Attorney General William Barr testified in front of congress for over five hours yesterday.
He answered rounds of aggressive questions ranging from the federal response to protestors, to the Russian probe and intervention in sentencing of perceived friends of the administration
This was not for the weak of heart. The hours’ long appearance before congress led to contentious dialogue.
The Attorney General was almost defiant in his defense of the federal response to nationwide protests. The verbal sparring match where Democrats accused him and the administration of openly suppressing protesters’ rights in an overly violent crackdown. On the flip side Barr was challenged for not interfering with the armed white nationalist protestors who threatened the Michigan governor over the Covid-19 shutdown orders. Barr indicated he was not aware of that protest.
The attorney general also insisted on his reputation and adherence to the letter of the law when discussing his intervention in the Roger J. Stone Jr. and Michael T. Flynn cases.
While Mr. Barr maintained his respect and adherence to the law, Democrats attempted to paint Mr. Barr as an errand boy for the president and dangerous for the country. This was met with Mr. Barr insisting he was only enforcing the law against rioters using demonstrations as cover to commit crimes.
The Attorney General also commented on the Russian probe.
“The president’s friends don’t deserve special breaks, but they also don’t deserve to be treated more harshly than other people,” he said. “And sometimes that’s a difficult decision to make, especially when you know you’re going to be castigated for it.”
Democrats also spoke over his attempts to respond to their accusations.
At one point, the attorney general exclaimed, “I’m going to answer the damn question.”
The back and forth continued for the over 5-hour session.
The Attorney General provided little new details and for the more part avoided any damage to the administration. However, one redeemable element of the hearing was when Democrats sought to hold Mr. Barr to account for his summary last year of the then-secret findings of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, that a federal judge later said was “distorted” and “misleading” in a way that torqued public understanding of its findings in Mr. Trump’s favor.
After multiple attempts, Mr. Barr finally appeared in front of congress.
“You have aided and abetted the worst failings of the president,” Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, the committee chairman, said at the start of the hearing to Mr. Barr, who sat impassively.
“The president wants footage for his campaign ads, and you appear to be serving it up to him as ordered,” Mr. Nadler said. “You are projecting fear and violence nationwide in pursuit of obvious political objectives. Shame on you, Mr. Barr.”
The AG denied the claims and said the response to protestors was not trying to quash peaceful expressions of free speech but to deal with “mob” violence.
“Rioters and anarchists have hijacked legitimate protests to wreak senseless havoc and destruction on innocent victims,” he said.
In particular, he defended the deployment of federal agents in Portland, Ore., accusing the local police of essentially abandoning a federal courthouse as rioters and vandals “laid siege” to it, threatening the functioning of the court system.
“What unfolds nightly around the courthouse cannot reasonably be called protests,” Mr. Barr said. “It is by any objective measure an assault on the government of the United States.”
In all, regardless of your position with the administration, it’s doubtful it changed.
The grilling session just reminded us of the division and politics that exist in our nation’s capital.
Have an opinion on AG Barr? Contact your elected officials.