Former Congressman Bob Barr was going after former President Bill Clinton before Monica Lewinsky was a household name.
The former representative of Georgia's District 7 and the Libertarian Party's 2008 presidential candidate talked about his role in the Clinton impeachment at the Cobb GOP's monthly breakfast on Saturday. He said although the accusations of perjury and obstruction stemming from the Lewinsky affair were serious, they drew attention away from what he said were more serious actions taken by the president that may have endangered national security.
These included alleged donations from China to the White House and transfers of technology with military applications.
In November 1997, Barr introduced a resolution to inquire into opening impeachment hearings, a step he characterized as more cautious and appropriate.
“The most important thing in fall of 1997 was not to go out like a Maxine Waters, just raving 'impeach, impeach, impeach,'” he said. “That's not, or should not be the way you accomplish things, we'll see what happens with this Congress.”
Barr was referencing Congresswoman Maxine Waters of California, who has called for the impeachment of President Donald Trump.
Trump is under investigation for potentially coordinating with the Russian government to increase his odds in the 2016 election, and Barr did no shy away from comparing the current president's predicament with Clinton's. In short, he said Clinton deserved to be investigated, but he characterized the inquiry in the same way Trump does, calling it a witch hunt.”
He accused Special Counsel Robert Mueller of using tactics similar to the Russian KGB and seeking out a crime to fit Trump.
“Nowadays there are so many federal crimes, over 4,000, plus all the regulatory offenses … so it's fairly simple to find a crime. Well, that's the charge to Robert Muller, which I think is inappropriate and an abuse of federal authority to begin with, and how he has carried that out is an abuse in itself,” Barr said.
Barr suggested that Mueller and his team are unfairly targeting Trump associates such as Republican strategist Roger Stone, the latest member of Trump's circle to face charges of lying to lawmakers, tampering with witnesses and obstructing the investigation. Stone pleaded not guilty.
“They're going after someone like Roger Stone, not for lying under oath, but for a provision the lawyers in the room know is the sort of quintessential 'gotcha' federal statute … which says 'if you say something that is misleading or fraudulent to a federal agent, you're guilty of essentially a five-year felony, you don't have to be under oath.’”
During the Clinton impeachment, Barr had a reputation as a serious, if not dour, man, styling himself as a fierce defender of the Constitution with little patience for mirth.
But Barr showed a bit of his funny side Saturday, with several lines that had the audience laughing, like when he introduced the title of his book, “The Meaning of Is,” a reference to Clinton's infamous quote before the grand jury.
“I didn't ask his permission to use his quote in the title, nor did he demand royalties,” Barr deadpanned.
Barr also poked fun at his own reputation when he thanked his former district director, Fred Aiken.
“One of the most difficult things I think he had was convincing people that I wasn't an SOB … I remember seeing some of the emails he sent out to our staff saying 'Bob Barr really does have a heart of gold.' I never saw the replies, but he did try,” Barr said.
For his efforts on behalf of Cobb Republicans over the years, the Cobb GOP unveiled a plaque outside one of its staff offices naming it in Barr's honor, a tribute Cobb GOP Chairman Jason Shepherd said was well-deserved.
“He served as chairman of this county party, he served us in Congress … If you were involved in the ’90s, there were two great organizations outside the Cobb GOP, and that was the Newt Gingrich organization, which I worked for, and Bob Barr's organization, which had a fantastic grassroots base and really allowed members to plug in, be involved and also learn skills that we use in the party,” he said. “I wish that our members of Congress had that today."