“Travesty” is not a nice word.
It usually is applied to gross perversions of justice, and that apparently is the context Attorney General William Barr desired when he dropped it into an interview answer the other day in the breezy courtyard of the Department of Justice. His composed, understated delivery almost disguised the weighty magnitude of that disturbing word and the loaded adjective that preceded it.
“I think what happened to him,” he said, referring to the president and the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into his campaign, “was one of the greatest travesties in American history.”
Okay, it’s important to pause for a moment and absorb what the AG said. He just called an FBI investigation not just a travesty but one of the “greatest” travesties in the nation’s history. It was an unprecedented statement by an attorney general about his own department’s premier agency.
The FBI has made plenty of mistakes, but never in its 112-year history has an FBI investigation been characterized as a travesty, let alone one that equates to other hall-of-fame travesties in American history.
Is the AG’s assessment fair? The answer is entwined in his next statement:
“Without any basis [the FBI] started this investigation into [Donald Trump’s] campaign ... .”
Oops, stop again right there. Mr. Barr is making a definitive statement about that which many of us have speculated all along, namely that the weirdly unprecedented investigative team put together by former FBI Director James Comey and Deputy Director Andrew McCabe did not have adequate legal reasons to open a case into the Trump campaign in the first place. The attorney general just confirmed that.