‘Free speech’ won’t save Donald Trump according to Bill Barr: ‘I don’t think that’s a valid argument’

Donald Trump’s former attorney general and perpetual thorn in his side, Bill Barr, said that the right to “free speech” is not a defense that will save the GOP primary frontrunner from his election interference indictment because the First Amendment “doesn’t give you the right to engage in a fraudulent conspiracy.”

“I don’t think that’s a valid argument,” Barr told CNN’s Kaitlan Collins on Wednesday of claims by Trump’s attorneys that he was simply exercising his First Amendment right to free speech.

(Video: YouTube)

“They’re not attacking his First Amendment right,” Barr explained. “He can say whatever he wants. He can even lie. He can even tell people that the election was stolen when he knew better. But that does not protect you from entering into a conspiracy.”

“All conspiracies involve speech, and all fraud involves speech,” he stated. “So, free speech doesn’t give you the right to engage in a fraudulent conspiracy.”

Barr said that Trump would also have difficulty claiming that he was just following the advice of his attorney, John Eastman, who is cited in Special Counsel Jack Smith’s latest indictment as “co-conspirator 2.”

“I don’t think that dog is going to hunt,” Barr said. “As the people who had some knowledge of whether or not there was fraud – everyone was telling him that the election was not stolen by fraud.”

“As to the issue of what he could do legally at that point,” he continued, “he went through all the lawyers. He wouldn’t listen to the lawyers in various departments of the White House who had those responsibilities, or his campaign. He would search for a lawyer who would give him the advice he wanted.”

Barr went on to cast doubt on the notion that Eastman was even offering Trump advice.

“I’m not sure you could characterize what Eastman said as advice,” he said. “It’ll be interesting to see. I interpreted what he was saying essentially was, well, you know, it’s unclear here, and you could make this argument, and I’m not sure the courts would accept it and so forth. And you act on that, it’s your own hazard.”

To prove that he was heeding the advice of his attorneys, Barr noted, Trump would “have to get on the stand and subject himself to cross-examination” and “waive attorney-client privilege.”

“It would not come out very well for him,” Barr predicted. “I think he’d be subject to a very skilled cross-examination. And I doubt he remembers all the different versions of events he’s given over the last few years.”

It took some time, but Barr said he now believes that Trump “knew well that he had lost the election.”

The government will now have to “prove” that he “had actual knowledge that he had lost the election… beyond a reasonable doubt,” Barr said, which is a “high bar.”

“That leads me to believe we’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg on this,” Barr said, adding that he believes Smith “has a lot more.”

“And that’s one of the things that impressed me with the indictment: I think it’s very spare,” he said. “I think he has a lot more that can give a picture of his state of mind.”

Barr declined to say whether he had spoken to Smith’s investigators, but he did say that he felt the four-count indictment presented a “legitimate case.”

“As a legal matter, I don’t see a problem with the indictment,” he said. “I think that it’s not an abuse. The Department of Justice is not acting to weaponize the department by proceeding against the president for a conspiracy to subvert the electoral process.”

“I don’t think this is an issue of his victimization,” Barr said. “I think he brought this on himself.”


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Melissa Fine


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