May 2, 2019

Attorney General William Barr Testifies

On Wednesday, “in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Attorney General William Barr [defended] his handling of the Mueller report and his decision not to bring obstruction of justice charges against President Trump. Lawmakers also [questioned] him on why he didn't disclose Special Counsel Robert Mueller's written concerns about his initial letter to Congress summarizing his findings.” C-SPAN

On Wednesday evening, “several Democrats on the Senate committee called for Barr’s resignation… [accusing] Barr of misleading Congress, by saying in April that he did not know whether Mueller agreed with his characterization of the report - failing to mention Mueller’s March 27 letter that Barr’s initial summary did not ‘fully capture the context, nature and substance of this Office’s work’… Barr was due to face the Democratic-controlled House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, but pulled out after the two sides were unable to agree on the format for the hearing.” Reuters

See past issues

From the Left

The left takes Mueller’s letter and Barr’s testimony as confirmation that Barr is behaving more like Trump’s defense attorney than the U.S. Attorney General.

“Barr said on Wednesday that he felt releasing parts of the report piecemeal would simply confuse the public. But that same critique could be leveled even more powerfully at his own, misleading-by-omission summary… Even if no specific sentence in the letter was wrong, it misleadingly downplayed the gravity and scope of the report, and misrepresented the thinking behind Mueller’s decision not to bring obstruction charges… as a side-by-side comparison of Barr’s and Mueller’s words shows, the attorney general selectively quoted from the report, and took many of those quotations out of context. The result was, as Mueller noted, that the public was misled about the contents of the report.”
David A. Graham, The Atlantic

“The Barr memo was worded and released in such a way that implied Mueller had given Trump a pass on obstruction, a point which was picked up in news coverage of Barr’s description. When the Mueller report itself became public this month however, it became clear that Mueller had compiled a substantial obstruction case, leaving it to Congress to decide whether to pursue it. Barr’s release of the report’s findings… went to great lengths to set a narrative that Trump was in the clear and give it time to congeal well before there was any information available to refute Trump’s barrage of self-exculpatory tweets.”
Elliot Hannon, Slate

“For an institutionalist like Mr. Mueller, who never once spoke up to defend himself or his work from relentless attacks from the president and his Republican allies, the letter is an unusual (and welcome) breach of protocol… The regulations governing Mr. Mueller’s work call for a ‘confidential’ report to the attorney general at the conclusion of the inquiry, which the attorney general may then release if he determined it ‘would be in the public interest.’ That Mr. Mueller quoted from this regulatory language in his letter to Mr. Barr shows that he cares about rules, perhaps to a fault. But it alsoshows that Mr. Mueller sensed the urgency of his conclusions — and that he couldn’t sit idly by as the chief legal officer of the United States actively undermined them.”
Editorial Board, New York Times

“Barr's Senate testimony on Wednesday was a master class in obfuscation, backtracking and blame-shifting… When asked how a political campaign should react if approached by a foreign national offering dirt, Barr didn't give the only correct and sensible answer -- ‘run and call the FBI’ -- but instead twisted himself in a pretzel, saying the person should first try to ascertain if the foreigner is an intel agent. And Barr pretended not to understand what basic words such as ‘receptive’ and ‘suggest’ mean, when Democrats had the nerve to use such ‘technical’ terms.”
Elie Honig, CNN

“There was a tortured exchange about the fact that, as Mueller details, Trump instructed then-White House Counsel Donald McGahn to have Mueller fired, and then when that was reported in the press, instructed McGahn to deny it publicly. The report even describes Trump insisting to McGahn that because he had not used the word ‘fire,’ that meant he didn’t really tell McGahn to have Mueller fired, and that meant McGahn could publicly insist that Trump never told him to have Mueller fired. McGahn, perhaps realizing how absurd that was, refused… As Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) later said about a separate matter, ‘That’s some masterful hairsplitting.’”
Paul Waldman, Washington Post

Regarding the larger question of the attorney general’s powers over special counsel investigations, some note that “the special counsel regulations [were] produced in 1999 by Janet Reno’s Department of Justice under Bill Clinton’s administration… For the drafters of the special counsel regulations then, the goal was to create a mechanism that would still allow investigation of the president, but would prevent future Starrs from going on what the Clinton administration perceived as witch hunts against future presidents. Putting the special counsel under the supervision of the attorney general was the centerpiece of the strategy…

“Somehow, in the course of building up trust in Mueller over the last two years, many Democrats conveniently forgot that the regulations drafted by Democrats would allow the attorney general to minimize or even subvert Mueller’s findings… Blame the regulations for Barr’s distortions — and fix them. Rest assured, there will be a next time.”
Noah Feldman, Bloomberg

“The two issues with which he is most often associated, support for a balanced budget and opposition to free trade, put him at odds with both of our major political parties. An old-fashioned, soft-spoken Southerner, he nevertheless held views on so-called ‘social issues’ that would be to the left of the mainstream of the Republican Party, both then and now. He was a fervent supporter of the Vietnam POW/MIA movement in the late '80s and early '90s, but he was not in any sense a hawk. Never mind 2003. Perot opposed the first war in Iraq in 1990… Perot's death should be mourned by all Americans who regret the fact that it is no longer possible to make reasoned, non-ideological arguments about questions of public import, and by the devolution of our political life into mindless partisan squabbling.”
Matthew Walther, The Week

From the Right

The right defends Barr, arguing that concerns over his memo are irrelevant now that the entire report has been released, and that his previous statements were not false.

From the Right

The right defends Barr, arguing that concerns over his memo are irrelevant now that the entire report has been released, and that his previous statements were not false.

“Mueller is a prosecutor employed by the Department of Justice to investigate actual and potential criminal activity and not an investigator employed by Congress to consider the case for impeachment. It was entirely fair for Barr to focus on the top-line legal conclusions in his initial statement… [in any case] within days, Barr released the entire report, with minimal material redactions. The American people have the opportunity to read every word, and so do members of Congress who may seek impeachment.”
David French, National Review

“What are Democrats so upset about? Is it that they lost a precious 25 days — from March 24 to April 18 — to spin Mueller’s findings to their liking?… [Since Trump won the 2016 election, the narrative] that he might be a Russian asset or may have conspired with Russia has been a near article of faith for the resistance. If Democrats can chastise Barr for spinning Mueller’s report for 24 days, then why can’t Republicans ask why Mueller didn’t end all the speculationabout a Trump-Russia conspiracy as soon as he found out it wasn’t true?”
Eli Lake, Bloomberg

“The Democrats’ perjury/contempt/impeachment slander against Barr is based on the fact that, in prior congressional testimony, Barr was asked whether Mueller agreed with Barr’s conclusions about the report, including that there was insufficient evidence to charge obstruction. Barr replied that he did not know whether Mueller agreed. Democrats now contend that Barr must have known Mueller disagreed because he had Mueller’s letter. But Mueller’s letter doesn’t say he disagreed with Barr’s conclusion… Mueller’s complaint is that Barr ‘did not fully capture the context’ of Mueller’s magnum opus – the ‘nature and substance’ of the report…

“Parsed carefully (which you have to do with the special counsel’s Jesuitical work), Mueller is precisely not saying that Barr misrepresented his key findings. He is saying that he and the Clinton/Obama minions he recruited to staff the case wrote the report with a certain mood music in mind. To their chagrin, Barr gave us just the no-crime bottom line.”
Andrew McCarthy, Fox News

“Read the supposedly damning exchange with Sen Chris Van Hollen.Barr is never asked whether Mueller is unhappy with his letter, just whether he’s unhappy with his conclusions, meaning his decision not to charge the president with obstruction… There’s another exchange with Rep . Charlie Crist that people are also focusing on. Barr is asked about anonymous officials from the Mueller probe telling the press they are unhappy with his summary letter. Barr, correctly, says he doesn’t know their discontents (he presumably didn’t talk to any of them about this, and wouldn’t know anyway since they were anonymous).”
Rich Lowry, National Review

Moreover, “Mr. Barr told the Senate Wednesday that he offered Mr. Mueller the chance to review his four-page letter before sending it to Congress, but the special counsel declined. Mr. Mueller worked for Mr. Barr, and that was the proper time to offer suggestions or disagree. Instead, Mr. Mueller ducked that responsibility and then griped in an ex-post-facto letter that was conveniently leaked on the eve of Mr. Barr’s testimony…

Democrats and the media are turning the AG into a villain for doing his duty and making the hard decisions that special counsel Robert Mueller abdicated… This trashing of Bill Barr shows how frustrated and angry Democrats continue to be that the special counsel came up empty in his Russia collusion probe. He was supposed to be their fast-track to impeachment. Now they’re left trying to gin up an obstruction tale, but the probe wasn’t obstructed and there was no underlying crime. So they’re shouting and pounding the table against Bill Barr for acting like a real Attorney General.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

“Ultimately, both Attorney General Barr and Special Counsel Mueller have done the nation a service not just by clearing the President of collusion, but by returning the question of obstruction to Congress, where it belongs… Impeachment must be the only solution to Trump’s challenge to the constitutional order. The Constitution did not envision that the criminal justice system would address abuses of presidential power… The Constitution makes Congress alone accountable for removing a President who abuses his office.”
John Yoo, The Atlantic

“NBC and MSNBC embraced Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts in the first debate of Democratic presidential candidates Wednesday night, treating her like the star of the show. The debate led off with Warren, who had a huge popularity advantage from the start… NBC anchor Savannah Guthrie started it off sounding more like Warren’s press secretary. ‘You have many plans – free college, free child care, government health care, cancelation of student debt, new taxes, new regulations, the breakup of major corporations,’ Guthrie said, before teeing up an economy question. Guthrie even used Warren’s plan to break up tech companies as the foundation for a question for Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey… the round-robin final comments also ended with Warren, as Maddow asked her for the ‘final, final statement.’ That let NBC bookend the entire debate with Warren and Warren.”
Dan Gainor, Fox News

President Trump should be happy. As much as Warren is articulate, obviously intelligent, and energetically supported by Democrats, she would also be far easier to defeat than Joe Biden… Considering Trump's economy, the president is well placed to defeat Warren.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

A libertarian's take

“The fans who avidly followed the men’s tournament certainly weren’t doing anything wrong. And it’s hard to argue that each of them had a moral obligation to be exactly as interested in women’s soccer. Even if we could stop them from watching the men more than the women, should we?…

“It’s tempting to answer that the fan choices aren’t innocent, they’re sexist. But since we can’t peek into their hearts, to say that definitively, we’d have to assume that men’s greater speed, strength and endurance definitely make nodifference to the sport’s quality. Fair enough, but then why do fans prefer to watch Megan Rapinoe play instead of the sedentary elderly who could presumably use some exercise? Alternatively, maybe pay should be equalized precisely because biology is unfair. But that seems to be an argument for curbing the pay of all top-level athletes, who have to hit the genetic lottery just to get on the field. It might be easier to focus on the distributions across society at large, rather than every individual industry, especially when fundamental biology is in play.”
Megan McArdle, Washington Post

On the bright side...

Man brings bag of moose poop to airport, says he collected it as gift for politicians.
Fox News

Get troll-free political news.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.