As he testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, Attorney General William Barr made a lot of blunders and said a lot of stupid things, but perhaps the most troubling was his reluctance to answer whether a presidential campaign should contact the FBI if approached by a foreign government offering their services.
Like nearly all Trump surrogates, Barr tried to rely on the embarrassing tactic of running out the clock when he was being grilled by Sen. Kamala Harris – regularly asking her to repeat and restate questions that only required a yes or no response, and it was somewhat understandable why he tried it at this particular point in the questioning – he wanted to muddy the waters as much as possible, hoping that the average viewer might cut him some slack.
Questioning from Sen. Chris Coons, however, should have been a bit easier for Barr to give straightforward answers – particularly if your objective is to convince people that not only is your boss innocent, but collusion sounds like something out of a bad spy movie. “What if a foreign adversary — let’s now say North Korea — offers a presidential candidate dirt on a competitor in 2020? Do you agree with me that the campaign should immediately contact the FBI?” Coons asked Barr in the second half of the hearing.
The default response should have been: “No! Absolutely not!” Instead, Barr needed a full five seconds and a repeat of the question before he could give a characteristically vague answer: “If a foreign intelligence service does, yes, [then the campaign should contact the FBI.]”
It may not seem like a big deal to a Trump supporter, but that’s exactly the point. They could argue that he answered the question as he should have, but Barr was careful to specify an identified foreign agent – working for North Korean intelligence, for example, rather than just a freelance hacker working on behalf of Kim Jong-un. cWhile Barr is opening the door for potential foreign adversaries to interfere in our elections, he’s also downplaying that this is a crime, at least in the court of public opinion.
James Sullivan is the assistant editor of Brain World Magazine and an advocate of science-based policy making