Napolitano: Let's face it, Bill Barr misled Congress

It’s interesting how much more critical Napolitano is of Barr in his written commentary than in the prosaic video he cut to accompany it. Watch the clip:

All he’s doing is restating the disagreement between Barr and House Democrats. Dems accused Barr of lying under oath when he claimed initially that no one on Mueller’s staff had objected to his summary of the report. It turned out later, of course, that Mueller himself had sent Barr a letter raising issues with the summary a few days after it was released. Why didn’t Barr mention that to begin with? Dems say he misled them, Barr claims he didn’t. Napolitano appears agnostic about it.

He sure ain’t agnostic in his op-ed, though.

[T]he fact that Mueller — a seasoned government official — wrote a letter about this knowing its near certain permanent residence in government files is telling. He made a permanent record of his complaint about Barr’s sanitized letter, and Barr hid that record from Congress.

At the same time that all of the above was transpiring, the House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed the full unredacted Mueller report from Barr, and he dropped the ball again. Instead of challenging the subpoena before a federal judge and asking her to rule on the lawfulness of compliance, Barr ignored it. This produced calls for the House to hold him in contempt; a largely symbolic gesture, yet an unpleasant one for Barr.

What’s going on here? It is clear that Barr’s four-page letter, about which Mueller complained to Barr and some of Mueller’s team complained to the media, was a foolish attempt to sanitize the Mueller report. It was misleading, disingenuous and deceptive. Also, because Barr knew that all or nearly all of the Mueller report would soon enter the public domain, it was dumb and insulting.

Why was that language omitted from the clip? My guess is that the blowback Napolitano received after his last video commentary, in which he accused Trump of having obstructed justice, cowed either him or Fox management or both. Maybe they reached an accommodation in which he’d be allowed to state his honest opinion in writing but would need to dial it back in the more heavily trafficked video commentary, especially since the last video got noticed at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Trump attacked Napolitano on Twitter after that, and Trump is famously a creature of TV and video. The Fox brain trust might be reining in Napolitano in formats which they believe Trump, and Fox viewers, are more likely to see and letting him off the leash in ones that are less visible. They don’t want any more antagonism between the White House and the network than there already is.

Anyway, whether or not the summary itself was “misleading,” Barr certainly misled Congress in tapdancing around questions about whether he knew Mueller’s office wasn’t thrilled with the summary.

Crist, April 9: Reports have emerged recently … that members of the special counsel’s team are frustrated at some level with the limited information included in your March 24th letter, that it does not adequately or accurately, necessarily, portray the report’s findings. Do you know what they’re referencing with that?

Barr: No, I don’t. I think, I think, I suspect that they probably wanted, you know, more put out. But in my view, I was not interested in putting out summaries or trying to summarize, because I think any summary regardless of who prepares it not only runs the risk of, you know, being under-inclusive or over-inclusive but also, you know, would trigger a lot of discussion and analysis that really should await everything coming out at once.

That was obviously his cue to say, “Oh, well, Bob Mueller sent me a letter expressing concerns about the summary.” Barr defended himself later by claiming that Crist’s question “was relating to unidentified members who were expressing frustration over the accuracy relating to findings. I don’t know what that refers to at all. I talked directly to Bob Mueller, not members of his team.” I.e. you never asked me about Mueller, only about Mueller’s team. Which is not only lame hair-splitting but disingenuous on its own terms: As Patterico noted last week, the fact that Barr later claimed that Mueller’s “snitty” letter was probably written by one his staffers suggests that he had reason to believe that members of Mueller’s team were also concerned about his summary.