Attorney General William Barr testified before the Senate Judicial Committee Wednesday, May 1, and much of this hearing focused on setting the record straight. Since the completion and release of the special counsel report on Russian election interference and alleged collusion with the Trump campaign, the leftist media have mass-produced a deluge of disinformation. A host of quasi-journalists – in collusion with Democrat politicians – have made a concerted effort to discredit the attorney general and his handling of the Mueller report.
The motive for the efforts, by the president’s opponents, to attack Barr’s credibility go beyond the outcome of the special counsel investigation, perhaps. They could be seen as a preemptive strike against Barr, as his Justice Department investigates the origins of the FBI’s counterintelligence operation which targeted Trump campaign associates.
The Obstruction Question
Several principal points of contention were raised during the first session of the hearing. One of those points was the issue of why Robert Mueller declined to recommend a charge of obstruction of justice against the president. Barr himself appears to be somewhat dissatisfied with Mueller’s abdication on this matter.
Democrats on the Senate committee argued that the special counsel declined to assert criminal obstruction only because a long-standing Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) opinion holds that a sitting president cannot be criminally indicted. The attorney general made it clear that he had discussed the issue with Mueller and that the latter told him the OLC ruling did not figure into his decision, or non-decision, as it were.
Barr’s Letter and Mueller’s Objections
Ever since the A.G. delivered a four-page letter to Congress, summarizing the principal conclusions of the Mueller report, Democrats have complained that it was unacceptable for Barr to summarize a 400-plus-page report in so brief a document. The narrative developed was that Barr had taken it upon himself to whitewash the full report to protect the president.
A new report in The Washington Post falsely claims that Mueller sent a letter to Barr, objecting to the latter’s portrayal of the report’s findings. In a series of short but contentious exchanges with some committee members, Barr explained that his letter to Congress was not intended as a summary of the Mueller report but merely a summary of the principal conclusions.
As for Mueller’s objection to Barr’s letter, the special counsel did not dispute the accuracy of Barr’s summary but took issue with the media’s misrepresentation of it. Faithfully supporting Democratic Party talking points, the media portrayed Barr’s letter as a summary of the full Mueller report. Had it been intended as such, Mueller’s concern would be well-founded, since a four-page letter could not possibly do justice to the intense and thorough 22-month investigation.
As recounted by the A.G., Mueller would have preferred Barr’s letter to have included more context, especially as it related to the obstruction question. Conversely, Barr had simply wanted to present Mueller’s final conclusions, prior to the release of the redacted report.
Democrats Still Fishing For Crimes
In reality, Democrats have known for a long time that there was no evidence of collusion – coordination or conspiracy – between the Trump campaign and the Russians. How far into his investigation the special counsel got before he came to the same conclusion is a question worth asking. In the absence of collusion, though, the Democrats always had a backup plan, which was accusing the president of obstructing justice.
Originally, the contention was that Trump obstructed justice when he fired former FBI Director James Comey. The suggestion that Comey’s dismissal would somehow end the FBI’s own Russia investigation was a fantasy, of course. Quite apart from the president’s unquestionable authority to fire an FBI director at any time and for any reason – as Comey himself admitted – the investigation would have continued, with or without Comey at the helm. The director’s successor would have allowed the investigation to go on, assuming he saw justification for doing so.
Democrats at the hearing followed the same line of attack with regard to Trump’s alleged efforts to have Robert Mueller himself removed. Trump never did fire Mueller, of course, or have anyone else remove him. Barr had to field questions about the president allegedly telling then-White House counsel Don McGahn to fire Mueller or have Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein fire him.
McGahn told the special counsel that he was instructed by the president to fire Mueller on the grounds that the latter was “conflicted,” something Trump had publicly asserted many times. Barr pointed out that firing Mueller over conflicts of interest – real or perceived – would not have ended the special counsel investigation and, therefore, did not constitute obstruction.
Just as firing Comey would have meant only that the FBI investigation would have been continued by his successor, so the special counsel investigation would have continued and a new special counsel appointed.
As congressional hearings go, in these times, Barr’s appearance on Capitol Hill was fairly civilized. The Democrat strategy of attempting to dismantle Barr’s credibility was on full display. The most disrespectful and inappropriate attack on the A.G. came from Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI), who, rather than ask Barr any questions, unleashed a ranting and almost hysterical attack on his character, his competence, and his integrity.
The Attorney General, an accomplished witness, handled himself well and fielded almost every question and allegation masterfully. Certainly, he emerges from the hearing with his credibility intact. On several issues surrounding the release of the Mueller report, the record has, indeed, been set straight. Having taken another hit, though, congressional Democrats will continue their fruitless and destructive pursuit of presidential crimes.
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