William Barr gave a pathetic performance

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Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen told CNN's Jake Tapper that he thinks Attorney General Barr deliberately misled congress when testifying last month.

Posted: May 2, 2019 12:30 AM
Updated: May 2, 2019 12:30 AM

Attorney General William Barr's Senate testimony on Wednesday was a master class in obfuscation, backtracking and blame-shifting. This performance would've been pathetic coming from an ordinary witness -- never mind from the chief law enforcement officer of the United States.

Throughout the day, Barr's explanations for his most consequential decisions ranged from flatly unpersuasive to downright bizarre. When asked about his determination that not one of the "potentially obstructive actions" detailed by special counsel Robert Mueller constituted obstruction of justice, Barr offered the weak rejoinder that there was no proven underlying crime.

Of course, as Barr acknowledged in passing and Mueller lays out convincingly in his report, the law is clear that a person can obstruct even without an underlying crime. Just ask Martha Stewart, Scooter Libby, Roger Stone or even former President Bill Clinton, who was impeached for obstructive acts without an underlying crime.

Indeed, Barr offered next to nothing to justify his dramatic conclusion that Trump never obstructed justice. When pressed on one of the most flagrant examples of obstruction -- Trump's instruction to then-White House Counsel Don McGahn to have Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein fire Mueller -- Barr resorted to a perplexing claim that Trump merely wanted McGahn to discuss Mueller's conflict of interests. Yet Mueller himself finds in the report that Trump, through McGahn, made "efforts to remove" Mueller, and told McGahn that Mueller "must be removed." Again: this is the top prosecutor in the United States, not a sneaky defense lawyer out of "Better Call Saul."

Barr spent much of the day on the run from Mueller's remarkable March 27 letter, which flatly rebuked Barr for publicly characterizing his report in a way that "did not fully capture the context, nature and substance of this Office's work and conclusions." Barr meekly claimed that Mueller's objection was with the media, which had misshaped public opinion -- but that's simply not what Mueller's letter says. Yes, Mueller takes issue with media coverage. However, he was also concerned with Barr's four-page summary -- to such an extent that Mueller felt it necessary to put it all on paper the day after the attorney general released it.

And then there was the tragicomedy: Barr openly fawning over Trump and yet playing dumb when asked the most elementary questions by Democrats. Barr lamented that Trump was falsely accused -- as if Trump was the one-armed man in "The Fugitive" -- and excused Trump's obstruction efforts because, Barr surmised, he must have felt aggrieved by the investigation. When asked how a political campaign should react if approached by a foreign national offering dirt, Barr didn't give the only correct and sensible answer -- "run and call the FBI" -- but instead twisted himself in a pretzel, saying the person should first try to ascertain if the foreigner is an intel agent. And Barr pretended not to understand what basic words such as "receptive" and "suggest" mean, when Democrats had the nerve to use such "technical" terms.

Barr's performance today answered few questions and raised plenty of new ones. He offered nothing of substance to even begin to explain his dramatic "no obstruction" conclusion. He showed little appreciation for the national security threat posed by Russian interference in the 2016 election -- and the fact that the Mueller report concluded that the Trump campaign "expected it would benefit electorally" from Russian hacking -- nor much inclination to prevent similar attacks in 2020. And he offered no coherent rejoinder to Mueller's concern regarding Barr's apparent efforts to spin the Mueller report before releasing it to the public.

Barr now has bailed out on his scheduled House testimony tomorrow, which is a genuine embarrassment: the attorney general of the United States is running away from a few minutes of follow-up questioning by congressional aides. But this is far from over. In the coming weeks, we will likely hear from Mueller himself, not to mention crucial witnesses, including McGahn (at least in the Democratic-controlled House).

If it comes down to a credibility contest between Barr and Mueller, it is already a mismatch in Mueller's favor. But now, after Wednesday's ridiculous performance by Barr, it'll be game over.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 250869

Reported Deaths: 5481
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17010171
Hinds16091318
Harrison13250193
Rankin10629208
Jackson10216182
Lee8759141
Madison8186161
Jones6222109
Forrest5917118
Lauderdale5808180
Lowndes5309111
Lafayette491192
Lamar480465
Washington4770123
Bolivar3955106
Oktibbeha390380
Panola365076
Pontotoc361152
Monroe3521104
Warren344597
Union341458
Marshall339165
Neshoba3357152
Pearl River323295
Leflore2992105
Lincoln295685
Sunflower280469
Tate269560
Alcorn262653
Itawamba261159
Hancock260458
Pike259977
Scott244745
Prentiss244052
Yazoo242654
Tippah239749
Copiah239149
Simpson233967
Leake229564
Coahoma228554
Grenada217070
Covington210471
Marion208371
Adams203270
Winston199464
Wayne198730
George197938
Attala193158
Newton189142
Chickasaw182944
Tishomingo182159
Holmes168167
Jasper167735
Clay158233
Stone141520
Tallahatchie139234
Clarke137460
Calhoun135121
Smith119423
Yalobusha116134
Walthall111736
Noxubee110222
Greene109129
Montgomery109134
Carroll104121
Lawrence102117
Perry100531
Amite96825
Webster91924
Tunica86021
Claiborne85525
Jefferson Davis84025
Humphreys82624
Benton81023
Kemper76620
Quitman6838
Franklin65815
Choctaw60013
Wilkinson58325
Jefferson53419
Sharkey42417
Issaquena1596
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 420681

Reported Deaths: 6119
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson61755921
Mobile30058548
Madison26852186
Tuscaloosa20652266
Montgomery18876305
Shelby18421114
Baldwin16176182
Lee12393101
Morgan12175113
Etowah11687168
Calhoun11078200
Marshall10158107
Houston8556148
Cullman7999105
Limestone796274
Elmore7783101
DeKalb767197
Lauderdale752883
St. Clair7502120
Talladega6145108
Walker5880174
Jackson578841
Colbert529873
Blount529283
Autauga515455
Coffee438156
Dale394381
Franklin365248
Chilton335365
Covington326968
Russell326810
Escambia316142
Dallas302896
Chambers281869
Clarke279633
Tallapoosa2607107
Pike247629
Marion244650
Lawrence242547
Winston225535
Bibb214447
Geneva199535
Marengo197829
Pickens196231
Hale175442
Barbour172336
Butler168458
Fayette167126
Cherokee160030
Henry152721
Monroe145017
Randolph138835
Washington137026
Clay126145
Crenshaw118644
Lamar117519
Cleburne117223
Macon114335
Lowndes109535
Wilcox102621
Bullock98728
Perry96919
Conecuh94220
Sumter88826
Greene75723
Coosa60515
Choctaw51224
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