MELTDOWN: CNN Slams ‘Deceptive and Deceitful,’ ‘Weak’ Barr, GOP Behavior Is ‘From Mars’

Needless to say, CNN is not having a good Hump Day. On Wednesday afternoon, the panel of liberal journalists, lefty partisans, and former Obama officials breathed fire over Attorney General Barr’s Senate testimony, attacking Barr as “deceptive and deceitful” and “weak” while uttering “alternative facts” and chugging water. 

And as for Republican Senators, they were panned as partisan hacks “from Mars” with no concern for stopping Russian interference while Democrats are doing yeoman’s work for the people on the Trump-Russia probe.

 

 

Chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin was beside himself, speaking in broken fragments about how Barr gave “answers” that were “total gobbledygook” concerning Mueller’s disagreement with his March 24 summary that were “just not true,” admitting that he didn’t understand anything Barr said even though “I am fluent in English.”

After more ranting and raving from Toobin, CNN Newsroom co-host and former Obama administration official Jim Sciutto lamented how the Mueller report fallout is “riven with politics” (click “expand”):

But the politics have clearly squelched it, right? You saw that in the questioning. Republicans are from Mars, Democrats are from Venus. Republican were questions about Strzok-Page texts, they were about the Steele dossier, they barely raised Bob Mueller's clear objections to the way Barr summarized the report. Democratic were over there, asking those key questions. You know, Mueller realized that this was going to be a political decision and he makes clear he wants Congress to decide. Ultimately, it is a political decision by Congress. It’s going to end up in political hands here and even the facts of Barr's report, not just the judgement of whether Barr came to the right conclusions, you — rather, Mueller came to the right conclusions, you have Barr contradicting stuff that we can read for ourselves here. Clearly, the DOJ guidelines factors into his decision not indict because he said it repeatedly. Also, Barr made what is really a fantastical claim in there that Mueller never pushed it on getting the President to testify. They were pushing and negotiating for months to do that. The President refused. Again, even the facts are in question here. Ultimately, it’s a political decision riven with politics and that’s a disappointment really for — how this process has played out.

Inside Politics host John King upped the ante by trashing Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) for not having read the full Mueller report (even though he’s seen an even-less-redacted version) as being “a disgrace” no matter the party.

King later continued (click “expand”):

What should be right, wrong, over the line? Do we need new laws to convince other campaigns? The Senate Republicans are not going to do that whether it is Donald Trump, the Trump Tower meeting, Donald Trump Jr. In communication with WikiLeaks, then you move to the second part and these are all people who work for the president saying these things. Again, you have smart legal minds but the Republicans don't want to talk about it. They have the power to call a Hillary Clinton hearing, just like they did when they controlled the House. They like to talk about it when they don’t talk about the issue before them. But they don't actually do anything about it with their power once the ball has moved on. 

When pressed by host Jake Tapper on whether Barr was really just splitting hairs concerning complaints about his letter from Mueller versus anonymous members of his team, Toobin fretted that “lawyers split hairs when hairs can be split, but I don't think that is a hair that can be split” and instead Barr offered falsehoods as there shouldn’t be any ambiguity.

Matters reached a fever pitch that started with Justice report Laura Jarrett (who, of course, is the daughter of longtime Obama confidant Valerie Jarrett), who said that “you can understand why” “Democrats are angry” even though “[t]he standard for perjury is quite high.”

 

 

After she mocked the GOP as being “on a different planet” talking about “spying” of the Trump camp, King falsely claimed that Republicans funded the Steele dossier (click “expand”):

KING: And the attorney general says he is looking into this. When the Republicans do that, they always say paid for by the Clinton campaign. They don't acknowledge that it was first paid for by Republican interests who did not like Donald Trump in the Republican primary —

TAPPER: Not the dossier per se, but the 

KING: — dossier per se, but research and then it was handed off later on. Look in Bill Barr, Donald Trump has what he always wanted Jeff Sessions to be which is an attorney general who says Tuesday is Monday and the sun is the moon and views his job as protecting the President, not being America's lawyer. There is no question about that and again, you know, the partisans out there will go nuts on the internet saying how dare you. Just match up what he is saying and what is in his letter with what is in here. They are not in the same universe. They are not the same set of facts. They are alternative facts. That is what the attorney general of the United States is saying compared to Bob Mueller. Now if he wants to say Bob Mueller got it wrong, let’s have that conversation. And back to the Republican point, I’ll say this again. There may be something in the Clinton e-mail investigation. If there is corruption in there, they should have a hearing and they should expose it. That's not what today is supposed to be about. They just use that as they default don't want to talk about this.

A few minutes after 12:30 p.m. Eastern mark, Coates and legal analyst Ellie Honig unloaded about Barr having perjured himself and having poor body language (click “expand”):

COATES: [F]rankly, I expect a great deal more from the attorney general of the United States because if I had had a witness on the stand pull the same antics he did talking about, oh, I’m sorry, did you mean when you asked the question for the subject and the verb and the predicate to all agree? Oh, I mis — misunderstood that interpretation. I would look at you and say, well, I hope you’d like to have a superseding indictment. You should expect the same thing for the attorney general of the United States. He knew what he was doing and he was more than splitting hairs. He was being deceptive and deceitful at an opportunity when he has promised transparency at a time, he says, I didn’t want to be more forthcoming. Well, what did you think a hearing was for? 

HONIG: And Bill Barr is not a good witness. I’m thinking of this, again, through a trial lens. You can almost see when he is nervous about a question, right? When he’s comfortable, when the Republican are questioning him, he’s got his hands folded and he’s very direct and credible. But when the Democrats, hand goes right up to the face, he’s fiddling with his glasses, he’s drinking water and he’s invasive and giving what world are we living in kind of answers?

To see the relevant transcript from CNN’s coverage of the Barr hearing on May 1, click “expand.”

CNN Special
May 1, 2019
11:54 p.m. Eastern

ELLIE HONIG: I kept feeling like I was back in criminal trials and watching a not very convincing defense attorney closing out. I will give you another example. Very early on, Attorney General Barr was asked about obstruction. How did you come to the conclusion that all 11 potentially obstructive acts listed out by Mueller were no good, were not enough and all he had — all that Barr had was, well, there was no underlying crime. That was it. I was like, where’s the rest of it. I mean, we know as a matter of law it doesn't matter if there is an underlying crime. Yes, you can throw it into the general mix, but it doesn't matter. You can still charge obstruction without an underlying crime. Martha Stewart, Scooter Libby, Roger Stone is charged with perjury without an underlying crime. Bill Clinton was impeached for perjury or obstruction without an underlying crime and Mueller refutes that in the report. He said there are plenty of good reasons why people obstruct even if they haven’t committed a crime. Maybe it is in the gray areas of potential criminality. Maybe they want to avoid personal embarrassment. So, that was incredibly weak from William Barr. Not at all convincing on obstruction.

(....)

11:56 p.m. Eastern

JOHN KING: He continued to do exactly what he did to get the criticism, which is to say things that are not supported by what is in here. This is the Mueller report. 400-plus pages and the attorney general continued to say, as you just had the discussion here and there’s more of it, he said things that are not supported by what is in here, which is the whole reason Bob Mueller was upset to begin with because he looked at the first summary letter and thought, that’s not exactly what I said and so you get this. Number one, on the facts, again, what Bob Mueller says here, what the attorney general just said there and in his prior testimony, what he said in his initial press conference, a lot of it is not supported by what is in here which are the words of people who work for Donald Trump, not 12 angry Democrats, not even the attorneys, Don McGahn, Corey Lewandowski, Hope Hicks, so on and so forth. So, and you get the impression that, Laura and I were talking about this, that Barr is almost offended that Mueller is given this great stature. Remember, Mueller was the FBI director on 9/11. He served with great distinction in the George W. Bush administration, carried over into the Obama administration, had his term extended, unusual as FBI director, then led this investigation and not only is what the attorney general saying not factually supported by what is laid out in great detail here, but then he says, you know, he is an U.S. Attorney comparably under the law but I'm the attorney general. Once he’s done with his work, that's my baby. That's the attorney general's words. That's my baby. I make the decisions, essentially trying to say I'm the boss. Stop talking about this low guy. 

(....)

12:00 p.m. Eastern

LAURA COATES: But again, notice that what Barr did today was in demoting Robert Mueller, elevated the press as a problem by saying, actually, there could be no corrupt intent. He was trying to correct the record of The New York Times and other outlets. That was the motivation of the President of the United States and as a matter essentially of law or executive authority he wasn't going to be able to violate that statute. Remember, he called Mueller's decision prudential about that OLC opinion meaning it was always the elephant in the room that Laura’s talking about. It wasn't the idea of I never considered it. I was dismissive of it. It was obviously the elephant in the room here is that I can't do anything about this. 

WOLF BLITZER: Jeffrey Toobin, let me get your thoughts on how the first couple of hours of this extraordinary hearing has been going. 

JEFFREY TOOBIN: Well, he — Barr sure didn’t establish that he told the truth when he answered the question about whether Mueller objected to anything he said. I mean, you know, I have to say, I found his answers total gobbledygook about that. I mean, you know, the fact is Mueller wrote a letter of protest. He wrote a letter saying this was not an accurate rendition of the facts when — when Barr announced, you know, his summary or his summary of conclusions and Barr was asked about that. He was asked twice about it under oath and he said no, Bob Mueller had no problems. But that's just not true and it's still not true after the explanations he gave. I mean, you know, Leahy asked him about it and, you know, I just don’t understand. I — I was, you know, I am fluent in English, but I don't understand what his answer is on that.

(....)

12:03 p.m. Eastern

TOOBIN: I mean, the whole point of this investigation, as Mueller pointed out in his letter, is to tell the public what happened. The — the whole idea behind a special counsel investigation as opposed to one under the auspices of the attorney general directly, is so the public can have confidence in the conclusions so that there is a measure of independence, not total independence, but a measure of independence and so this isn't about the wonderful cross-examination that Bob Mueller did three weeks ago. This is about the fundamental conclusion and look, this is also about politics. That letter, the four-page letter stood out there for a month shaping all the public discourse about the Mueller report, convincing much of the country that there is nothing here and that's why Mueller was so upset about it because it was a misleading summary and then for Barr to tell Congress that Mueller had no objections is just not true. 

BLITZER: You know, I want to bring in Jim Sciutto. Jim, the letter, the complaint letter three days after the original Barr letter was released, his big problem was all of this, the way you described it in your initial letter to Congress “threatens to undermine the central purpose for which the department appointed the special counsel to assure full public confidence in the outcome of the investigation.”

JIM SCIUTTO: From the beginning of the story, covering it for more than two years, the hope had been that there would be some nonpartisan referee, arbiter of whether crimes were committed here and what should happen next. That confidence was invested in Bob Mueller, again by Democrats and Republicans. Bob Mueller produced this 400-page report that is riven with facts and so on. But the politics have clearly squelched it, right? You saw that in the questioning. Republicans are from Mars, Democrats are from Venus. Republican were questions about Strzok-Page texts, they were about the Steele dossier, they barely raised Bob Mueller's clear objections to the way Barr summarized the report. Democratic were over there, asking those key questions. You know, Mueller realized that this was going to be a political decision and he makes clear he wants Congress to decide. Ultimately, it is a political decision by Congress. It’s going to end up in political hands here and even the facts of Barr's report, not just the judgement of whether Barr came to the right conclusions, you — rather, Mueller came to the right conclusions, you have Barr contradicting stuff that we can read for ourselves here. Clearly, the DOJ guidelines factors into his decision not indict because he said it repeatedly. Also, Barr made what is really a fantastical claim in there that Mueller never pushed it on getting the President to testify. They were pushing and negotiating for months to do that. The President refused. Again, even the facts are in question here. Ultimately, it’s a political decision riven with politics and that’s a disappointment really for — how this process has played out.

KING: To that point, think back to the very beginning of this and what you have here is proof of the success of the President's political attacks on the special counsel, political attacks on anybody who criticizes him and how, if you go back to the very beginning, Jim’s right. There were a lot of Republicans still skeptical about Donald Trump, still not sure who he was, because if he took over the Republican Party, he was sort of the accidental President in the minds of many Republicans, when they weren't sure what to make of this. Now, you have the chairman of the committee, at the very beginning, Bob Mueller is the gold standard. Let Bob Mueller see what he finds. Everybody back off. Let him do his job. Now you have the chairman of the committee, how much is the president's attacks on everybody worth? Lindsey Graham said he hadn't even read it all. In his opening statement, the chairman of a committee with the attorney general in the chair about what to make of the Mueller report, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said I have only read most of it. That's a disgrace whether it’s a Democrat or a Republican. 

BLITZER: He said — he said for me — he said for me, it’s over. 

SCIUTTO: Yeah. 

BLITZER: This whole investigation. 

KING: And they talked about Hillary Clinton because they don’t want to talk about there was no conspiracy. But there’s a lot of communication and cooperation between the Trump campaign and the Russians, so why not have a hearing? Nevermind what happened in 2016, it’s done. What should be right, wrong, over the line? Do we need new laws to convince other campaigns? The Senate Republicans are not going to do that whether it is Donald Trump, the Trump Tower meeting, Donald Trump Jr. In communication with WikiLeaks, then you move to the second part and these are all people who work for the president saying these things. Again, you have smart legal minds but the Republicans don't want to talk about it. They have the power to call a Hillary Clinton hearing, just like they did when they controlled the House. They like to talk about it when they don’t talk about the issue before them. But they don't actually do anything about it with their power once the ball has moved on. 

COATES: Your point is why he got out ahead of this because Barr figured in that most people including apparently Lindsey Graham were not going to comb through 400 or so pages. The idea of the principle conclusions and putting it out there, leading in with a four-page summation that was, in fact, the summation that Mueller confirmed that it was,  having a press conference 90 minutes before you provided the entire thing as well, he was banking on the fact that most people would look at his interpretation of it and go with it and for them, like Lindsey Graham it would be done. Now, the problem is we have a comprehensive and two-parallel system. Congress's role and what Mueller's is. It was never intended to be over with Mueller. Legislatively they had to do something more because as Barr said at the beginning of his testimony, look, Russia still poses a threat. 

SUSAN HENNESSEY: And let’s face it. No one is going to read the report. It is not that they are mischaracterizing in that three-week period about why Bob Mueller did what he did. It’s also the facts of the report.

(....)

12:18 p.m. Eastern

TOOBIN: And Mueller said that what Barr had distributed on the 24th, the four-page letter was misleading. Even if he didn't put out the summaries that Mueller wanted, the fact that he misled the country with that four-page summary and the accompanying press conference, that was what the question is about. That was what the question from Senator Van Hollen, from Congressman Crist. The question was, both questions were the same version of the same — different versions of the same question. Are you aware that the Mueller staff that Mueller is upset about what you did? And he said no and that's not true. And it's still not true not withstanding the bizarre and convoluted explanation that Barr gave just then. 

JAKE TAPPER: Well, Jeffrey, I don't want to defend what lawyers do, but do lawyers not hair split? I mean, is that not the point? He said I was asked about these unnamed individuals being upset about conclusions and I didn't know anything about that, but I did know that Robert Mueller was not completely happy with my letter which is a separate. I mean, he could certainly have been more revealing to the nation about what he knew, but I guess what I'm saying is what he not being so specific? And I know this is what people dislike about lawyers, but was he not being so specific as to technically what he was saying was accurate. 

TOOBIN: Well, you know, lawyers split hairs when hairs can be split, but I don't think that is a hair that can be split. That congressman and that senator were asking about dissent from Mueller. There is no mistaking what they were asking about. There had been a New York Times story right — just before Barr testified and for — for — for Barr to answer, in effect, and in so many words, I am unaware of any complaints from Mueller is simply untrue. That's not hair splitting. That's false. 

(....)

12:20 p.m. Eastern

LAURA JARRETT: And certainly, Democrats are angry about this and you can understand why. The attorney general, I do not predict, is going to go quietly or go willingly. The standard for perjury is quite high. I cannot foresee a situation in which that's going to happen here. The President, of course, has been very happy with his performance not only with the four-page letter but clearly with his use and invocation of spying which we saw Republicans hammer today while Democrats are all over the issue of this report and Mueller's concerns, Republicans are on a different planet with spying and, obviously, that’s something that makes the President very happy. 

BLITZER: John, it's interesting because in the testimony today the Republicans had one line of questioning, attacking Hillary Clinton, going after the Obama administration for not doing enough when there were indications that Russia was trying to interfere in the election. But at one point, I think this was new, and I think the Steele dossier, he even suggested in his response to a question, maybe that was part of a specific Russian disinformation plot to sew dissent here in the United States. 

KING: And the attorney general says he is looking into this. When the Republicans do that, they always say paid for by the Clinton campaign. They don't acknowledge that it was first paid for by Republican interests who did not like Donald Trump in the Republican primary —

TAPPER: Not the dossier per se, but the 

KING: — dossier per se, but research and then it was handed off later on. Look in Bill Barr, Donald Trump has what he always wanted Jeff Sessions to be which is an attorney general who says Tuesday is Monday and the sun is the moon and views his job as protecting the President, not being America's lawyer. There is no question about that and again, you know, the partisans out there will go nuts on the internet saying how dare you. Just match up what he is saying and what is in his letter with what is in here. They are not in the same universe. They are not the same set of facts. They are alternative facts. That is what the attorney general of the United States is saying compared to Bob Mueller. Now if he wants to say Bob Mueller got it wrong, let’s have that conversation. And back to the Republican point, I’ll say this again. There may be something in the Clinton e-mail investigation. If there is corruption in there, they should have a hearing and they should expose it. That's not what today is supposed to be about. They just use that as they default don't want to talk about this.

BLITZER: Pamela, you know, the other point he was defending his use of the word, Barr, spying that was going on against the Trump campaign by either Obama administration officials or so-called deep state operatives inside the FBI or the Justice Department or the intelligence community. 

PAMELA BROWN: Yeah, that's right. He said basically that would have been anaemic effort if it was just one FISA, one informant. But I find it hard to believe that Bill Barr said the word spying not knowing the kind of reaction it would spark. He tried to defend his use of the word today saying he doesn’t view it as pejorative, that his first job was in the CIA, that it’s an all-encompassing word, that there’s no synonym for it. But he’s been in Washington for a very long time and he should know that using a word like that and that indicating that that might have happened on the Trump campaign basically, echoing the sentiment that we have heard from President Trump, he should know the kind of reaction that that's going to spark no matter how he views the word spying. 

(....)

12:33 p.m. Eastern

COATES: Clearly, he was well aware about what the implications would be. It wasn’t because of rule 6(e) grand jury testimony. It wasn’t because he was simply split hairs. He was being deceptive. He knew he was and, frankly, I expect a great deal more from the attorney general of the United States because if I had had a witness on the stand pull the same antics he did talking about, oh, I’m sorry, did you mean when you asked the question for the subject and the verb and the predicate to all agree? Oh, I mis — misunderstood that interpretation. I would look at you and say, well, I hope you’d like to have a superseding indictment. You should expect the same thing for the attorney general of the United States. He knew what he was doing and he was more than splitting hairs. He was being deceptive and deceitful at an opportunity when he has promised transparency at a time, he says, I didn’t want to be more forthcoming. Well, what did you think a hearing was for? 

HONIG: And Bill Barr is not a good witness. I’m thinking of this, again, through a trial lens. You can almost see when he is nervous about a question, right? When he’s comfortable, when the Republican are questioning him, he’s got his hands folded and he’s very direct and credible. But when the Democrats, hand goes right up to the face, he’s fiddling with his glasses, he’s drinking water and he’s invasive and giving what world are we living in kind of answers? He said I was not interested in putting summaries. That's all he did for almost a month. He had a press conference. He testified before Congress. He gave us his letter. He’s giving bizarre answers, like at one point, he asked, what do you mean by receptive? I’m thinking he knows what receptive means. So, if I was at a break and he was my witness, I would say get it together, give straight answers both ways. You’re transparently leaning one way. 

NB Daily Congress Mueller Report Conservatives & Republicans Liberals & Democrats Trump-Russia probe CNN Inside Politics Video Government & Press Robert Mueller John King Wolf Blitzer Jake Tapper Jeffrey Toobin Laura Jarrett Bill Barr Donald Trump
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