Plenty of ink was spilled this week for stories about former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain’s attempt to cozy up to former President Donald Trump and how that outraged former U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr.
Still unanswered: Did Trump bypass Barr to directly call McSwain and other swing-state federal prosecutors after the 2020 election “to cajole and wheedle and demand” that they launch voter fraud cases?
That’s the claim in Michael Wolff’s new book, Landslide: The Final Days of the Trump Presidency, which specifically mentions McSwain and says Trump was furious when federal prosecutors he appointed would not do as he demanded.
“He blamed their resistance — defiance! — on Barr,” Wolff wrote.
Consider that context now that Trump this week released a letter from McSwain, who was seeking his support in next year’s race for Pennsylvania governor while complaining that Barr wouldn’t let him make public comments about how the election was run.
The Democratic Governors Association, sensing an opportunity, filed a Freedom of Information Act request Thursday with the U.S. Department of Justice, asking for records of calls between McSwain and Trump “pertaining to the ongoing and false allegations that the 2020 election wasn’t legitimate.”
McSwain’s letter also griped that the Justice Department told him to share information with state Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the early Democratic front-runner for governor.
Barr was incensed, since the letter leaves the impression — without saying so — that McSwain was somehow prevented from investigating potential fraud. Barr told The Inquirer that McSwain wanted to “flap his gums” with “political statements,” while Barr was “prodding him along” to focus on actual election investigations.
McSwain must know Trump is unlikely to forgive or forget not getting what he wanted. Barr, who challenged McSwain in a phone call Monday, said the former prosecutor admitted he hoped to at least get Trump to remain neutral in the governor’s race.
McSwain on Thursday dodged Clout’s questions again but then tweeted that The Inquirer is “obsessed” with him after we spent a week trying to get him to respond. Clout noticed that a “pinned” tweet on top of McSwain’s account promotes an Inquirer story from March about his political ambitions.
Is he obsessed with us? We feel confident he would not answer that question.
Castor’s Corvette at the Capitol door
Speaking of Wolff’s book, its prologue opens with Trump in a rage about typos in a legal brief for his second impeachment trial filed by his then-lawyer, former Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor. Then it takes a quick turn toward … Castor’s Corvette?
Wolff writes Castor was “wounded because the Trump guys” said he couldn’t “drive his beloved Corvette to the Capitol door. That was how he had imagined it happening. That was one reason he’d taken the case: that image.”
Castor told Clout that Wolff’s take is “complete nonsense.”
“I did drive my Corvette up to the Capitol,” he said, showing us a Capitol Square visitors’ parking placard for his black 2015 Corvette.
Castor rejects the notion that his car is somehow his calling card. But Clout noticed the top two results when you Google “Bruce Castor Corvette” are Washington Post and NPR stories from February about the impeachment.
In both, Castor notes to the reporters that he’s conducting the interviews by phone from his Corvette.
Biden holds no grudge for Kenney
Before the serious business of delivering a speech in defense of voting rights on Tuesday in Philadelphia, President Joe Biden gave a chummy shout-out to Mayor Jim Kenney.
Clearly POTUS isn’t one to hold a grudge.
Kenney, seated in the front row of the National Constitution Center with his fiancée, Letty Santarelli, greeted POTUS on the tarmac at the airport less than an hour prior.
“I thought you were a great mayor,” Biden told Kenney at the top of his speech. “Still think you are, but your judgment of fiancées is even stronger.”
The moment makes clear there’s no ill will after Kenney endorsed Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren in the 2020 Democratic primary — a decision Clout previously chronicled with some surprise given that Biden had once helped Kenney with a high school paper.
Kenney was a sophomore at St. Joseph’s Prep in 1974 when he asked Biden, then a first-term U.S. senator from Delaware, for an interview. Kenney took the train from Philly to Washington, met Biden at Union Station, and did the interview on a northbound train. Kenney recalls he got an A or a B-plus on the assignment.
Kenney went on to campaign for Biden once he became the nominee. At the time of his Warren endorsement in 2019, Kenney said of Biden: “I really like him. I do think he’s had some missteps lately. I think he can be out of touch a little bit.”
No word on whether Kenney thought it out of touch for Biden to comment on his fiancée in front of 300 invited guests and the national news media. But it got us wondering, what’s the status of a Royal Wedding in Philly? Does Gritty do best man gigs?
Kenney, who’s been engaged to Santarelli since at December 2019, didn’t comment. Their relationship became public when she accompanied him on an official trip to Iceland in 2017. Asked about any forthcoming nuptials, Kenney spokesperson Deana Gamble said the mayor is “keeping their plans private at this point.”