Bill Barr is running scared and reportedly refusing to testify for the House after brutal hearing
Attorney General Bill Barr will refuse to testify as scheduled before the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, the Justice Department confirmed Wednesday. He had previously expressed opposition to the plan from Chair Jerry Nadler (D-NY) to give committee staff an extended period of time to question Barr, who is apparently scared that his testimony won't stand up to scrutiny.
"My source has made it clear that the next step is to subpoena AG Barr to make him come testify before the House Judiciary Committee and compel him to answer questions posed by congressional attorneys," PBS NewsHour's Yamiche Alcindor reported. "A reminder: The hang up is that Barr only wants Qs to come from lawmakers."
Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) has defended Barr's hesitance, saying that the Democrats' plan would turn the proceedings into a "political sideshow." But this is completely backward. Critics of congressional hearings typically argue that it's the lawmakers' questioning that turns the events into political theory, as they're often inexperienced questioners more interested in making a good soundbite than getting at the truth. Turning the questioning over to professional staff makes it more likely that the questions will be incisive, to the point, and revelatory.
That, it seems, is exactly what Barr doesn't want.
After Barr's performance on Wednesday and the Senate Democrats' grilling, it's no surprise that the attorney general wouldn't want to testify in an even more focused setting. His tactic was clearly to obfuscate and filibuster whenever possible, which is much harder under sustained and focused inquiries. He spread many outright falsehoods and continued his blatant disinformation campaign meant to excuse the president's wrongdoing. The whole event made him look craven and corrupt.
The Justice Department offered a similar weak defense of Barr:
Today, the Attorney General testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee for over five hours. The Attorney General also voluntarily released the Special Counsel’s confidential report with minimal redactions to Congress and the public, made an even-less redacted report available to Chairman Nadler and congressional leadership (which they have refused to review), and made himself available to the Committee by volunteering to testify this week. Unfortunately, even after the Attorney General volunteered to testify, Chairman Nadler placed conditions on the House Judiciary Committee hearing that are unprecedented and unnecessary. Congress and the Executive branch are co-equal branches of government, and each have a constitutional obligation to respect and accommodate one another’s legitimate interests. Chairman Nadler’s insistence on having staff question the Attorney General, a Senate-confirmed Cabinet member, is inappropriate. Further, in light of the fact that the majority of the House Judiciary Committee — including Chairman Nadler — are themselves attorneys, and the Chairman has the ability and authority to fashion the hearing in a way that allows for efficient and thorough questioning by the Members themselves, the Chairman’s request is also unnecessary. The Attorney General remains happy to engage directly with Members on their questions regarding the report and looks forward to continue working with the Committee on their oversight requests.
"He's is trying to blackmail the committee," Nadler said of Barr's pushback. "We cannot permit the administration to dictate to Congress how we operate"