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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 1:30 AM
Updated: May 2, 2019 1:30 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.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 751242

Reported Deaths: 13795
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1032931788
Lake556911009
Allen41692692
St. Joseph36990565
Hamilton36588417
Elkhart29398461
Tippecanoe22901226
Vanderburgh22556400
Porter19356325
Johnson18471389
Hendricks17682317
Clark13226195
Madison13149344
Vigo12614253
LaPorte12419221
Monroe12207176
Delaware10966198
Howard10321225
Kosciusko9630121
Hancock8576146
Bartholomew8169157
Warrick7860156
Floyd7811180
Grant7242179
Wayne7162201
Boone6966103
Morgan6761141
Dubois6218118
Marshall6209116
Cass6016110
Henry5900110
Dearborn589878
Noble581488
Jackson509076
Shelby501496
Lawrence4742122
Gibson444894
Clinton442355
Harrison441875
DeKalb439885
Montgomery438090
Whitley406543
Huntington402681
Steuben400159
Miami395269
Jasper388054
Knox375991
Putnam372960
Wabash361983
Ripley347170
Adams345555
Jefferson335886
White331953
Daviess3033100
Wells295281
Decatur289992
Greene286885
Fayette284864
Posey273835
LaGrange273072
Scott270156
Clay267148
Washington246036
Randolph244783
Jennings235349
Spencer234531
Starke228058
Fountain220948
Sullivan214643
Owen211858
Fulton202942
Jay200932
Carroll193620
Orange188255
Perry187237
Rush175926
Vermillion174844
Franklin170335
Tipton166246
Parke149416
Pike138234
Blackford136232
Pulaski120647
Newton113936
Brown104243
Crawford102516
Benton101714
Martin91715
Warren84015
Switzerland8148
Union72810
Ohio57911
Unassigned0420

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1108736

Reported Deaths: 20166
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1287201467
Cuyahoga1157922211
Hamilton813971250
Montgomery525481043
Summit484271001
Lucas43353820
Butler39013606
Stark33332929
Lorain25672505
Warren24591303
Mahoning22370603
Lake21207388
Clermont20117253
Delaware18852136
Licking16662222
Fairfield16574204
Trumbull16548482
Medina15610271
Greene15281248
Clark14237306
Wood13292200
Portage13251215
Allen11913239
Richland11605211
Miami10849225
Wayne9141223
Columbiana9032230
Muskingum8906135
Pickaway8663122
Tuscarawas8649250
Marion8642138
Erie8056165
Ashtabula7160179
Hancock6998132
Ross6944161
Geauga6838151
Scioto6534106
Belmont6157174
Union584549
Lawrence5731102
Jefferson5678158
Huron5546122
Sandusky5442126
Darke5420129
Seneca5348128
Washington5319109
Athens523960
Auglaize502187
Mercer487385
Shelby476895
Knox4571112
Madison444266
Ashland435797
Putnam4336103
Defiance432399
Fulton432074
Crawford4037110
Brown402461
Logan387677
Preble3855105
Clinton379166
Ottawa373681
Highland359665
Williams348278
Champaign344759
Guernsey324953
Jackson318254
Perry297350
Morrow291840
Fayette285450
Hardin275265
Henry273467
Holmes2701101
Coshocton269060
Van Wert247264
Adams243256
Pike242835
Gallia240650
Wyandot234556
Hocking220563
Carroll197348
Paulding176542
Meigs148440
Monroe136344
Noble136239
Harrison114138
Morgan109624
Vinton85517
Unassigned03
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