On Wednesday, Attorney General William Barr was in the hot seat at a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, where much of the focus was on an utterly stupid story that had just been reported in the Washington Post. Despite that, the very important thing we learned from Barr’s testimony is that he is currently investigating the FISA warrant process as it was used against the Trump campaign, the opening of a counterintelligence investigation into Trump (as in, SPYING), numerous criminal leaks from the intelligence community, and the FBI’s handling of the Clinton email investigation. He expressed concern about all of these.
This hasn’t stopped former FBI Director James Comey from continuing to write fatuous op-eds, with a new one in the New York Times referring to Trump as one of those “amoral leaders” who “have a way of revealing the character of those around them” (talking about Barr). Even if Comey were being led away in handcuffs –- which seems increasingly likely to happen –- he would still be sermonizing to all us lesser mortals as he made his way to the paddy wagon. That’s why colleagues at the FBI called him “Cardinal Comey.”
Yesterday, I wrote about the WAPO story, which told of special counsel Robert Mueller sending Barr a letter supposedly taking issue with his 4-page conclusion on the 440-page report. It was only after getting deep into the story that one could see Mueller had no problem with the accuracy of Barr’s conclusion; he was just concerned that lack of context and nuance had affected the media's reporting on his work.
In other words, in WAPO, the media misreported the story about Mueller’s concern about the media misreporting his report. Got that?
We have to get far into the WAPO story before we find that Barr called Mueller and spoke with him about his concerns. Mueller told Barr he wanted him to go ahead and release the summaries on each section to give the media some “context” until the full report could be released (which happened a couple of weeks later, after necessary redactions were completed with help from Mueller and Rod Rosenstein), and Barr thought otherwise, saying it would be better to wait and release everything at the same time. Since it was the AG’s prerogative to decide how and when to release the full report –- and even if it would be released at all –- Barr went with his instinct and waited to release it all at once.
Anyway, someone –- I’m guessing an especially ferocious member of Mueller’s team, such as Andrew Weissmann –- leaked the story about Mueller’s letter to the Washington Post so it would hit the day before Barr’s hearing and give committee Democrats something to pound him with. The letter may have actually been written by someone else, as Barr said in testimony, “The letter’s a bit snitty, and I think it was probably written by one of the staff people.” (Word Of The Day: “snitty.”) As Andrew C. McCarthy points out, WAPO’s own banner headline was wrong: “Mueller complained to Barr about memo on key findings.” One has to actually READ THE STORY to find out specifically that Mueller had no complaint about the key findings. Apparently, other “journalists” didn’t bother reading down very far, as they simply reported the mistaken headline. This was especially apparent on radio, where stories typically are boiled down to mere seconds. All Wednesday afternoon, top- and bottom-of-the-hour newscasts led with the same mistaken story, which will never be corrected.
I want to know why Mueller, as special counsel, was so concerned about the “narrative” in the first place. It’s not his job to provide that. He’s supposed to get to the facts and lay them out, with a conclusion on whether or not the case can be made. (He did that with Russian conspiracy, but left obstruction up in the air.) After he submits his report, he is supposed to be done. The fact that he or anyone on his team is now concerned about how this plays in the media suggests that they’ve been playing politics with their investigation. As if there were ever any doubt of that.
Anyway, Barr was magnificent in Wednesday’s hearing; his gentlemanly behavior in the face of the treatment he received was a testament to diplomacy and grace. Those commentators who said he was probably “the smartest person in the room” were not exaggerating. As I told Laura Ingraham on her show Wednesday night, I started to feel sorry for the Democrats in that room, because they had NOTHING, but then I didn’t because they were so rude and disrespectful. The most blatantly, monstrously partisan committee member –- it’s tempting to call her “the dumbest person in the room” --- was Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, who read a long statement slandering Barr as one of those people who had “sacrificed their once-decent reputation for the grifter and liar who sits in the Oval Office.”
After that, I can understand why Barr is done and has decided not to participate in the House Judiciary Committee hearing on Thursday, as they had planned to up their ante and have their staff attorneys grill him like some kind of criminal. Barr was going to come voluntarily, but he hadn’t agreed to that kind of questioning. If the House and Senate committees don’t have all they need to know by now about the special counsel investigation, they’re “tetched in the head,” as the old folks in Arkansas say.
For more of the political theater they crave, they’ll be getting Mueller in to testify, for sure.
Right now, the immediate goal of Democrats is to get Barr out, as they know he’s turned the tables and is investigating the Obama Justice Department. (And, wow, does he have good reason to.) After an embarrassingly bad attempt to discredit him in Wednesday’s hearing, presidential hopeful Kamala Harris told reporters in the hall that he should resign. That will be the drumbeat, resign or be impeached, as they are desperate to have him gone. Predictably, the Washington Post is assisting them in their effort, with a new editorial accusing him of the “manipulation of” Mueller’s work. This is ridiculous, considering that Barr welcomes the idea of Mueller testifying before the committee.
To discredit him, they’re now accusing him of lying in a previous hearing, when he was asked if Mueller agreed with his conclusion that there was insufficient evidence to charge Trump with obstruction. Barr testified then that he did not know whether Mueller agreed. As Andrew McCarthy explains it, Democrats now say that because Barr had already received Mueller’s letter when he gave that testimony, he must have known Mueller disagreed and therefore was lying to them. But Mueller’s letter doesn’t say he disagreed with Barr’s conclusion –- it expresses his frustration with the way his work was being perceived by the public.
Barr is not going anywhere, and he sounds committed to cleaning up the justice system. “We have to stop using the criminal justice process as a political weapon,” he said in the hearing. Hallelujah.
Something Barr will definitely be looking into: As I wrote yesterday, thanks to a FOIA lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch, numerous emails between Fusion GPS researcher Nellie Ohr and DOJ official Bruce Ohr detail the “back-door” channel for getting Clinton-financed oppo research to him and to others at the DOJ as well. John Solomon now has a detailed report, linked below. Rep. Mark Meadows has just filed a criminal referral against Nellie Ohr for lying in her testimony before Congress. May it be the first of many --- not as an act of political revenge, but of justice.