In a pair of house editorials that echoed a number of my central themes and points from yesterday, the right-leaning editors of the Wall Street Journal and National Review defended Attorney General William Barr from the Left's scurrilous and desperate attacks against him, lambasting Democrats for their hysterical overreach. And with the liberal publications like the Washington Post and the New York Times predictably amplifying the Democratic line today, it's officially confirmed that yesterday's hearings provided no game-changers. Let's start with the Journal:
The Editorial Board: Democrats and the media are turning Attorney General William Barr into a villain for doing his duty and making the hard decisions that special counsel Robert Mueller abdicated. https://t.co/RWjZRyfAtI— WSJ Editorial Page (@WSJopinion) May 2, 2019
Washington pile-ons are never pretty, but this week’s political setup of Attorney General William Barr is disreputable even by Beltway standards. Democrats and the media are turning the AG into a villain for doing his duty and making the hard decisions that special counsel Robert Mueller abdicated...Mr. Barr told the Senate Wednesday that he offered Mr. Mueller the chance to review his four-page letter before sending it to Congress, but the special counsel declined. Mr. Mueller worked for Mr. Barr, and that was the proper time to offer suggestions or disagree. Instead, Mr. Mueller ducked that responsibility and then griped in an ex-post-facto letter that was conveniently leaked on the eve of Mr. Barr’s testimony. Quite the stand-up guy. Mr. Barr has since released the full Mueller report with minor redactions, as he promised, and with the “context” intact...This trashing of Bill Barr shows how frustrated and angry Democrats continue to be that the special counsel came up empty in his Russia collusion probe. He was supposed to be their fast-track to impeachment. Now they’re left trying to gin up an obstruction tale, but the probe wasn’t obstructed and there was no underlying crime. So they’re shouting and pounding the table against Bill Barr for acting like a real Attorney General.
Spot on. Read the whole thing. At National Review, the team skewers Democrats' desperate "obsession" and "conspiracy theories" about the timeline of Barr...doing exactly what he said he'd do in releasing the Mueller report:
As everyone knows, Bill Barr released a brief letter summarizing the top-line conclusions of the Mueller report shortly after he received it. Justice Department lawyers then worked with Mueller staff to make the appropriate redactions, after which the entire 400-page report was publicly released. Strangely enough, this process has become an obsession for Democrats and the press and the focus of endless conspiracy theories...Barr’s position was eminently reasonable. He wanted to get the basic verdict of the Mueller report out as quickly as possible, given the inherent interest in the question of whether the president of the United States had conspired with the Russians. He opposed the subsequent release of the summaries of the report, as suggested in Mueller’s letter, because he thought it better that the public get the entire report at once. Which it did. Democrats and the media are acting as if Barr engaged in some sort of cover-up, when he went further than required under the regulations to release all of the report with minimal redactions. Even Mueller in a phone conversation with Barr didn’t complain that his summary of findings was inaccurate — Barr was careful to note that Mueller didn’t “exonerate” Trump on obstruction.
The piece also dismantles a "perjury" allegation against Barr, and scolds Mueller's team over their pointless letter complaining about the atmospherics surrounding Barr's entirely accurate four-page memo: "Particularly troubling [to them] was that it wasn’t damning enough of the president. This is not a prosecutorial concern, but a political one unworthy of people who were invested with incredible investigative power in the name of objectivity." The editorial concludes, "Barr’s critics are demonstrating their lack of judgment and seriousness, not his." Also worthwhile is David French's analysis, considering the harsh opprobrium he heaped upon President Trump following the release of Mueller's work (my take was here). French rightly backs Barr's actions and upbraids his unhinged critics, noting that any frustrations about the Barr summary (the approach to which French calls "entirely fair") were rendered moot as soon as the largely-unredacted, context-rich underlying document was made public. In case you missed it yesterday, Sen. Ted Cruz highlighted this overwhelmingly important point during Wednesday's hearing, ridiculing his Democratic colleagues' "exceptionally weak argument," drawing a chuckle from Barr (scroll ahead to the two-minute mark):
As you've no doubt seen by now, the Attorney General declined to show up for a scheduled House hearing today, as a dispute over who would be allowed to conduct the questioning derailed the process. Democrats wanted hand-picked staff members to be designated to ask the questions, while Republicans countered that lawmakers have never ceded such a role to subordinates in the entire history of the committee. This is quite a stemwinder from the ranking member, and it doesn't make Chairman Jerry Nadler look good:
Over the 206-year history of this committee, staff have never questioned witnesses in an oversight hearing. Never. Not once. So, to say Chairman Nadler’s demands are unprecedented would be an understatement. pic.twitter.com/eMW1BXZHDi— Rep. Doug Collins (@RepDougCollins) May 2, 2019
On one hand, I tend to think Barr should've just bit the bullet and showed up, despite the ridiculous game-playing and theatrical demands from Democrats. It's not like the staffers, even if they're sharp attorneys, would be more equipped than hostile Senators to trip him up. On the other hand, perhaps Barr was wise to sidestep this farce until the children are forced to behave themselves:
Rep. Steve Cohen is now talking about his chicken prop on MSNBC: "The message is that Bill Barr is a chicken" and the "attorney general deserves no respect." pic.twitter.com/37dWVa4nEm— Julio Rosas (@Julio_Rosas11) May 2, 2019
Such serious people.