Posted by Curt on 5 May, 2019 at 7:34 pm. 12 comments already!


I  originally thought this was too stupid to write about. But stupid is like the plague inside the Beltway — one person catches it and next thing you know there’s an outbreak at MSNBC and the speaker of the House is showing symptoms while her delirious minions tote ceramic chickens around Capitol Hill.

So I give you: the Bill Barr perjury allegation.

We are all entitled to our own opinions. But are we entitled to our own facts? Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s bon mot says no, but Washington makes you wonder. Like when spleen-venting about the supposedly outrageous, unbelievable, disgraceful invocation of the word “spy” to describe episodes of government spying is instantly followed by a New York Times story about how the spying — er, I mean, court-authorized electronic surveillance — coupled with the tasking of spies — er, undercover agents — green-lighted by a foreign spy — er, intelligence service — was more widespread than previously known.

If I were a cynic, I’d think people were trying to get out in front of some embarrassing revelations on the horizon. I might even be tempted to speculate that progressives were trotting out their “Destroy Ken Starr” template for Barr deployment (which, I suppose, means that 20 years from now we’ll be reading about what a straight-arrow Barr was compared to whomever Democrats are savaging at that point).

The claim that Barr gave false testimony is frivolous. That is why, at least initially, Democrats and their media echo chamber soft-pedaled it — with such dishonorable exceptions as Mazie Horono, the Hawaii Democrat who, somehow, is a United States senator. It’s tough to make the perjury argument without any false or even inaccurate statements — though my Fox News colleague Andrew Napolitano did give it the old college try. As recounted by The Hill, he twisted himself into a pretzel, observing — try to follow this — that the attorney general “probably misled” Congress and thus “he’s got a problem” . . . although this purported dissembling didn’t really seem to be, you know, an actual “lie” so . . . maybe it’s not a problem after all. Or something.

I assume that in his black-robe days, Judge Nap would have known better. When meritless perjury cases are thrown out of court, judges are often at pains to explain that the questioner who elicited the purportedly false testimony bears the burden of clarity; the terms of the question dictate the evaluation of the answer. In this instance, Barr’s April 9 testimony before the House Appropriations Committee was true and accurate; if a misimpression set in after, it is because the relevant questioning by Representative Charlie Crist (D., Fla.) has been ignored or distorted.

Moreover, because perjury is a serious felony allegation, judges and legal analysts never rely on a general, selectively couched description of the testimony — much less on the likes of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s because-I-said-so refrain that Barr “lied to Congress” and “that’s a crime.” The testimony must be examined, with emphasis on the words that were used (the questions as well as the responses), and anything we can glean about the witness’s demeanor (stingy? dodgy? forthcoming?).

The mindless, no-need-to-check-the-record allegation against Barr goes like this: The AG testified on April 9 that he had no idea why Special Counsel Mueller was upset over the way Barr’s March 24 letter described Mueller’s report; but, in fact, Barr knew exactly why Mueller was upset because he had received the latter’s March 27 letter complaining about Barr’s missive.

Now, here is the exchange on which the perjury allegation is based, with my italics highlighting key portions:

CRIST: Reports have emerged recently, General, that members of the special counsel’s team are frustrated at some level with the limited information included in your March 24th letter . . . that it does not adequately or accurately necessarily portray the report’s findings. Do you know what they’re referencing with that?

BARR: No, I don’t. I think — I think . . . I suspect that they probably wanted more put out, but, in my view, I was not interested in putting out summaries or trying to summarize because I think any summary, regardless of who prepares it, not only runs the risk of, you know, being under-inclusive or over-inclusive, but also, you know, would trigger a lot of discussion and analysis that really should await everything coming out at once. So I was not interested in a summary of the report. . . . I felt that I should state the bottom line conclusions and I tried to use Special Counsel Mueller’s own language in doing that.

When we look at the actual words of this exchange, Barr’s testimony is clearly accurate. And I don’t mean accurate in the hyper-technical, Clintonesque “depends on what the definition of is is” sense. I mean straightforward, unguarded, and evincing a willingness to volunteer information beyond what the question sought.

Crist did not ask a general question about Mueller’s reaction to Barr’s letter; he asked a specific question about the reaction of Mueller’s “team” to the Barr letter’s description of “the report’s findings.” Regarding the March 24 letter’s rendering of this bottom line — namely, Russia meddled, Trump did not collude, and Mueller failed to resolve the obstruction question — Barr said he did not know what Mueller’s staff was complaining about.

Barr has known Mueller for nearly 30 years; when Mueller was the Criminal Division chief in the Bush 41 Justice Department, he reported to Barr, who was attorney general. It should come as no surprise, then, that Barr was not getting his information from Mueller’s staff; he was getting it from Mueller directly. Nor should it come as any surprise that, before releasing his March 24 letter to the public, Barr gave Mueller an opportunity to review it; nor that Mueller declined that opportunity — given that he knows Barr well, and knew Barr would not misrepresent the report (especially given that the report would soon be public).

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