William Barr Doesn’t Seem to Know Much but Somehow Knows He’s Right
Sen. Lindsey Graham has proclaimed that all things Robert S. Mueller III, Russia, collusion, obstruction and basically anything skeptical of Donald J. Trump, are done. Done, dammit! Done.
The setting for Graham’s grand judgement was at the outset of Wednesday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, where Attorney General William Barr was invited to have a little chat with committee members on the topic of, well, just about everything Barr has done since confirmation with regard to the Special Counsel investigation and subsequent report and findings.Attorney General William Barr being sworn in before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Photo courtesy of The Nation
For Democrats, the primary objectives were to:
- Address the timeline between Barr’s receipt of the Special Counsel report and his public release of the redacted version.
- Question Barr on how he arrived at the conclusion that Trump was exonerated of obstruction of justice allegations.
- Find out if the president discussed the investigation with or requested any other investigations from the attorney general.
- Inquire into what Barr deduced from the report that would prove helpful in combating future election meddling by foreign adversaries.
- Determine why Barr told Congress under oath in April that he was unaware of any concerns from the Special Counsel related to his characterization of the report.
The Republican line of questioning followed a different motif:
- Ask Barr to investigate the investigators.
- Praise Barr for his “civility.”
- Hillary’s emails.
As you can imagine, the day went swimmingly.
Up until Wednesday morning, it was unknown whether or not Barr would appear before the committee. News just dropped Tuesday about a letter Mueller penned to the attorney general March 27. In that letter, Mueller expressed disappointment that the prepared executive summaries were not released and concern that the “context, nature and substance” of their findings were not being fully captured and characterized for the public. Knowing he would have to respond to questions about the letter and why he claimed he was unaware of any concerns when he last testified to Congress in April, it was within reason that he would try to skip out on the hearing entirely.
But, Barr showed up ready to answer questions with full transparency, or not.
What he did come prepared to supply was his interpretation of the word “spying.” Back at that hearing in April, Barr went as far as to say he believed inappropriate spying on the Trump campaign had occurred, but when pushed for further detail into such a bold claim, he backpedaled and claimed the term spying was just another word for authorized intelligence gathering. Barr was asked to elaborate on that Wednesday, where he broke into a diatribe about what a good English word it is and how he doesn’t feel it holds any pejorative meaning. Spying, authorized intelligence…what’s the difference, right?
The long and short of Barr’s testimony is summed up as evasive and dismissive. Depending on the line of questioning, he either knew everything about the investigation and report (a.k.a. his “baby”) and was 100 percent sure his not-summary was accurate, or…he couldn’t tell you a thing about what Mueller had investigated and why. Democrats took him to task on details and he bluntly dismissed them, at times with a cocky smirk. His posturing was that of a man who believes he himself is above the law, representing a man whom he also believes is above the law. Simply, he took the stance of an untouchable, which is fairly concerning for a person at the top of the legal food chain.
It is true that Democratic members got heated and accusatory, with a key moments during Sen. Mazie Hirono’s and Sen. Kamala Harris questioning. Hirono said:
“The American people know that you are no different from Rudy Giuliani or Kellyanne Conway or any of the other people who sacrificed their once decent reputation for the grifter and liar who sits in the Oval Office.”
Harris bit into him on the topic of White House influence on investigations and refused to let go, stumping Barr to “grapple” with the meaning of words she used.
Lindsey Graham felt as if the opposition party had “slandered” all over the innocent and civil Barr and chastised the group for doing so.
The House Judiciary Committee was, until today, expecting Barr to show up Thursday for another of questioning in their chamber; however, it was announced Wednesday afternoon that’s he’s decided he doesn’t want to that, so he’s not planning to go. That standoff opens up a new slew of good English words, like subpoena and contempt.
Reactions to questioning and his responses varied largely based on where people stand with Trump. There are outliers, but for the most part, perception of Wednesday’s hearing seems to follow a specific pattern: people who are staunch supporters of Trump believe the Dems slandered the attorney general but that he shut them down in epic style, and everyone else seems to think Barr came within a millimeter of perjuring himself, was taken for a walk and proved himself to be the president’s personal defense lawyer as opposed to the country’s most powerful prosecutor.
His performance, as they call it, has many Democrats calling for his resignation or at least recusal from anything related to ongoing Special Counsel investigations. On the opposition end of the spectrum, Trump-supporting fans are hailing him as a hero. The difference is wide and incredible to watch.
This is the new normal. We’re in twilight zone, where people watch the same exact thing or listen to the same exact speech, yet, somehow extract entirely different realities – a strange, new world where facts are made and dismissed on the fly and integrity is fluid by convenience. If Barr’s combative testimony void of any real facts is any indicator, things may get a lot worse before there’s a chance for something better.
Good luck with that!