Attorney General William Barr is navigating the rough political waters with skill

Attorney General William Barr is navigating the rough political waters with skill
Caleb Walsh illustration

Now that Attorney General William Barr has testified before the U.S. Senate about independent counsel Robert Mueller's report and other matters, the House Judiciary Committee Democrats are beside themselves because Barr failed to show up to testify about the same subject matter. The committee chairman insisted that staff counsel be able to question Barr, something he didn't want to undertake, though he was willing to subject himself to members' questions. Barr said properly that he'd subject himself to the House Judiciary Committee members' questions, but there was no reason for him to subject himself to staff attorneys' questions.

Barr was the darling of many Democrats until he sent a four-page summary of the Mueller report concluding that President Trump's campaign in 2016 didn't collude with Russians, something Democratic members couldn't stand. Barr is now an enemy of Democrats because of his findings as he tried mightily to be responsive quickly to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, redacting only a small percentage of the report and offering House members an opportunity to read the clean report if only they'd come to the Department of Justice to do so. How one political party's members can turn so quickly on someone they previously praised is puzzling, though that probably signals Congress' toxicity.

Even though the redacted Mueller report has reportedly been posted online, few Americans have actually read it, even after two-year's time and some $30 million in tax dollars spent by the independent counsel and his staff of 19 quality lawyers. Democrats anticipated that the Mueller report would amount to an impeachable offense by President Trump. When the report didn't do what some Democratic elected officials expected, many turned their disappointment on Barr, who tried to respond quickly to members. Barr had seen the report ahead of House members since Mueller worked for Barr. Many Democrats remain frustrated that the Mueller report wasn't more critical of Trump, so their attention and criticism are being directed toward Barr. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and several 2020 presidential candidates are now calling for Barr's impeachment. They're calling Barr "Trump's lawyer" instead of the U.S. attorney general, perhaps forgetting that Trump nominated Barr as part of his Cabinet and "his" attorney general and that the attorney general is in line to be president under Amendment 25 to the Constitution.

But Barr, by all accounts, is a consummate professional, not political in any sense, as most on Capitol Hill are. He didn't need the job and he appears to be highly professional in his outlook, likely unwilling to jeopardize his fine reputation for any American president, no matter how forceful the president's personality or how persuasive the president may be. Perhaps Congress' harsh political nature is the world in which Barr finds himself, and he'll be forced to be in turn understandably political if he's to combat today's political weaponry.

Barr was educated in law at the George Washington University Law School and has held numerous positions at the Department of Justice, even serving President George H.W. Bush for two years as attorney general starting in 1991. He was confirmed as Trump's AG by the Senate 54-45 on a largely party line vote in February, even though three Democratic senators voted for him.

When Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, now House Intelligence Committee chairman, declared publicly that he had evidence of Trump's collusion with the Russian government, but has yet to produce such evidence, Barr should have known the toxic congressional atmosphere to which he subjected himself.

Barr will survive this messy situation, however, and America is fortunate to have him. ♦

George Nethercutt represented the 5th District of Washington in Congress from 1995-2005.