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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.

Confirmed Cases: 16041

Reported Deaths: 767
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds103526
Lauderdale74568
Madison74525
Neshoba70742
Jones66331
Scott66112
Forrest59439
DeSoto5538
Leake44712
Rankin4468
Holmes43928
Copiah3154
Jackson30813
Attala30318
Yazoo2864
Newton2824
Leflore27334
Lincoln27029
Monroe26525
Harrison2637
Oktibbeha25314
Lamar2485
Lowndes2309
Wayne2242
Pearl River21131
Pike20411
Adams20015
Noxubee1916
Washington1917
Warren18110
Covington1732
Jasper1654
Lee1657
Bolivar16511
Clarke15419
Smith15311
Kemper14711
Lafayette1414
Chickasaw13714
Coahoma1274
Winston1211
Marion1179
Carroll11711
Clay1154
Claiborne1122
Lawrence1061
Simpson1020
Grenada993
Yalobusha966
Tate951
Hancock9112
Itawamba897
Wilkinson859
Union857
Sunflower853
Montgomery851
Panola843
Marshall813
Jefferson Davis803
Tippah7611
Webster683
Calhoun674
Amite641
Walthall610
Humphreys597
Tunica563
Prentiss563
Perry513
Choctaw482
Pontotoc433
Jefferson431
Tishomingo340
Quitman340
Stone310
Franklin292
Tallahatchie291
George261
Greene221
Alcorn181
Benton140
Sharkey70
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 18474

Reported Deaths: 651
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Mobile2283118
Jefferson1882103
Montgomery180243
Tuscaloosa81616
Marshall7059
Franklin5768
Lee55234
Shelby52220
Tallapoosa43166
Butler41618
Walker3782
Elmore3739
Chambers35826
Madison3444
Morgan2971
Baldwin2929
Unassigned2922
Dallas2823
Etowah26112
DeKalb2563
Lowndes25512
Autauga2395
Coffee2381
Sumter2267
Houston2235
Bullock2136
Pike2080
Colbert1872
Hale1789
Russell1770
Barbour1751
Marengo1746
Lauderdale1672
Calhoun1653
Choctaw15310
Wilcox1527
Cullman1501
Clarke1482
St. Clair1311
Randolph1287
Marion12411
Dale1230
Pickens1215
Talladega1175
Limestone1080
Chilton1041
Greene954
Winston910
Macon864
Jackson833
Henry812
Covington811
Crenshaw783
Bibb761
Escambia743
Washington726
Blount631
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Monroe442
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Perry420
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