One of the most prominent voices on Fox News didn’t seem to buy Attorney General William Barr’s presentation on special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Thursday. Chris Wallace, host of Fox News Sunday, suggested Barr took an unusual step in defending the president during a news conference he held ahead of the Mueller report’s release.
“The attorney general seemed almost to be acting as the counselor for the defense, or the counselor for the president, rather than the attorney general,” Wallace said. “I suspect that Democrats’ heads on Capitol Hill were exploding, and they are going to come down very sharply about the way that Bill Barr today laid this out.”
Footage of Wallace’s remarks quickly went viral:
Here's the video of Chris Wallace on Fox: "The Attorney General seemed almost to be acting as the counselor for the defense, for the counselor for the president, rather than the Attorney General ... I suspect that Democrats' heads on Capitol Hill were exploding." pic.twitter.com/MQOYypMwZ0— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) April 18, 2019
Wallace, a longtime anchor at the network, is known for being a relatively independent voice on Fox News. The network as a whole has become known for its close relationship with the president, repeating — or sometimes even feeding — talking points from the president or the White House. But as the anchor of Fox’s signature Sunday show, Wallace asks tough questions and sometimes points out truths that are inconvenient for the president.
That was the case on Thursday, when Wallace reacted to Barr’s remarks at his press conference. Wallace was responding to comments Barr made about why he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein decided not to prosecute Trump for obstruction of justice; Barr’s remarks were akin to what a defense attorney would say.
“There is substantial evidence to show that the President was frustrated and angered by a sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency,” Barr said, framing those comments as reasons the Justice Department decided to drop the obstruction case against Trump.
Barr justifies his call (w/Rosenstein) to clear Trump of obstruction: "Trump faced an unprecedented situation. As he entered office & sought to perform his responsibilities, prosecutors were scrutinizing his conduct... yet, as he said from the beginning, there was no collusion." pic.twitter.com/o4rYEWBkvg— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 18, 2019
Even though Wallace was critical, other network personalities predictably framed Barr’s presser in the most favorable possible light for Trump. Anchor Bret Baier, for instance, claimed Barr was “laying it out straight, cut and dry.”
Baier, however — like everybody else other than Mueller’s team and the White House — offered that conclusion without first seeing the actual Mueller report, which was released following Barr’s news conference.