Someone needs to get Attorney General William Barr a dictionary. And fast. Wednesday’s hearing in the Senate revealed that the head of the DOJ has considerable trouble with a number of fairly common English words. “I’m trying to grapple with the word ‘suggest’”, he said in an exchange with Kamala Harris when the Senator was trying to find out whether Donald Trump or anyone at the White House had ever asked or suggested that he open an investigation into anyone. Harris helpfully supplied a number of synonyms – “hinted”, “inferred” – but Bill Barr still came up with a non-answer to the question the Senator had to ask him twice.
Interestingly, on the same day that A. G. Barr claimed he didn’t know of any efforts on the part of the White House to get the DOJ involved in any investigation, an article in the New York Times (“Biden Faces Conflict of Interest Questions That Are Being Promoted by Trump and Allies”) stated that “Mr. Trump [ … ] recently suggested he would like Attorney General William P. Barr to look into the material gathered by the Ukrainian prosecutors – echoing repeated calls from Mr. Giuliani for the Justice Department to investigate the Bidens’ Ukrainian work and other connections between Ukraine and the United States.” Make of that what you will when you decide about the Attorney General’s truthfulness.
Another word that Bill Barr seems to have trouble with is the word “spying”. He used it liberally to describe the FBI’s investigation into the 2016 Trump campaign, and when confronted with the question of whether he would characterize other legitimately authorized activities of intelligence services as spying, he denied that the word had a negative and sinister connotation.
The third word the U.S. Attorney General seems to be confused about is “transparency,” While he likes to use it quite often to describe his handling of the Mueller report, he somehow seems to get it mixed up with obfuscation. Instead of using the Senate hearing to finally come clean about his mishandling of the report the Special Counsel placed into his hands, Barr again neglected to provide the whole truth by never mentioning the fact that the letter whose existence was revealed by the Washington Post the day before the hearing was not the first but the second letter Mueller had written to him in response to the Attorney General’s now infamous four-page summary/non-summary letter. William Barr also responded to a request by Senator Blumenthal to be given access to the notes that were taken on the subsequent phone conversation between Barr and Mueller with a flat-out “No.” That is not what the word “transparency” means.
All in all, A. G. Barr proved that he is rather good at running down the clock, obfuscation and stonewalling which is why House Judiciary Democrats did exactly the right thing when they insisted on the format of a hearing that would have a thirty minute round of uninterrupted questioning by a staff lawyer in addition of the usual five minute rounds of answering questions posed by committee members. They are also right when they ask for Attorney General William Barr to resign.