Opposition Hacks: CNN Cheers 2020 Dems Fighting ‘Defensive’ Barr Damaging His ‘Legacy’

Despite laying out the arguments from both sides following Wednesday’s Senate hearing with Attorney General Bill Barr, CNN Newsroom’s panel of analysts and hosts repeatedly illustrated before, during, and afterward that they would dutifully play the role of not just liberal partisans, but carry water for 2020 Democratic presidential candidates by attacking the “defensive” Barr who’s leaving “his legacy” in “tatters.”

 

 

Situation Room host Wolf Blitzer helped set the tone when the hearing ended at 3:15 p.m. Eastern:

Very tough questions from the Democrats, very different kinds of questions from the Republicans. Clearly, Jake, it was as if there were two separate hearings going on. We heard a whole line of questioning about the Mueller report from the Democrats and we heard very different kind of questions from the Republicans.

The Lead and State of the Union host Jake Tapper doubled down, ruling that it wasn’t “just two separate hearings, two separate worlds in which they live” as Democrats were “convinced that the attorney general is covering up a whole bunch of things....and thinking every decision he's made is to protect President Trump” while Republicans “propos[ed] an alternate view of it all where the Obama Justice Department went after Donald Trump.”

Tapper then added that it was Republicans and not Democrats who “said a lot of things that weren't true” but conceded that Barr “had a case to make in the sense that the President was accused of a lot of things that the Mueller report didn't bear out.”

Blitzer marveled that “you heard the Democrats repeatedly question his credibility” and played up the faux outrage that a political party had concerns about statements from “the attorney general of the United States” to the point that he should lose his job.

When they opened up to their panel for the reminder of the hour, it was clear that their framing placed CNN in the role of the opposition party. Justice reporter Laura Jarrett sounded like an Obama official (which isn’t much of a stretch considering her family history) (click “expand”):

But, you know, to the point of defending the President, he has to go on after this to be the attorney general on a whole host of issues that have nothing to do with the Russia investigation. I wonder how this impacts sort of his legacy. He's on round two here at the Justice Department. This is somebody who’s coming at this at a point in his career where he says he didn't need to do this. He’s out there defending the President in a pretty bold and — and vocal way on a number of issues today, saying he's been falsely accused, we should be happy that essentially that he didn't find any conspiracy with the Russians, but he also said we should stop using the justice system as a political pawn. But at the same time, rushing to the President's defense on all of these issues instead of letting the report speak for itself.

Going to a seething Laura Coates, Tapper told the legal analyst that even though Barr “didn't want to make a judgment whether or not it is appropriate for President Trump to have lied, he certainly made judgments about what he perceived to be unfair attacks by Democrats on President Trump and he got very heated and very outraged about President Trump being called treasonous, et cetera.”

Instead of being an “analyst,” Coates sounded like a Kamala Harris campaign surrogate as she thanked Tapper for having “defined the hypocrisy of most of the actual statements” by Barr.

Here was Coates auditioning for the Harris campaign or, at minimum, showing her support for both Harris and fellow Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) (click “expand”):

But for me, the most important aspect of this was Senator Kamala Harris who, by the way, no one seems to understand her when she’s talking. It’s like, they can’t — they're all fuddled and they can’t make out what’s going on, when she starts speaking for some reason but she noted the idea of, wait, you haven't read any of the underlying evidence involved here, right? And he kind of went through that — no, I did not. I took it at its word but not reading the evidence is so important because it speaks to the fact that as Senator Hirono pointed out, somebody who writes a 19-page memo saying why there can never be obstruction before he was attorney general and then never reading the evidence to support those claims creates a self fulfilling prophecy. What else would he conclude not having read it and already made his determination. So I think it’s a little bit understated about the way she did it but it was that not asking one question too many to loop up for the American people but what she was saying was here is somebody who told you before he was A.G. how this report was going to go and he never took any proactive steps to read evidence to change his mind. 

After ripping Barr’s body language hours earlier, legal analyst Ellie Honig opined that “William Barr's credibility is really in tatters, both in terms of his impartiality and his candor.”

Senior White House correspondent Pamela Brown also joined the campaign, dismissing the fact that Barr’s March 24 letter explicitly said the Mueller report didn’t exonerate the President (click “expand”):

But I will say I think the one line where Bill Barr said I did not exonerate the President. I'm not sure that President Trump would have liked hearing that given that he continues to tweet this was total exoneration but overall clearly this is an attorney general who was there to back up the President, painting this picture that, look, he was the victim and he was falsely accused and that was the core. That was where his actions and the obstruction case were stemming from and what stuck out to me is the attorney general was defensive in how he's handled this, saying, look I put out the redacted report. This is more than the regulations required of me, but the key here is the place holder that he said. He said, look, I just put out a place holder, that was the four-page memo, before the full report was out. But that place holder is what shaped the public narrative and that is key and that is what is given Democrats ammunition in this hearing today and that was the impetuous for this letter from Robert Mueller saying, look, this place holder you put out, that four-page memo didn't capture the scope.

Following a break, chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin dismissed a clip of Barr ripping into those who suggested it’s undeniable treasonous Trump-Russian collusion took place, illustrating the media’s insistence collusion took place that’s beginning to resemble the late Japanese solider Hiroo Onoda (click “expand”):

Well, I just found that such an astonishing and revealing expression of why Barr has acted the way he has. The idea that because the — the — Mueller did not find a prosecutable case of collusion, anything Trump did was justifiable. I mean, I thought that was such a distortion of what — of the history here. Remember what it was that prompted the appointment of Mueller in the first place. It was the firing of James Comey....It was because the President was interfering with the investigation and, as Mueller found, continued to do so. But Barr has only — only sees the — exculpatory part of the investigation on the Russia part. I just thought if you want it in a nutshell, how Barr feels about this whole process, that quote tells you it. 

To see the relevant transcript from May 1's CNN Newsroom, click “expand.”

CNN Newsroom
May 1, 2019
3:15 p.m. Eastern

WOLF BLITZER: Very tough questions from the Democrats, very different kinds of questions from the Republicans. Clearly, Jake, it was as if there were two separate hearings going on. We heard a whole line of questioning about the Mueller report from the Democrats and we heard very different kind of questions from the Republicans. 

JAKE TAPPER: Not just two separate hearings, two separate worlds in which they live. I mean, you have the Democrats who are convinced that the attorney general is covering up a whole bunch of things and giving him no benefit of any doubt and thinking every decision he's made is to protect President Trump and giving example after example for their case on that and Republicans, for the most part, proposing an alternate view of it all where the Obama Justice Department went after Donald Trump. They said a lot of things that weren't true such as the fact that Donald Trump was a subject of an investigation during the campaign which is not accurate. But their basic premise is this was a corrupt FBI and corrupt Department of Justice going after candidate Donald Trump and there were two different theories of the case. One of them, backed by Robert Mueller and the Mueller investigation, at one point, the attorney general saying how did we get here where the president is being accused of all of these horrible things. And he had a case to make in the sense that the President was accused of a lot of things that the Mueller report didn't bear out, but also volume one of the Mueller report explains how we got here. All of the contacts, all of the efforts by the Russians to interfere in the election. 

BLITZER: But you heard the Democrats repeatedly question his credibility. We're not talking about Mueller, we're talking about the attorney general of the United States. The statements he made, the original four-page letter that was released followed, he got a separate letter from Mueller in which he questioned substantively so much of what Bill Barr had originally said and resulting in several members, now several Democrats, including several Democratic presidential candidates saying that Bill Barr at a minimum should resign. 

TAPPER: That’s right. There were three Democrats on that committee who running for president, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Kamala Harris of California, and Cory Booker of New Jersey. Kamala Harris after her questioning was done and she — she focused on how on Earth was the deputy attorney general, who was also a witness to the obstruction of justice part of this Mueller report and investigation, how on Earth was he able to render judgments, after her questioning was done, she called for Attorney General Barr to resign. Six of the 20 Democrats running for president have called for him to resign, two have called for him to be impeached. 

(....)

3:20 p.m. Eastern

LAURA JARRETT: Yeah and he's made it very clear, I am not coming if staff counsel thinks they are going to question me out in the open for 30 minutes both sides. He’s happy to take members' questions but he’s not going to do it from attorneys. So they may have an empty chair there. Chairman Nadler has signaled that he will do that. If the attorney general doesn't come, he will hold the hearing any way. We’ll even see what happens now that he's finished with his testimony today whether he’s going to come. But, you know, to the point of defending the President, he has to go on after this to be the attorney general on a whole host of issues that have nothing to do with the Russia investigation. I wonder how this impacts sort of his legacy. He's on round two here at the Justice Department. This is somebody who’s coming at this at a point in his career where he says he didn't need to do this. He’s out there defending the President in a pretty bold and — and vocal way on a number of issues today, saying he's been falsely accused, we should be happy that essentially that he didn't find any conspiracy with the Russians, but he also said we should stop using the justice system as a political pawn. But at the same time, rushing to the President's defense on all of these issues instead of letting the report speak for itself.

(....)

3:25 p.m. Eastern

TAPPER: Although, Laura, we should point out even though he didn't want to make a judgment whether or not it is appropriate for President Trump to have lied, he certainly made judgments about what he perceived to be unfair attacks by Democrats on President Trump and he got very heated and very outraged about President Trump being called treasonous, et cetera. 

LAURA COATES: You defined the hypocrisy of most of the actual statements along with the idea of saying, look, I think it’s important for every answer that will require a yes or no, I’m going to give full context. Well, lo and behold, somebody named Robert Mueller said don't just give the finite straight lace, then give the nuance I need for the American people to understand our role and what we've done for 22 months, so it’s a little bit hypocritical. But for me, the most important aspect of this was Senator Kamala Harris who, by the way, no one seems to understand her when she’s talking. It’s like, they can’t — they're all fuddled and they can’t make out what’s going on, when she starts speaking for some reason but she noted the idea of, wait, you haven't read any of the underlying evidence involved here, right? And he kind of went through that — no, I did not. I took it at its word but not reading the evidence is so important because it speaks to the fact that as Senator Hirono pointed out, somebody who writes a 19-page memo saying why there can never be obstruction —

TAPPER: It was before he was attorney general.

COATES: — before he was attorney general and then never reading the evidence to support those claims creates a self fulfilling prophecy. What else would he conclude not having read it and already made his determination. So I think it’s a little bit understated about the way she did it but it was that not asking one question too many to loop up for the American people but what she was saying was here is somebody who told you before he was A.G. how this report was going to go and he never took any proactive steps to read evidence to change his mind. 

(....)

3:28 p.m. Eastern

ELLIE HONIG: We heard towards the end people were talking about the totality of the circumstances, but I think William Barr's credibility is really in tatters. Both in terms of his impartiality and his candor and that answer right there, that was not — it was not a straight answer at all. I served in DOJ under both Bush administrations, Obama administration, sure people disagreed with the attorney general on policy, sure people criticize attorneys general, but I can't remember any attorneys general whose credibility has been this much in tatters. 

(....)

3:29 p.m. Eastern

PAMELA BROWN: The White House is paying close attention to what Bill Barr had to say today. But I will say I think the one line where Bill Barr said I did not exonerate the President. I'm not sure that President Trump would have liked hearing that given that he continues to tweet this was total exoneration but overall clearly this is an attorney general who was there to back up the President, painting this picture that, look, he was the victim and he was falsely accused and that was the core. That was where his actions and the obstruction case were stemming from and what stuck out to me is the attorney general was defensive in how he's handled this, saying, look I put out the redacted report. This is more than the regulations required of me, but the key here is the place holder that he said. He said, look, I just put out a place holder, that was the four-page memo, before the full report was out. But that place holder is what shaped the public narrative and that is key and that is what is given Democrats ammunition in this hearing today and that was the impetuous for this letter from Robert Mueller saying, look, this place holder you put out, that four-page memo didn't capture the scope.

(....)

3:41 p.m. Eastern

TAPPER: Attorney General Bill Barr grilled by Democratic senators on Capitol Hill today over the Mueller report, his handling of it. At one point, Attorney General Barr defended President Trump characterizing him as a falsely accused man. Take a listen. 

ATTORNEY GENERAL BILL BARR: How did we get to the point here where the evidence is now that the President was falsely accused of colluding with the Russians and accused of being treasonous and accused of being a Russian agent and the evidence now is that was without a basis and two years of his administration have been dominated by the allegations that have now been proven false and, you know, to listen to some of the rhetoric, you would think that the Mueller report had found the opposite. 

TAPPER: Jeff Toobin, you wanted to weigh in. 

JEFFREY TOOBIN: Well, I just found that such an astonishing and revealing expression of why Barr has acted the way he has. The idea that because the — the — Mueller did not find a prosecutable case of collusion, anything Trump did was justifiable. I mean, I thought that was such a distortion of what — of the history here. Remember what it was that prompted the appointment of Mueller in the first place. It was the firing of James Comey. It was the interference with the Russia investigation. That is something Barr has read out of the entire process here. I mean, the reason Mueller was appointed was not just because of the collusion investigation. It was because the President was interfering with the investigation and, as Mueller found, continued to do so. But Barr has only — only sees the — exculpatory part of the investigation on the Russia part. I just thought if you want it in a nutshell, how Barr feels about this whole process, that quote tells you it. 

NB Daily Mueller Report Conservatives & Republicans Liberals & Democrats Trump-Russia probe CNN CNN Newsroom Robert Mueller Wolf Blitzer Jake Tapper Jeffrey Toobin Laura Jarrett Bill Barr Donald Trump
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