I watched it all Wednesday. Cover Up General Barr really should resign and officially take over as Trump’s lead personal defense counsel. For damned sure he should be acting in that capacity as the Attorney General of the United States. There were plenty of times where Barr was clearly flustered. He had to have known he was going to get grilled but seemed unprepared. Hell, it turns out he hasn’t even read the full 448 page Mueller report, much less (as Senator Harris elicited) any of the underlying evidence! No, he came in there prepared to be Trump’s defense lawyer. And like Trump’s other personal defense lawyers Barr is clearly not up to the job. Whatever self assurance he might have once had having gotten away with so much during the Bush years is gone and it showed. I guess it never occurred to him that the prosecutors were ready to tear his case apart piece by piece, that they’d not only refuse to back down but attack back and do so forcefully and well.
More than once I flashed back to the scene from Broadcast News hence the title pic. I can only imagine how he’ll feel even before the House hearing kicks off tomorrow.
But more importantly than Barr crumbling under questioning (and getting flat out body slammed by Senator Hirano) he said some things I think will come back to haunt him. In particular he pissed off both former WH Counsel Don McGahan who before this week might have been inclined to make Democrats work like hell for every bit of testimony damaging to Trump. I doubt that’s the case anymore. Barr joined with Trump and other Republicans to attack McGahan’s credibility. McGahan didn’t want to talk to Mueller, and sure as hell didn’t offer anything he wasn’t pressed on by Mueller’s team but in the end he wasn’t about to risk his law license or jail (IOW he damn well remembers what happened to another WH Counsel by the name of John Dean) for Trump. He took the job on behalf of the Federalist Society to get the SCOTUS and federal judge picks they wanted and once Gorsuch was confirmed & the “pipeline” for nominees was set up he started working to get the hell out of the WH and away from Trump with his solid (in DC circles) legal reputation intact — and then cash in big time as a former WH Counsel.
Now? The President is pissed and trashing him and now Barr is too.
Then there’s Robert Mueller. The two might have been personally friendly in the past, but I’m pretty sure those days are over. Since last night there’s been commentary on how extraordinary it was for Mueller to write to Barr with his dissatisfaction over Barr’s actions with the rollout of the report. Even before late this afternoon we saw reporting that Barr and his team were shaken by Mueller’s letter. “Going to paper” is serious business for people in that world and at that level and Mueller doing so was an “uh oh” moment. They knew that letter was devastating & the fact Mueller had “gone to paper” meant he was major league pissed. We also learned a couple of interesting things late in the proceedings today. First Barr more or less admitted they knew at some point it was likely to become public. Better still, in a question from a Republican I believe was a set-up for Barr to accuse Mueller’s team of leaking it Billy Boy fumbled the ball and admitted it was almost certainly someone at DOJ (not Mueller’s team) who showed it to the Washington Post. But (again this is speculation) having realized he’d fumbled Barr decided a bit later to talk dismissively of the letter by calling it “snitty” and saying it was probably just one of Barr’s staffers who wrote it. Ok, it’s possible the thing was a collaborative effort from Team Mueller but Bobby Three Sticks surely had a role if he didn’t draft it entirely on his own. More importantly the letter reads as though it’s only Mueller, and it went out under Mueller’s signature and no one else’s. Again, being that critical of an AG supervising an investigation you’re running/have run AND doing so in writing in what will be a formal DOJ document that can’t be destroyed (at least without committing a crime) is truly extraordinary.
That brings me to the second thing. We’d already heard that it was Barr who called Mueller to talk about Mueller’s concerns, correcting some early reporting suggesting Mueller called Barr as a follow up. But at the end of the hearing Barr was asked to characterize the conversation. And he did.
Barr didn’t just blurt out that he had his associates in the room listening on speaker (IOW more witnesses to call later) but he testified the call opened with his saying “ I said ‘Bob, what’s with the letter? Why didn’t you just pick up the phone?'” IOW Barr knows damn well how significant that letter was, that Mueller had voiced his concerns formally in writing. If Mueller was upset (and he was — hence the letter) Barr was upset Mueller had called him out on the record so to speak. Barr was actually kind of whiny in the short segment where he blurted out details of that call. Talk about flop sweat! I can easily imagine Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee, and better still the (Democratic at least) staff counsel licking their chops and crafting questions to follow up on that three minutes alone.
The bottom line though is that Barr made it clear he believes he’s superior to Mueller. He more or less called out Mueller repeatedly, and as the day went on and he got tired Barr became more dismissive of Mueller and the work of Mueller and his team. For over two years Robert Mueller has kept his head down and not said a word about his investigation. Not once has he stepped up to a microphone, or even allowed a press release defending his own reputation and his work even as the attacks mounted, and grew increasingly personal. Robert Mueller is surely disgusted by even the thought of a Donald Trump or someone like him sitting in the Oval Office. But as the model of an “Institutional Man” flat out punching back directly and like the jarhead in him wants to do even a President like Trump will get some measure of civility. William Barr OTOH has just invited Mueller to open up a can of whup ass on him. No, Mueller won’t go Trump on Barr but in forceful terms he will I believe beat down Barr so badly that he’ll be begging for mercy.
Barr had already been working up to it but today he threw down the gauntlet and said “I’m better than Mueller. In fact Mueller isn’t even really a prosecutor and was nothing more than some run of the mill U.S. Attorney who really shouldn’t be taken all that seriously.
Don McGahan has been placed (by Barr) in a position in which the only way he can have the lucrative career moving forward as part of the truly elite of DC white collar law is to stand up for himself and do the right thing — which is to bury Trump with his public testimony. Robert Mueller went from wide praise from the GOP outside Team Trump to someone to be if not directly trashed then sure as hell not defended as colleagues do so and Barr has decided to use his position as AG to try and bury Bob Mueller’s reputation.
Turns out that Barr wasn’t content to merely burn bridges with two men who when they finally get their turn on national TV will rip Trump multiple new assholes. No, today Barr blew up those two bridges from end to end.
I have to admit I’ll rather enjoy seeing Barr wind up being buried by the rubble since he apparently doesn’t have the good sense to get the hell out from under those bridges as they fall.