Attorney General William Barr was grilled by members of congress today on a wide range of topics. He refused to answer several questions about the Mueller report, and he specifically declined to answer what, if any information he shared with the White House regarding the report.
But it was when Barr was questioned by Congressman Matt Cartwright from Pennsylvania that he seemed most defensive and partisan. Mr. Cartwright pointed out that the lawsuit Barr is bringing, seeking to destroy the Affordable Care Act, will, if successful, kick millions of Americans off their health insurance.
Barr answered by incorrectly stating that if and when Obamacare is struck down, Donald Trump is proposing a plan to continue broad insurance coverage including coverage for pre-existing conditions. When Mr. Cartwright continued informing Barr of the impact to Americans of his lawsuit to abolish the Affordable Care Act, Barr, defensively and bizarrely, asked Mr. Cartwright, “Do you think it’s likely that we will prevail?”
That is right, the Attorney General’s best defense of the lawsuit he is bringing with the intent of striking down the Affordable Care Act, is that he thinks it is quite unlikely that his own Justice Department will succeed. Barr’s statement was so bizarre I found myself searching for a different take on what he could have meant, but then Barr elaborated that when you are in litigation you have to take a position, clearly indicating that he was not necessarily fully behind the position he directed the Justice Department to defend.
If any doubt was left how the Attorney General felt about the lawsuit he is in charge of, he added, “I’m just saying, if you think it is such an outrageous position, you have nothing to worry about. Let the courts do their job.” And with that, the Attorney General of the United States, told Congress and the American people that he has directed the Department of Justice to use its scarce resources to bring a lawsuit to strike down the Affordable Care Act, and he has taken a position in the litigation that he does not believe will succeed.
At this point, I do not know if major media outlets will cover this particular exchange, or if it will be overshadowed by Barr’s non-answers to questions regarding the Mueller report, but this was a very telling exchange. William Barr is not running the Justice Department as he sees fit. Barr is running it as Donald Trump sees fit, whether Barr thinks it’s legitimate or not.
Cheryl Kelley lives in the DC area with her husband and young son. She is active in government and politics.