Attorney General William Barr kicked off his first of two days of congressional testimony on Wednesday, appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee to answer questions about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election and President Donald Trump’s attempts to influence that investigation. At least, that was ostensibly what he was there to do, but in depressingly predictable fashion, the hearing quickly devolved into Barr putting on a masterclass in bullshitting and obfuscation.
Aided by Republicans eager to adjudicate Hillary Clinton’s emails rather than discuss Mueller’s report, Barr dodged, ducked, dipped, dived and dodged just about every question raised by Democrats over his extremely questionable handling of the special counsel’s report and Mueller’s newly-reported objections over his actions.
After a painfully obvious attempt by committee chairman Lindsay Graham to frame the hearing as a referendum on anything but Trump, Barr faced off against Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, twisting himself into an under-baked pretzel to explain why the president’s ordering former White House Counsel Don McGahn to orchestrate Mueller’s firing (McGahn refused, according to Mueller’s report) didn’t constitute obstruction of justice.
Barr hopped back on his bullshit for questions from Sen. Patrick Leahy, who pushed the AG on his previous testimony, in which he’d stated he was unaware of the complaints from Mueller’s team over his now-infamous memo describing the investigation’s findings.
Claiming that Mueller had called him to hash out their differences, Barr hemmed and hawed, saying the Special Counsel hadn’t objected to the substance of his summary (which he emphatically insisted wasn’t really a summary at all), but merely the media’s reporting on it—the sort of “fake news” jab sure to please Trump.
“Mr. Barr, you seem to have learned the filibuster rules better than senators do,” Leahy, obviously fed up with Barr’s waffling, quipped at one point.
Barr’s testiest exchange, however, came during Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse’s time, after Whitehouse pushed Barr to explain why he didn’t produce Mueller’s letter complaining about the DOJ’s non-summary summary. Asked why he didn’t raise the letter in response to a “very related question” during his previous testimony—specifically, whether he was aware of complaints from Mueller’s team—Barr insisted that it “seemed like a very different question.”
“I can’t even follow that down that road,” an exasperated Whitehouse replied. “Boy, that’s a masterful hair-splitting.”
Barr also used his time to expound at length on the word “spying” calling it a “good English word,” when asked why he chose to use the loaded term to describe the counterintelligence investigation into Trump’s campaign.
As Barr continues his testimony into the afternoon, it’s likely we’ll see even more of his brand of evasiveness. He’s also scheduled—but not guaranteed—to show up and do this same dance again before the House Judiciary committee on Thursday.