Bill McSwain hasn’t even launched his campaign for Governor, but he’s already making rookie mistakes — and getting panned for it.
PENNSYLVANIA — The fallout continues following the release of Bill McSwain’s letter of lies to Donald Trump — as former Justice Department officials, Republican operatives, and even partners at his current law firm condemn his dishonesty. McSwain’s rookie mistakes have reverberated across Pennsylvania politics and it’s become clear that his misleading letter was an ill-advised — and failed — attempt to fool Donald Trump and the people of Pennsylvania.
McSwain’s letter was called out as “just false” by Bill Barr and criticized as “anti-democratic” and part of “a race to the bottom seeking to pander to Donald Trump and his supporters” by partners at Duane Morris, where McSwain currently works.
In case you missed it, read the coverage of Bill McSwain’s No Good, Very Bad week below:
By Chris Brennan, Jonathan Tamari, & Jeremy Roebuck, 07/13/21
For Bill McSwain, writing a letter to former President Donald Trump was supposed to help him maneuver toward a run for governor of Pennsylvania.
McSwain, the former U.S. Attorney in Philadelphia, wrote to Trump last month claiming he had been blocked from going public about allegations of 2020 election problems in Pennsylvania — handing Trump a new talking point for false claims that the election was stolen as McSwain sought the former president’s endorsement.
But in the 24 hours after Trump blasted out the letter Monday night, McSwain found himself whipsawed between political forces.
His former boss, ex-Attorney General Bill Barr, fiercely disputed McSwain’s claims, saying the letter was intentionally deceptive. He said McSwain admitted to sending it to curry favor with Trump, and wanted to “flap his gums” for the political attention in the contentious days after the election.[…]
And Republican insiders wondered whether McSwain had delivered a self-inflicted wound before even formally launching his campaign.
“He told me that he had to do this because he was under pressure from Trump and for him to have a viable candidacy he couldn’t have Trump attacking him,” Barr told The Inquirer on Tuesday, recounting a conversation with McSwain.
The former attorney general said he called McSwain Monday night upset over several claims he made in his letter to Trump, including that Barr instructed him to pass on investigations of fraud and election irregularities to Shapiro instead of investigating them himself — an assertion Barr flatly rejected. Barr said he had instead given all U.S. Attorneys discretion to investigate “specific, credible” allegations, but stopped McSwain from making broad “political statements” about the election.
Barr added that McSwain said he needed Trump’s support, or at least for him stay neutral in the 2022 race, so he wrote a letter that “tried to thread the needle” by laying out “things that were technically true” while not giving “support to Trump’s stolen election narrative.”
“The letter is written in a very deceptive way that is intended to convey an impression, it’s a false one, that he was restrained from looking into election fraud,” Barr said.[…]
But other party insiders were scratching their heads.
Until this week McSwain had often appeared to be a reluctant player in Trump’s long-running efforts to undermine the election. He has dodged previous questions about accepting the results, and some Republicans envisioned the former Marine and prosecutor from Chester County as the kind of candidate who could regain GOP support in the populous suburbs.
But with the letter garnering national headlines before he even formally enters the race, McSwain might have tied himself to the kind of lies and drama that has turned off many traditional GOP voters.
The back-and-forth landed as two other GOP hopefuls, State Sen. Doug Mastriano and former U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, have vocally led calls for another review of Pennsylvania’s 2020 election results. Each is playing to Trump’s claims as they openly seek his support, and as his election lies have become a defining feature of GOP primary campaigns.
”It’s kind of a double-edged sword,” said one longtime Pennsylvania Republican operative, who spoke on condition of anonymity to candidly discuss the party’s gubernatorial race. “As long as Trump remains on the stage, it’s a tough spot for these guys.”
It may get even tougher now that Barr has accused McSwain of several instances of purposeful deception.
By Chris Brennan & Jeremy Roebuck, 07/14/21
The specific allegation of electoral misconduct that blew open the relationship between Bill McSwain and former Attorney General Bill Barr this week — and may have hurt McSwain’s gubernatorial prospects before he even launched his campaign — arose out of Delaware County and has since been debunked.
By Justin Henry & Dan Packel, 07/14/21
A number of Duane Morris lawyers are displeased with a letter that a high-profile recently added partner, former Eastern District of Pennsylvania U.S. Attorney William McSwain, sent to former President Donald Trump, in which he sought support for his bid for Pennsylvania governor and echoed the former president’s allegations of irregularities in last November’s presidential election. And they’re also not happy with the firm’s response to the June missive.[…]
A former Duane Morris partner, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, claimed to receive several messages from current lawyers at the firm Wednesday morning, criticizing not only McSwain’s letter as “anti-democratic,” but the firm’s public statement in response as “bullsh-t” and “deplorable.”[…]
But he called McSwain’s recent comments to Trump “unwise” and said they did not reflect well on the law firm, taking particular umbrage at an allegation that “the partisan State Supreme Court made up their own rules and did not follow the law.”
“I think it’s lending support to a Big Lie that has been propagated for the purpose of undermining our democracy. It bothers me that a lawyer in our firm would be taking such a position particularly when it comes to making comments about the judiciary,” he said. “I’m just surprised that somebody of that stature would be in a race to the bottom seeking to pander to Donald Trump and his supporters.”
Another partner at the firm, who also asked for anonymity, said that he had better hopes for McSwain when he was hired.
“I think the letter contributes to the corrosive political environment that we’re in,” the attorney said. “I am personally offended as a citizen of Philadelphia. I worked the election, I saw how hard those election workers worked and how hard they performed, and I am incredibly disappointed in the implication that is made by the letter.”
By Josh Gerstein, 07/13/21
Former Attorney General Bill Barr pushed back Tuesday against suggestions from former President Donald Trump and a former federal prosecutor in Pennsylvania that federal authorities were ordered not to aggressively investigate claims of fraud during the 2020 presidential election.[…]
“It’s written to make it seem like I gave him a directive,” Barr said. “I never told him not to investigate anything.”
Barr said he spoke to McSwain Monday after hearing about the letter and that Trump was pressuring the former prosecutor to claim that Barr had bottled up election fraud probes last year. Barr said the former prosecutor indicated he was trying to assuage Trump’s concerns without claiming that actual fraud went unchallenged.
“It’s very cutely written,” the former AG said of McSwain’s letter. “He said he was going to try to thread the needle. … He said to me he didn’t want to say anything that would advance the president’s stolen election narrative, but by the same token he was going to try to thread the needle by saying some things that were literally, technically accurate.”
By Aaron Blake, 07/13/21
It has been eight months since Trump lawyer Sidney Powell promised to unleash the “Kraken” — i.e. incontrovertible evidence that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. It still hasn’t arrived, nor has anything even close to it. Powell, who is facing a lawsuit from a voting-machine company, has effectively suggested in court that she was just saying stuff. And now she and other lawyers involved face potential sanction for their sloppy advocacy.[…]
The first reason is the timing and the man who wrote it. The letter is not a contemporaneous account from when these fraud allegations were lodged or when McSwain was allegedly stifled; rather, it’s dated June 9, months after McSwain exited as U.S. attorney.
And McSwain isn’t just a former U.S. attorney; he’s ramping up a campaign for governor of Pennsylvania. The purpose of the letter is very clear: He wants Trump’s endorsement for that campaign.[…]
The third point is that, whatever concerns McSwain has had about the validity of the election, he’s been rather tight-lipped about them. Why only come out with this now? And why do it privately while seeking an endorsement? McSwain emphasizes in his letter that he complied with Barr’s order because he’s a former Marine who respects the chain of command. But anybody writing that letter had to know Trump would be tempted to disclose this. It just looks self-serving now.