Barr: I'll talk to Congress -- and only Congress

If Congress wants to talk to William Barr, the Attorney General will be happy to show up. If their staff attorneys want to talk to Barr, the Department of Justice announced yesterday, Barr has better uses of his time. The conflict over the format for Barr’s appearance at the House Judiciary Committee could derail the entire event:

“The attorney general agreed to appear before Congress. Therefore, members of Congress should be the ones doing the questioning,” Kerri Kupec, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said in a statement Sunday. “He remains happy to engage with members on their questions regarding the Mueller report.”

Sound reasonable? Perhaps as a negotiating position, but this does have a whiff of an overbearing executive branch attempting to bully the legislative branch. One does wonder how Republicans would have reacted to a similar demand from Eric Holder had the issue arisen between 2011-2015. House Democrats on Judiciary aren’t citing any such examples, but they’re not happy about Barr’s attempts to “dictate” terms.

The real issue, as NBC notes, is Barr’s insistence on not revealing redactions in the report:

Democrats believe Barr, as the committee’s witness, should not dictate the parameters of the hearing, scheduled for Thursday morning. A spokesperson for the Democratic-controlled panel also said the Justice Department can’t prohibit members of Congress from asking about redacted sections of the Mueller report.

A Justice Department official told CBS News negotiations between Barr’s office and the House Judiciary Committee are ongoing and will resume Monday.

The two issues are likely tied together. The committee’s lawyers probably planned to parse out the nuances of department policy and the statutory limits on releasing grand-jury testimony. Barr, understandably, doesn’t want to engage in a lengthy debate on those points with the attorneys.

In fact, Barr probably looks forward to this in the same way most of us look forward to root canals, only with less upside than a fixed tooth. No matter what he says or does, Judiciary Democrats plan to cast him as the evil master of spin on the Mueller report when it comes to obstruction of justice.

They’ll likely be very quiet on the Russiagate portion of Mueller’s report, however. It has become clear even on the Left that the original hypothesis of Robert Mueller’s probe was based on falsehoods and paranoia, as The Nation’s Aaron Maté concludes. Maté extends the paranoia and hysteria to the reaction to Barr’s summary as well (via Instapundit):

The Mueller report does not just dispel the conspiracy theories that have engulfed political and media circles for two years; it puts to rest the most popular, recent one: that Attorney General William Barr engaged in a cover-up. According to the dominant narrative, Barr was somehow concealing Mueller’s damning evidence, while Mueller, even more improbably, stayed silent.

One could argue that Barr’s summary downplays the obstruction findings, though it accurately relays that Mueller’s report does “not exonerate” Trump. It was Mueller’s decision to leave the verdict on obstruction to Barr and make clear that if Congress disagrees, it has the power to indict Trump on its own. Mueller’s office assisted with Barr’s redactions, which proved to be, as Barr had pledged, extremely limited. Despite containing numerous embarrassing details about Trump, no executive privilege was invoked to censor the report’s contents.

In the end, Mueller’s report shows that the Trump-Russia collusion narrative embraced and evangelized by the US political and media establishments to be a work of fiction. The American public was presented with a far different picture from what was expected, because leading pundits, outlets, and politicians ignored the countervailing facts and promoted maximalist interpretations of others. Anonymous officials also leaked explosive yet uncorroborated claims, leaving behind many stories that were subsequently discredited, retracted, or remain unconfirmed to this day.

It is too early to assess the damage that influential Russiagate promoters have done to their own reputations; to public confidence in our democratic system and media; and to the prospects of defeating Trump, who always stood to benefit if the all-consuming conspiracy theory ultimately collapsed. The scale of the wreckage, confirmed by Mueller’s report, may prove to be the ultimate Russiagate scandal.

A Barr coverup is literally all House Democrats have left from the Russiagate hysteria. Don’t expect them to give that up without a few DTs along the way.