What is Bill Barr afraid of? Attorney general threatening to cancel House testimony if questioning is done by real lawyers instead of grandstanding committee members

What is Bill Barr afraid of? Attorney general threatening to cancel House testimony if questioning is done by real lawyers instead of grandstanding committee members
Image via Screengrab.

This week Trump Attorney General William Barr is scheduled to testify to the House and Senate Judiciary committees. That was the plan, at least: Now comes word that Barr is balking at the format, threatening to not show up to the House hearings at all.


At issue, according to the Washington Post, is a Judiciary plan to have Barr questioned not just by committee members, in the usual 5-minutes-per-question format, but by committee lawyers. The Mueller report's description of multiple seemingly impeachable offenses by Donald Trump is considered serious enough an issue to require a genuine probing by experts, rather than the (easily filibustered, by witnesses) hodgepodge of most hearings. (House Republicans assigned much of their question time to an independent questioner during the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, as one recent example.)

Barr and his Justice Department staff are strenuously objecting to that plan, however, as well as to the possibility of a closed-door committee hearing after his public testimony focused on the publicly redacted portions of the report. And both are considered alarming enough that Barr is threatening not to show up, rather than subject himself to either.

That isn't going to fly, says House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler. "The witness is not going to tell the committee how to conduct its hearing, period," he told CNN. If he doesn't show up? "Then we will have to subpoena him, and we will have to use whatever means we can to enforce the subpoena."

That Barr is fighting to keep the redacted portions of Mueller's report hidden is not surprising, but it's more than a little awkward that Barr is willing to testify to the House about the Mueller report's findings unless the questions are being asked by legal experts. That's not a good look, obviously.

It certainly doesn't seem like the actions of someone who takes hostile acts against our democracy seriously.

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