Attorney General Bill Barr faced a hearing on Capitol Hill today regarding his handling of protests, violence, looting, and rioting related to George Floyd's death, and other topics such as COVID-19 and spying by the Obama administration.
The chair of the committee, Jerry Nadler, was nearly an hour late to the hearing due to an automobile accident. He was not injured.
The proceedings were an utter embarrassment. Contentious Democrats made no pretense of a respectful hearing. Questions and accusations were hurled at Barr, but he was not allowed to respond based on an ugly point of parliamentary procedure: at virtually every opportunity to answer, Barr was interrupted by his questioners, shouting "I'm reclaiming my time!" and continuing their respective barrages.
Barr commented on the tactic early on: "I thought this was a hearing so I could be heard."
It got ugly quickly. In Barr's introductory remarks, he kindly noted the passing of the late Rep. John Lewis. He referred to "explicitly racist" laws before the civil rights era and noted Lewis' place in effecting positive change. He also pointed to black-on-black crime as being the primary cause of death for young black Americans.
Shortly thereafter, Rep. Cedric Richmond used his time to tell Barr that he needs to "keep John Lewis' name out of the Justice Department's mouth."
That stunning disrespect for a sitting Attorney General was but one example. Barr was variously accused of suppressing dissent, being anti-BLM, allowing disinformation about voter fraud to spread, and misrepresenting the Mueller report, all to support President Trump's reelection efforts.
For the first several hours of the haranguing, Barr was stoic. Once he realized that Democrats were going to fling everything they could find and not allow him to answer, he settled in. Occasionally, he requested some of a Republican Representative's time to answer an accusation.
The ranking member of the committee, Jim Jordan, took umbrage with the Democrats' rudeness. He pushed back on the lack of decorum before bringing up Obama administration spying, FISA court malfeasance, and the Steele dossier. He was careful to call it the "Obama-Biden" administration.
The card up Jordan's sleeve, however, was a video clip of rioters in Portland and elsewhere, a sharp rebuke to Jerry Nadler, who, two days ago, told a citizen journalist that rioting in Portland is a "myth." The dramatic montage went on for over two minutes. FOX News showed coverage of the video, MSNBC cut away.
Nadler's catty remark at the conclusion of the video clip: "I hope that Mr. Jordan will never complain about the length of my opening statement."
When he was allowed to speak, Barr stated that the Portland, riots "cannot reasonably be called protest," and that they constitute "an attack on the government of the United States." Regarding attacks on federal buildings, Barr was heated, asking rhetorically, "Since when is it OK to burn down a federal court? Is that OK? Is that OK now? No!"
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee set the tone for interrupting Barr when he attempted to reply to questions. Rep. Steve Cohen was visibly shaking as he read a question. Rep. Hank "Guam will tip over" Johnson didn't allow Barr to answer a question, speaking over him with the oft-parroted "I'm reclaiming my time," and then said, to a stunned Barr, "I know you don't want to answer!"
When Jordan appealed to Nadler for time to be allotted to Barr to answer, Nadler shot back, "What you want is irrelevant...er, irrelevant of the rules."
Other Representatives expressed their disdain for Barr openly and without hesitation...
...but Barr was equal to the barbs, sometimes pushing back to devastating effect.
When pressed on the matter of mail-in voting, Barr was asked by a representative if he had any evidence of schemes to commit mail-in fraud. "No I don't," he calmly replied, "but I have common sense."
When interrupted repeatedly during another question, Barr was testy: "You said 'under penalty of perjury.' I'm going to answer the damn question"
Later in the afternoon, Barr requested a five minute break, which Nadler initially rejected. "You're a real class act," Barr replied, laughing openly.
Of course, Nadler doesn't understand why people need to take breaks. Whenever he's tired, he just catches 40 winks. That's right, despite the fireworks of the proceedings, Nadler dozed off again.
Many of us have wondered for months about the Big Question, and it looked as though it would go unasked, but Rep. Mucarsel Powell addressed the elephant in the room near the end of the day. "Will you commit to not releasing the Durham report prior to the election?" Without hesitation, Barr replied, "No."
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