As you’re undoubtedly aware, Tuesday was the day when Trump Attorney General nominee William Barr got his first crack at convincing the Senate (and, more importantly, the public) that he’s not going to be the type of AG who would knowingly participate in an effort to obstruct justice by helping the Kremlin agent who currently occupies the Oval Office cover up an international conspiracy to subvert America’s democracy.
There are obviously questions about Barr’s nomination. For one thing, his history with special counsels isn’t exactly amicable. Here’s the Washington Post to explain:
Barr may not regard Mueller as being as out of control as he thought Walsh was, but he has criticized political donations made by Mueller’s prosecutors. He has also suggested that the evidence for investigating potential Trump campaign collusion with Russia wasn’t as strong as it was for investigating Hillary Clinton on Uranium One, a deal approved when she was secretary of state. In other words, Barr doesn’t seem to regard the investigation as particularly warranted in the first place, and he has shown a willingness to believe it’s politically tainted (suggesting, like Trump, that Mueller’s team has too many Democratic donors).
Who is “Walsh”, you ask? Walsh is Lawrence Walsh, special counsel for the investigation into the Iran-contra scandal who Barr (then Attorney General for George H.W. Bush), wanted to fire so badly that he once told Bush he “had an itchy trigger finger.”
More salient (maybe) than all of that is the fact that Barr literally wrote a memo to Rod Rosenstein last year criticizing the Mueller probe, calling the obstruction inquiry “fatally misconceived.”
All of this has taken on a special urgency now that Rosenstein is on the way out the door and in light of last weekend’s revelations that i) the FBI once opened a probe into whether Trump was in fact working for the Kremlin and ii) the President once confiscated his own interpreter’s notes from a meeting with Putin.
Of course anybody is better than Acting AG Matt Whitaker, a sycophant’s sycophant and someone whose track record with regard to public comments about Clinton, Comey and Mueller is so laughably contentious that it’s a miracle Congress didn’t revolt when he was appointed following Sessions’ unceremonious ouster the day after the midterms.
So, what came out of Barr’s confirmation hearing? Well, a lot, actually. We’re going to present these soundbites in no particular order and let you decide for yourself whether this is someone who can be taken at his word when it comes to overseeing the Mueller probe.
First up is Barr refusing to commit to recusing himself even if ethics officials recommend such a move.
Here is Barr’s answer when pressed on whether the above-mentioned memo was effectively a “job interview” for the AG position – and do note how careful Barr is to add the “attempted” qualifier when it comes to interference in the 2016 election.
Importantly, he did concede that Trump cannot issue a pardon in exchange for a promise not to cooperate with an investigation. That, Barr said unequivocally, is a crime.
Here is Barr’s reasonably convincing answer when asked whether he was (or is) involved in pushing Rosenstein out.
On whether he’ll commit to making the conclusions of the Mueller probe public, Barr would say only that that is his “goal and intent”, which is probably all that anyone could reasonably expect him to say in this scenario.
Barr said he would not comply with a demand from Trump to fire Mueller if there was no good cause, although that leaves the door open to what constitutes “good cause.” Again, Barr’s answer just amounts to him saying he wouldn’t do something egregious, which means he’s really saying nothing at all – it’s not as if he’s going to sit there in front of the Senate and admit that he would fire the special counsel for no reason.
I’m not sure what Lindsey Graham was trying to accomplish in the clip shown below, but suffice to say Barr was very (very) direct in his answers when pressed about whether Mueller is in fact a patriot and someone who can be trusted. And do note that the only reason Barr doesn’t respond unequivocally to Lindsey on the “witch hunt” question is probably because “witch hunt” is not a legal term, but rather something Trump shrieks to anybody within shouting distance, so it’s not entirely clear how an AG is supposed to respond when a sycophant like Graham asks about “witch hunts.”
Asked whether he has discussed the Mueller probe with Trump, Barr offered a stammering answer which seems to be some semblance of honest – if you watch the clip below it certainly doesn’t sound like he’s trying to cover anything up, but rather just doesn’t have a whole lot to add. Who knows, that may be a charitable interpretation, but it may also stem from the fact that if it’s “substantive” conversations you’re asking about, nobody has ever had a “substantive” discussion with Trump about anything given that this President is allergic to “substantive”.
Finally, here’s Barr answering a series of question from Feinstein on Mueller.
Obviously, there are endless additional soundbites from the hearing and they’ll keep coming today and tomorrow. Barr discussed everything from border security to crack on Tuesday (literally).
You can draw your own conclusions and I guess we would note that based on the deluge of indictments and court cases and other Mueller news that hit late last year, and considering the reports out last weekend, it may in fact be too late for any Attorney General to put the brakes on the special counsel, or at least if you rule out the possibility that Barr would be willing to corrupt himself completely by doing something heinous at the behest of Trump. Mueller seems to be moving towards the end game and one has to ask whether the Times and the Washington Post might have been laying the groundwork by letting the public know that this is perhaps set to be more momentous than critics and naysayers of the collusion narrative are willing to admit.
In any event, if you have further questions about today’s proceedings on Capitol Hill, please direct them to Mayor McCheese…