Highlights and lowlights of William Barr’s appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee

Attorney General William Barr’s appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee was supposed to be about the Mueller report—it was right there in the title of the hearing—and fully 50 percent of the time really was spent on that topic. The 50 percent where Democrats were asking the questions. Republicans, as expected, found the topic decidedly uninteresting, and found any number of other things to discuss with Barr. Including some topics so off the wall that not even Barr knew how to respond.

 

BarR Topping

Kamala Harris hits the “puree” button

She slices. She dices. She asks damn hard questions and doesn’t allow weak-assed answers. Hurricane Kamala came straight at Barr with questions that didn’t just knock him off his pat answers on the Mueller report, but also put him in pure sputter mode. You made that decision very quickly there Mr. Barr. Uh-huh. A very important decision. Yeah. Did you bother to read the evidence before making the most consequential prosecutorial decision of your entire career? Uh … Uh …. No. And has Donald Trump ordered or suggested that you investigate political opponents? Um, well, ah. … The answer to this is, of course, yes. Trump spends half of his executive time urging investigations of everyone not named Trump.

 

Masterful Hairsplitting

Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse was one of several Democrats who tried to get Barr to own up to the simple fact that he lied to the House Oversight Committee. In his appearance there, Barr said he didn’t know what Mueller thought of his summary/not-a-summary to Congress. Only weeks before that appearance, Mueller sent Barr a letter making it very clear what he thought. The very fact that Robert Mueller put it down on paper was the attorney version of firing a cannon across Barr’s extra-wide bow. But no matter how Whitehouse asked, Barr found a new way to claim he hadn’t been talking about what he was talking about. It wasn’t about Mueller, it was about “people in the special counsel’s office” not including Mueller. It wasn’t about his decision, it was about … something else. Take your pick. Whitehouse produced the phrase “masterful hairsplitting.” Which is his way of saying ugly-assed lies.

 

Mazie Hirono, for the win

“Mr. Barr, now the American people know that you are no different from Rudy Giuliani or Kellyanne Conway or any of the other people who sacrificed their once decent reputation for the grifter and liar who sits in the Oval Office.” Mic drop. Even better was how Lindsey Graham swooned, swooned, I say. You might think Hirono had just said “Trump is a fucking idiot.” But no. That was Graham. Hirono’s high-speed harangue didn’t leave Barr a lot of room to respond … by design. And the most important thing that Hirono said clearly is the key. “You lied to Congress.” He did. Get ‘em.  There are notes Under questioning by Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Barr started off by trying to tough out his lies about his phone conversation with Mueller by claiming he had witnesses. Rosenstein was there! It was on speakerphone! But it took about two minutes for Blumenthal to move on to who else was there. Mumble, mumble, Barr was not saying. And did anyone take notes? Yes, Barr admitted, someone had. Would Barr give those notes to Congress? No, he said. Why should he? Because … these are the things subpoenas are made of, Mr. Barr. They might have mentioned that in law school. After spending a day obviously mischaracterizing everything about his talk with Mueller, Barr admitted there were witnesses and notes. This is the kind of stupid statement on the stand that comes with dum-dum-DUH music in any courtroom drama. Petard. Hoist.

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