The Only Real Important Thing Bill Barr Let Loose During His Hotly Anticipated Hearing
Trump’s Attorney General Bill Barr put plenty of arrogance on display, but not the hubris Democrats had hoped for
Barr referred to General Douglas MacArthur and his famous beach walk in the Philippines several times in explaining both his involvement in, and comportment during a series of events in which protestors were cleared from near the White House, and then President Trump (along with Barr), emerged from the White House to have a photo op (you know, the one with the bible in the President’s hand), in front of a church across the street.
So you can begin and end your assessment of ego right there.
And Barr was absolutely, unquestionably partisan in his replies, using the very same what-about-ism that’s a staple of Fox News and Trump Tweets (although strangely he insisted, under oath, that he doesn’t read Trump’s Tweets), referring multiple times to the shortcomings of the Obama administration when questioned about Trump’s. And in doing so he kind of made it very clear he doesn’t really view himself as an Attorney General who represents the entire nation’s citizens, any more than Trump views himself as everybody’s President. Instead, the message seemed to be: there’s a group or a class of Americans that exists within his realm, and another that’s outside it, and are deserving of disdain.
Many Democratic Representatives on the Committee frankly, seemed interested in political grandstanding ahead of their own upcoming elections, and gave speeches rather than asking questions. Which extremely ironically led Ranking Member Rep. Jim Jordan (R) Ohio to grouse the witness was not provided time to answer. Because, after all, that’s his own signature move.
In questioning by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D) TX, Barr asserted: “I do not agree there is systemic racism” among police. So, so much for that. And pretty much any chance of any reform coming from the Trump Administration. Though hardly a surprise.
Mostly, as far as we’re concerned, the new stuff all came down to questioning by Rep. Debbie Muscarel Powell (D) FL, about whether Barr would agree not to release his long-awaited “investigation of the investigators” report (that Trump had called for; Barr complied), before the next election, in accordance with long-standing (though not always followed) Justice Department policy. To which Barr replied:
“Any report will be in my judgment not one covered by the policy that would disrupt the election.”
Here’s a clip of that (click on the photo to watch):
So it’s not a stretch, we don’t think, to come away from that thinking Barr’s teeing up an “October surprise” that might involve pages and pages of documents and maybe even charges related to FBI and broader Justice Department activities during the Obama administration, in which of course Joe Biden, as Vice President, was a key player.
Question is: would the media cover it as news, which it may be? Or as a naked political stunt, which it definitely will be?
Pretty sure Barr’s convinced the media will bite even at innuendo. Or at least get so wrapped up in it that it bumps Biden over the head enough to tamp him down. Kind of like then FBI Director James Comey’s revelation about “more Hillary emails” just 10 days before the last Presidential election. As we’ve said before, Trump already had a lot of momentum at that point, so it might not have ultimately made a difference, but based on people we spoke to that year leading up to Election Day, it did keep a lot of people home, which was good enough for Trump. And might be again.
If we were really cynical, we might find one more thing in Barr’s testimony that we could easily see leading to troubles. And that’s his repeating his (and the President’s) unsubstantiated assertion that a large number of mail-in ballots this year due to concerns about voting in person during COVID-19 would create “a high risk” of widespread voter fraud. Asked if he has any evidence of that, Barr answers “No, I don’t.” When asked: “What will you do if Donald Trump loses the election on November 3, but refuses to leave office on January 20?” Barr replies:
“If the results are clear, I would leave office.”
Which is why we always say Biden really has to trounce Trump. Far beyond what he’d need to capture the electoral vote by a slim margin. (Which probably means winning the popular vote by something like 6–10 points.) Because there are a lot of signals that those around Trump will tolerate a lot of funny business and act as allies in schemes involving the President refusing to accept the validity of any even somewhat close election result. Maybe not. But better not to take that chance.