Barr may skip House committee appearance

Attorney General William Barr may skip an appearance before the House Judiciary Committee to talk about the Mueller Report. Via CNN:

[House Judiciary Chair Jerry] Nadler, wants to allow all members of his panel at Thursday’s hearing to have one round of questioning of five minutes each, according to the source. He also wants to allow for a subsequent round of questioning of 30 minutes for each side, allowing both parties’ committee counsels to also engage in questioning during their respective turns — which has turned into a key sticking point for the Justice Department.

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

Nadler also is proposing that the committee should go into closed session to discuss the sections of the report that are redacted.

But Barr has rejected those proposals for additional rounds of questioning, according to the source. The Justice Department has informed Nadler’s office that Barr doesn’t think the committee counsels should be allowed to question him, the source said, prompting the attorney general to threaten to not show up next week if Nadler follows this format, the source said.

Nadler is threatening to subpoena Barr in hopes of forcing him to appear before the panel. It should be pointed out Barr is planning to speak to the Senate Judiciary Committee this Wednesday, so it’s not like he’s refusing to appear before Congress.

The committee counsels, for those wondering, appear to be Barry Berke and Norman Eisen. Both are long Trump critics and have been at the forefront of the ‘Trump is a traitor’ caravan. Via AFP:

Together they have published recent several articles arguing that evidence of Trump’s obstruction of justice already exists and that his 2016 campaign did collude with the Russians…

In December, they wrote in the Washington Post that Trump’s attack on his former lawyer Michael Cohen, who implicated the president in crimes, and a simultaneous appreciation of associate Roger Stone, for pledging to never testify against Trump, was clearly illegal witness-tampering.

This is definitely different from the Senate’s decision to hire Rachel Mitchell as committee counsel during the Brett Kavanaugh hearings. Mitchell’s appearance was both political – to avoid the optics of men asking Christine Blasey Ford questions – and not for closed-door hearings.

It also appears to be different than the Watergate Senate hearings where Samuel Dash served as chief counsel. Dash did his best to appear impartial during Watergate which was also an active investigation, at the time. The same could be said about Kenneth Starr who – while not necessarily unbiased – was conducting an active investigation into the activities of former president Bill Clinton’s activities in the Oval Office and Whitewater.

The Mueller investigation is over and done with although there is still grand jury work being done regarding certain people charged in the case. The House could always start a new probe, but there’s no way it would be considered anything but political especially if Berke and Eisen were at the helm. Which means we should probably expect the House to launch a new investigation any day now (note sarcasm, hopefully. There’s no reason for another Russia probe).

Everything could change because both the White House and House Judiciary Committee are still negotiating. It’s possible they’ll come up with some solution either limiting outside questioning or eliminating it altogether. The former is probably most likely if House Republicans are allowed to bring in their own outside counsel to ask a few questions or if Democrats agree to be the ones asking questions written by Berke and Eisen. The latter would happen if the Democrats acquiesce to the White House.

All this is really political posturing on both sides. Democrats want to ask politically charged questions on Barr’s summary of the Mueller Report and try to score points with voters on how ‘tough’ they are on the Trump Administration. Barr would rather avoid these questions so his boss won’t look bad. It’s the nature of politics and rather annoying substantive discussions on policies won’t happen between elected officials. Of course, they’re politicians so no one should be surprised at this at all.