Trump's favorite poodle, Bill Barr
Who the hell does Bill Barr think he is? We knew he was a hack, but he's not even trying to hide it anymore. Josh Marshall exlains:
Attorney General Bill Barr has dramatically escalated his Mueller Report coverup and effort to effectively end independent oversight of his Department by Congress. According to this report, he is refusing to show up to testify this week before the House Judiciary Committee unless he is accorded a veto right over the questioning format.
As the fight over the Congress’s oversight rights has heated up, it’s been increasingly clear that the committees should either designate one or two committee members experienced in questioning or have a committee counsel do the questioning. Absent that approach, you get what we’ve seen in other recent hearings. The members have a great range of issue knowledge and questioning abilities. Even to the extent that they’re pursuing good lines of questioning, they each get five minutes. So the person testifying can pretty easily run out the clock with non-answers. For really effective questioning you need a solid and knowledgable questioner who has a sustained period of time to pursue lines of questioning. The other approach is fine for garden variety testimony where there’s some degree of good faith give and take. It doesn’t work here.
For just this reason, Chairman Nadler has proposed having one round of questioning where every member gets their five minutes – basically the normal routine. Then he has a second round in which both sides’ committee counsels get thirty minutes of time in alternating five minute segments. (Nadler is also proposing that the committee go into closed session to discuss the redacted parts of the report.) Neither of these decisions are remotely controversial or unprecedented, especially when the subject matter is of great moment. But Barr is saying he may not show up if Nadler doesn’t change to what Barr considers a more friendly questioning format.
A window of good faith negotiation about format is not unprecedented or wrong in itself. But we’re far past that. Barr is pretty clearly trying to exercise a veto right over how the Judiciary Committee conducts its hearings, which are a bedrock constitutional function with respect to the Attorney General and the Department of Justice. In this sense, Barr’s antics are part of President Trump’s strategy of massive resistance to any congressional oversight whatsoever.
How Nadler responds to this will be important to watch. For all the talk about impeachment, stand-offs like this are where power and brakes on the President’s power will be determined. If you want to do things to stiffen Democrats’ spines, these are the standoffs where it counts. As I was writing this, CNN updated its story. Nadler apparently told CNN that if Barr won’t comply he’ll move to subpoena him. “The witness is not going to tell the committee how to conduct its hearing, period.”
A lot hangs on this.
I'm becoming convinced that the Trumpies have just decided to push the Democrats to impeach. And I think there may be some different motivations. Some undoubtedly have bought into the myth that the Democrats will pay a price for "overreach" as the Village CW insists the Republicans did after the Clinton impeachment. (That's nonsense, but a lot of people believe it.) I'd guess a few GOP elected officials figure they can survive voting against impeachment and acquitting him in the Senate even if he's mortally wounded nationally. There have to be some who would just like to be rid of this odious freak. And, who knows? Maybe a few even think Trump is so ignorant and unfit that he really should be impeached on the merits.
Whatever the calculation, I suppose it's possible they think the Democrats are so weak and stupid that they'll just continue to play wack-a-mole with these hearings and fail to build the necessary political momentum to oust this dangerous president either through impeachment or the ballot box. They could be right about that. But as I pointed out yesterday, this ongoing obstruction is actually pushing the Dems toward impeachment. They are leaving them little choice.