized against the former president.

“This DOJ continues to hunt Republicans while protecting Democrats,” Scott said.

When asked whether he would pardon Trump if elected president, Scott said he wouldn’t “deal with the hypotheticals, but I will say that every American is innocent until proven guilty.”

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