I have been watching and writing about politics and such for more years than I care to remember and I can say without flinching that yesterday was the biggest clusterf*ck I have ever witnessed.
Yes Irene I watched the congressional hearings with the AG yesterday….and I went through a wide array of emotional reactions from pity to disgust to amazement…..To me Barr looked and sounded like a defense attorney and that is NOT his job…..but others saw different things during the course of the day…….
These are the early reports……
- “I’m not really sure of his reasoning,” Barr said of Mueller’s obstruction analysis, which neither accused the president of a crime nor exonerated him. “I think that if he felt that he shouldn’t go down the path of making a traditional prosecutive decision then he shouldn’t have investigated. That was the time to pull up.”
- The Guardian reports Sen. Dianne Feinstein asked Barr about the exchange detailed in the Mueller report where Trump instructed White House counsel Don McGahn to have Mueller pulled from his post and then deny it. Barr said this doesn’t add up to obstruction because he wasn’t solely saying to have Mueller fired, but to have him fired due to conflicts of interest (in which case a new special counsel would be named).
- Barr said that after receiving a letter from Mueller that criticized Barr’s four-page letter about the report as “not fully captur[ing] the context, nature, and substance” of the special counsel’s “work and conclusions,” Barr called him. He says Mueller told him “he was not suggesting that we had misrepresented his report.”
- The Washington Post reports Barr was asked by Sen. John Cornyn about whether the Steele dossier could be an element in a Russian disinformation campaign, and he allowed that it’s possible. “That is one of the areas that I’m reviewing and I’m concerned about it, and I don’t think it’s entirely speculative,” Barr said.
- Barr repeated that he would have “no objection” to Mueller testifying, but that it would be the president’s “call” as to whether McGahn should testify due to his knowledge of “privileged matters.”
- Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono launched an aggressive line of questioning against the attorney general, asserting he hadn’t been honest with Congress and calling on him to resign. Hirono also asked Barr if it was OK for a president to ask one of his aides to lie, referencing the report’s examination of whether Trump obstructed justice. When Barr equivocated, Hirono grew angry, saying, “Mr. attorney general, please give us some credit for knowing what the hell is going on right now.” Graham shot back: “You have slandered this man from top to bottom.” Barr himself chimed in, asking “How did we get to this point?”
- Barr said he didn’t exonerate the president because that’s not the job of the Justice Department. “I didn’t exonerate. I said that we didn’t believe that there was sufficient evidence to establish an obstruction offense. … The job of the Justice Department is now over. That determines whether or not there is a crime. The report is now in the hands of the American people. Everyone can decide for themselves: There’s an election in 18 months.”
- The Post reports that what might be Barr’s “most robust defense of Trump of the day” came during questioning by Sen. Marsha Blackburn. He said he thinks the evidence demonstrates Trump was “falsely accused of colluding with the Russians and accused of being treasonous and accused of being a Russian agent” but that “to listen to some of the rhetoric, you would think the Mueller report found the opposite.”
- During her questioning of Barr, Sen. Kamala Harris accused him of failing to review the evidence before deciding not to charge Trump with obstruction of justice. After the hearing, she told reporters “yes” when asked whether she thought Barr should resign, CNN reports. “No prosecutor worth her salt would make a decision on whether (the president) was involved in obstruction of justice without reviewing the evidence,” she said. “This Attorney General lacks all credibility and I think has compromised the public’s ability to believe he is a purveyor of justice.” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand also called on Barr to resign, per the Washington Post.
- CNN also notes that during his questioning by Sen. Cory Booker, Barr appeared to be unaware that Trump’s campaign chairman sent internal polls to a Russian oligarch.
- As Graham wrapped up the hearing, he said he would invite Mueller to speak to the committee, if needed, to clarify any of Barr’s testimony.
- The Post has four early takeaways here.
- More from the AP: The airing of disagreements over the handling of the report was notable given the highly secretive nature of the special counsel’s investigation and the public appearance for at least most of the probe that the Justice Department and Mueller’s team were unified in approach. But Barr sought to minimize the rift by suggesting the special counsel’s concerns were largely about process, not substance.
Reaction to William Barr’s appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee is no calmer than anything else these days. “He must resign as attorney general,” states NBC News analyst Mimi Rocah. “William Barr torched his reputation,” cries the Washington Post. On the other side: “No, Bill Barr Didn’t Lie or Mislead,” per the National Review. Much of the discussion revolves around a letter from Robert Mueller criticizing Barr’s four-page summary of the special counsel’s report, revealed Tuesday night. What does Barr have to say about that? Did he lie in testimony last month when he said, “I don’t know whether Bob Mueller supported my conclusion”? The real head-turner was likely Barr’s characterization of Mueller’s letter as “snitty.” Let’s start with that:
- “Barr seemed to be admitting, finally, that the letter was what it was: a diplomatically worded but pretty direct rebuke of him and his actions,” writes Aaron Blake in the Washington Post. “…If only Barr had provided that fuller picture from the beginning.”
- “It’s true that Barr could have revealed the Mueller letter in this exchange, but he also might have considered their back-and-forth private (although the letter was clearly written to leak),” writes Rich Lowry at the National Review.
- Barr “was clearly peeved, even defiant, at the criticism that his actions had played a distorting role in molding the narrative of the Mueller report in a way that benefited his boss,” per the New York Times.
- “William Barr can no longer effectively serve as the attorney general of the United States,” writes Rocah at NBC News. “…We should expect and demand objectively, neutrality, honesty and integrity from our top law enforcement official.”
- Barr said President Trump told White House counsel Don McGahn to remove Mueller over alleged conflict of interest, which differs from a “firing”: “That’s slicing the onion very, very thinly,” writes Chris Cillizza at CNN.
- “There’s no great mystery about what Attorney General William Barr did Wednesday,” writes Andrew Cohen at Rolling Stone. “…[He] spent hours spinning like a defense attorney with his client’s liberty on the line.”
- Barr “spent five hours Wednesday attempting to lay waste to the central findings of special counsel Robert Mueller’s 22-month investigation, taking cutting—sometimes personal—swipes at the man he once described as a friend, and cementing his alliance with President Donald Trump,” per Politico.
- On Barr’s apparent surprise that Mueller punted on obstruction charges: “I was not surprised” by Barr’s surprise, Ken Starr tells Fox News, per Yahoo. “That was Bob Mueller’s job. And why Bob Mueller did not bite the bullet and come to that decision remains a bit of a mystery.”
The only thing today’s hearing did was illustrate just how badly broken the system is and how badly it needs a major upgrade so that the nation can get back to a nation of laws and sanity…those two characteristics are sadly missing in today’s government.
I originally gave Barr a chance to redeem himself and act like the AG of the nation but instead he sound like a 5th grader trying not to answer a question without answering a question……I said he was a crony or lackey of the prez and that he had done his part to help Trump and that it was time for him to resign…I stand by that thought.
May I add…it was a bloody mess and a bloody comedy in progress. To watch the top attorney of the nation to sit and look like a deer in the headlights when asked a question was just too perfect to be believed…..
Turn The Page!