William Barr took paternity of the Mueller report during his testimony before Congress today, declaring ‘It’s my baby.’ All that was missing was him breaking out into song, ‘I’ll say yes, sir, that’s my baby/No sir, I don’t mean maybe/Yes sir, that’s my baby now.’ Indeed it is.
Barr may be Attorney General, but there was no Solomonic splitting of the baby. Barr fought a battle with an invisible Robert Mueller for possession, claiming that his old pal’s letter to him complaining about ‘public confusion’ as a result of the rollout of the report was, in fact, ‘snitty.’ You’d probably be in a snit, too, if you had labored for months to deliver the precious object, only to have it snatched away from you by the duo of Barr and Donald Trump, manhandled and shielded, as far as possible, from public view.
Despite possessing the baby, Barr was a study in sullenness as he responded to congressional Democrats. He pondered the meaning of the word ‘suggested.’ He paused for what seemed like an eon before acknowledging that it might be a good idea for a presidential candidate to inform law enforcement if North Korea approached his or her campaign with secret information. Barr’s real audience, of course, was Donald Trump, he of the marathon TV watching sessions. Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted her benison for Barr’s performance, declaring that he had served George H.W. Bush ‘honorably’ and was doing the same for Trump.
Senate Republicans aren’t intervening. Mueller is to be frozen out rather than called to give his side of the story. ‘I’m not going to do any more,’ said Sen. Lindsey Graham. ‘Enough already. It’s over.’
No, it isn’t. What looms is Mueller testifying to Congress. Whether his testimony will have a real effect is another matter. It may not. Trump is at a 43 percent approval rating in a new CNN poll. He owes much to Barr. Perhaps he’ll grant him a free lifetime membership to Mar-a-Lago for his services.
What explains the prophylactic prostration that Barr and others are engaging in? How could the GOP, the party of Ronald Reagan, engage in wholesale surrender of its stances on issues such as free trade? In the New York Times, former FBI director James Comey, who was fired by Trump, suggests that ‘Accomplished people lacking inner strength can’t resist the compromises necessary to survive Mr. Trump and that adds up to something they will never recover from. It takes character like Mr Mattis’s to avoid the damage, because Mr Trump eats your soul in small bites.’ In the case of Barr, a conventional establishment Republican during the H.W. years, Trump seems to have made a gourmet meal of it.