William Barr is set to testify before the House Judiciary Committee on March 31.
It’s been a long time coming. The panel originally sought Barr’s testimony in May, following the release of the Mueller report, which the Attorney General went out of his way to spin in Trump’s favor, first via the release of a hastily manufactured four-page summary of the special counsel’s 400-page final report, and, later, during an absurd press conference that was variously lampooned as a dog and pony show.
Over the past week, Barr has found himself under heightened scrutiny for i) admitting that the Justice Department has a channel through which Rudy Giuliani continues to promote a Ukraine narrative which has been debunked by every, single current and former official willing to go on the record, ii) removing a US attorney who oversaw the prosecutions of Trump allies including Rick Gates and Michael Flynn, and, of course, iii) intervening in Roger Stone’s sentencing, prompting the resignation of all four prosecutors from the case on Tuesday.
“These are not the only issues that our Committee intends to discuss with you when you appear, but they are enough to require our immediate attention”, Jerry Nadler said, in a letter to Barr dated Wednesday (it’s embedded in full below).
As discussed at length in the linked post above, Barr’s intervention in the Stone sentencing counts as one of the more flagrant acts of executive interference in the administration of justice in all of Trump’s presidency – and that’s saying something, considering this is a president who flouts the rule of law on a near hourly basis.
Never one to shy away from incriminating himself, Trump praised Barr on Wednesday in a wildly ill-advised tweet, although to call it ill-advised would be to tacitly suggest Trump is subject to the same criminal code as the rest of us – it’s an exercise in question-begging.
“Congratulations to Attorney General Bill Barr for taking charge of a case that was totally out of control and perhaps should not have even been brought”, Trump said, adding that the “evidence now clearly shows that the Mueller Scam was improperly brought [and] tainted”. He also accused Mueller of perjury.
Speaking to reporters later at the White House, Trump called Stone’s initial sentencing recommendation “a disgrace to our country”. Then, he claimed the prosecutors “ought to go back to school and learn” and even suggested they apologize to Stone.
Asked if he might just go ahead and pardon his longtime ally, Trump declined to say definitively.
“I don’t want to say that yet but I tell you what, people were hurt viciously and badly by these corrupt people”, he claimed. “They saw the horribleness of a nine-year sentence”, the president continued. “You have murderers and drug addicts that don’t get nine years”.
He reiterated: “We have killers, we have murderers all over the place. Nothing happens”.
Barr is, of course, overseeing an “investigation” into the origins of the Russia probe, an effort that should be superfluous in light of Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report. Horowitz, you’re reminded, produced enough damning evidence about flaws in the FBI’s processes to prompt a wholesale rethink of how the bureau goes about intelligence gathering. But that wasn’t enough for Trump and Barr, who were extremely dissatisfied that Horowitz did not uncover overt bias and even more irritated at the IG’s contention that the Russia investigation did, in fact, have an “authorized purpose”.
In the effort to dig up “evidence” to support Trump’s conspiracy theories, Barr went on a literal world tour last year seeking information in conjunction with his investigation, which is being carried out at arm’s length by John Durham.
Barr will surely be asked about that next month as well, once Nadler and friends are done grilling him on exactly how beholden the American justice system now is to the whims of one man.