The Barr Hearing and The Triumph Of Small People In An Era Of Great Events

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Below is my column on the recent hearing before the House Judiciary Committee with Attorney General William Barr.  The hearing was widely ridiculed after Barr was repeatedly prevented from answering questions.  It was a great disappointment.  I just testified on the Lafayette Park controversy and many of us were waiting for a month to hear from Barr directly on the details, particularly the statements of many in the media that the Park area was cleared to allow President Trump to take a picture in front of St. John’s Church.  Democratic members continued to refer to that as a fact (as has many in the media) despite the federal agencies supplying information that shows that the plan was approved days before and the order was given with no knowledge of the photo op. Yet, on repeated occasions Barr tried to supply times and dates, Democratic members immediately “took back the time” and even got angry when he tried to answer.  The same is true on other controversies.  We lost an opportunity to actually answer these questions. Yet, after repeatedly blocking Barr from answering, Speaker Nancy Pelosi called him a “Blob” at the hearing.  He might seemed less blob-like if Democrats allowed him to speak. Instead, the hearing was an example of how Congress will work tirelessly not to find answers when a narrative is too good to check.

Here is the column:

205px-Winston_Churchill_1941_photo_by_Yousuf_KarshWinston Churchill said, “The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter.” If he knew members of the House Judiciary Committee, he could have cut that time in half, as they might convince people that democracy is a failed experiment.

The hearing with Attorney General William Barr had been long awaited for weeks as a way to get answers on issues ranging from the controversial clearing of Lafayette Park, to the intervention in the case of Roger Stone, to the violence across various cities. Instead, the public watched as both parties engaged in hours of primal scream therapy, with Barr for the most part forced to remain as silent as some life size anatomical doll.

The videos shown by the rival parties captured the utter absurdity of the day. Republicans played what could only be described as eight minutes of virtual “riot porn” for the hard right. By the end, one would think much of the nation is a smoking dystopian hellscape. Democrats then played their alternate reality video showing thousands of protesters chanting together in perfect harmony. Add a soundtrack to the scene and you would have a soda commercial. There was nothing in the middle: either the protests are either our final Armageddon or the Garden of Eden.

After testifying recently on the Lafayette Park controversy, I was one of those who had great expectations for answers to significant questions. Instead, Democrats dramatically demanded answers and then stopped Barr from answering by immediately “taking back the time.” It happened over and over during the hearing. Democrats simply did not want to hear any answers that would undermine the popular narratives.

Several Democrats insisted the clearing of Lafayette Park was for the sole purpose of a photo for President Trump in front of Saint John Church. Barr sought to explain that there was no connection between the plan formed the weekend before and the photo, but he was stopped by members like Hank Johnson saying “you clearly will not answer the question” before he could even start to answer. It got more and more bizarre.

Barr was repeatedly cut off by Democrats, while Republicans, who have done the same thing to witnesses in other hearings, raged against their colleagues. The result was mayhem. While Barr sarcastically referred to Jerrold Nadler as a “real class act” after Nadler refused a request for a break, the hearing had as much class as a demolition derby.

Just as Democrats did not want to hear the facts regarding Lafayette Park, they were adamant in not allowing Barr to refute other popular narratives in the mainstream media, like the changed sentencing recommendation for Stone. Barr struggled to give specific facts on that case as Democrats quickly interrupted him. Barr then used questions from Republicans to try to answer. He explained that Trump never spoke to him of the sentencing of Stone and that Barr had never raised the sentencing issue.

Rather, Barr insisted that the change was raised to him by a new United States attorney who felt the trial prosecutors were wildly off base in their demand for up to nine years of prison. Many of us in the criminal defense area raised the same objection. The Justice Department then decided to change the recommendation to be consistent with past cases.

However, Barr said the trial prosecutors ignored those instructions from their superiors, requiring the filing of a correction. When Trump posted a reckless tweet the next morning on the original recommendation, it had nothing to do with the decision to change it. When Barr tried to note that the trial judge agreed with the recommendation in the case as well as the ultimate sentence of 40 months, Democrats cut him off again.

For Republicans, less was also more during the hearing. Journalist Jake Tapper responded to the video they showed of rioting, which included a series of reporters talking about peaceful protests. Tapper showed that the videos had been edited to cut off the same reporters who eventually note that largely peaceful protests became violent rioting.

No one seemed eager to hear anything beyond sound bites. Barr offered statistics that the shootings of African Americans by police officers has been on the decline and that the eight African Americans who died in the previous year from police shootings represented a smaller number than whites shot by police officers. He also argued that police are statistically less likely to use lethal force in dealing with black suspects.

Those claims are subject to challenge, and the hearing could have had a discussion of systemic racism, but no one wanted that type of deep dive. When Barr disagreed there is systemic racism in the legal system, Cedric Richmond insisted, “When you all came here and brought your top staff, you brought no black people. That is systematic racism.”

Indeed, Democrats seemed intent to not allow Barr to say anything in the hearing. When Pramila Jayapal accused him of ordering officers “to tear gas, pepper spray, and beat protesters and injure Americans who were just simply exercising their First Amendment,” Barr began to correct the claims but was cut off by Jayapal, who warned, “I just asked for a yes or no. So let me just tell you, I am starting to lose my temper.”

By that point, many Americans undoubtedly had moved beyond anger, as both parties fiddle with politics while the nation burns. Churchill yet again almost captured the moment when he derided one British prime minister, the Earl of Rosebery, as “a great man in an era of small events.” What the public witnessed in this hearing were small people in an era of great events. It was not the lack of interest in answers but the lack of interest in solutions that was readily apparent to anyone watching the hearing.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. You can find his updates online @JonathanTurley.

114 thoughts on “The Barr Hearing and The Triumph Of Small People In An Era Of Great Events”

  1. “By the end, one would think much of the nation is a smoking dystopian hellscape.”

    Yeah what the hell. let em burn down one or two federal courthouses, what’s the difference? If right-wingers were doing this the Dems, NYT , etc. would be begging for the return of Lon Horiuchi.

  2. It’s striking that Turley doesn’t mention the multiple false statements that Barr made while under oath or the places where Barr revealed a lack of familiarity with things he’d claimed to have carefully read (e.g., the Obstruction section of the SCO’s Report).

    Here are a couple of links to analyses of what Barr’s statements reveal about his dishonesty and lack of understanding:
    https://www.emptywheel.net/2020/07/29/bill-barr-repeatedly-lied-under-oath-about-judge-amy-berman-jackson/
    https://www.emptywheel.net/2020/07/28/bill-barr-testifies-hes-unfamiliar-with-the-obstruction-portion-of-the-mueller-report/
    That site has additional relevant columns.

  3. When Barr was refused a break he should have stood up emptied a water bottle relieved himself and handed it to Nadler. The hearing was an embarrassing bust for the Demomarxist.

  4. That is what Democrats do. They did it in the Comey and other hearings. If the subject doesn’t give the answers they won’t to hear, they make political statements. That’s why Congress is a farce. Congressional hearings are a waste of time. We need to go back to when Congressmen were only in Washington for Congressional sessions that lasted a few weeks, then went back home. We now have professional politicians in Congress who spend their time campaigning. Democrats aren’t interested in answers, only in making their political points. God help this nation if they win control of the Executive Branch this fall.

    1. “That is what [Members of Congress] do. … If the subject doesn’t give the answers they won’t to hear, they make political statements.”
      “[Members of Congress] aren’t interested in answers, only in making their political points.”

      FIFY.

      How ridiculous to complain only about Democrats and ignore that Republicans are as guilty of these problems, if not moreso.

  5. Where is Turley’s comment on the latest en banc hyper-extenuation of the Flynn flogging? (Since Golgotha we’ve rarely seen a legal sanction of such extended persecution, after so many various appeals…)

    How much evidence need there be of malfeasance in Flynn’s prosecution — of entrapment and political corruption — along with Sullivan’s animus (accusing Flynn of “treason” earlier in the trial)?

    How many more notes showing the FBI agents interviewing Flynn didn’t think he had lied, that the upper echelons wanted to nab Flynn on a process crime they wholly created?

    How many more edits and revisions and multiple versions of the FBI’s 302s? How much more chicancery of the sort that saw these documents changed 6 months later? Where is the tape or transcript of the original interview? (Why rely on a 302 at all?) Where is the recording of the original call compared with exact lie (in quote marks) alleged?

    How can Turley not speak out more forcefully on justice here?

    1. Sullivan didn’t “accus[e] Flynn of “treason” earlier in the trial.” He only asked the prosecutors whether that charge had been considered, in the context of trying to understand how much of a deal Flynn got by choosing to plead out.

      And CADC was correct to vacate the June 24 ruling and choose to rehear the case en banc, as Rao’s ruling — if you read the actual text instead of just relying on the outcome — would be an awful precedent for the circuit, as well as being inconsistent with norms for applications for a writ of mandamus, which is likely why CADC specifically stated that at the oral argument scheduled for August 11, “The parties should be prepared to address whether there are ‘no other adequate means to attain the relief’ desired.”

      “the FBI agents interviewing Flynn didn’t think he had lied”

      Whether person A thinks person B lied doesn’t determine whether person B actually lied. And the FBI gathered a bunch of additional evidence before charging Flynn, including interviews with Transition Team members, interviews with high-ranking staff like McCord and Yates, phone and text message records, evidence relevant to FARA, and another 4 interviews with Flynn himself (listed in the Mueller report). The issue is what all of the relevant evidence shows, not just whether “the FBI agents interviewing Flynn didn’t think he had lied.”

      “Where is the tape or transcript of the original interview? (Why rely on a 302 at all?)”

      The FBI doesn’t generally tape interviews, so there is no tape or transcript. The same is true for other FBI interviews. The 302 can be considered eye witness testimony. Juries rely on eye witness testimony without tapes all the time. Are you going to call for prosecutions in general (local, state, federal) to be thrown out if there’s no video/tape/transcript?

      1. This is absurd nonsense:

        “Sullivan didn’t “accus[e] Flynn of “treason” earlier in the trial.” He only asked the prosecutors whether that charge had been considered, in the context of trying to understand how much of a deal Flynn got by choosing to plead out.”

        The point during trial was raised in a highly inflammatory way, sounded quite prejudicial, and was later apologized for. This was a veteran who had served his country 33 years faithfully.

        Your comments about the standard of proof for Flynn lying shows no sense of the larger architecture of the case, wherein an outgoing administration aggressively surveilled, unmasked, and reviewed the statements of an incoming national security advisor — his discussions with Russia a completely regular occurrence during the transition of power. Flynn was acting as an agent of 162 million voters, who had just ratified a change in policy toward Russia, and who had the right to outreach and say the U.S. would soon be taking a different tack — so Russia, don’t do anything precipitous.

        The threatening to prosecute Flynn’s son to get Flynn to cop to lying would be correct if the above parameters were not true. But here this tactic was being used against a long-serving veteran under political pretenses of entrapment. It was not a legitimate threat. Flynn was forced into near bankruptcy in fighting his own defense.

        You are neglecting my other points about the 302. Of course I agree they are generally used by the FBI. The point in this case is that the original physical 302 went missing, and that there later edits made to some reconstructed version thereof. The ORIGINAL interview transcript is not available for review in such a highly contentious and politically fraught prosecution.

        Numerous refusals to disclose material favorable to Flynn by the prosecution was another issue here. Barr’s same DOJ has declined to press charges against McCabe for lying, arguably far more substantively, and there is nothing inconsistent about dropping charges in this (far more minor) case.

        1. Everything was irregular here from the prosecution side — including the faux setup by Comey, as if it was reasonable to suspect Flynn as an incoming NSA and attempt to ensnare him in a process crime.

          No lawyers, nothing adversarial here — as if they were setting up a mob boss or some serious white collar criminal rather than parsing minor verbal differences. It’s not even wholly obvious Flynn wouldn’t have had the right not to inform the FBI of the incoming administration’s foreign policy activities — as under our system the FBI does not superintend policy matters.

          1. And this supposed justification of an en banc hearing is based on reviewing the power of something like 5 words in the federal statutes to have Judge Sullivan dismiss a case when both the PROSECUTION and DEFENSE have agreed. It’s a stunning suspension of the ordinary operation of how a judge should behave — taking the side of the prosecution, especially given so many questions about the prosecutorial behavior and possible political motives / entrapment in this case.

            Sullivan has again and again refused to observe a pro forma requirement do dismiss — even going so far as bringing in another prosecutor (prosecutor shopping) for a third party second-go at Flynn.

            It’s beyond absurd and insulting to the separation of powers that Judge Sullivan has gone rogue on this level. He is not the entire system in itself, but only the justice part.

            DOJs routinely make calls that judges disagree with; observing the DOJ’s authority to bring (or drop) cases, regardless of disagreeing on the merits, is core to our system of jurisprudence.

            1. ” this supposed justification of an en banc hearing is based on reviewing the power of something like 5 words in the federal statutes”

              Nope. It’s based on the fact that it’s not at all normal to grant a writ of mandamus if — as noted in the decision announcing that they’d rehear it en banc — there are “other adequate means to attain the relief”: namely, let Sullivan rule on the motion to dismiss, and then if they disagree with his ruling, they can appeal.

              Sullivan has not “gone rogue.” There’s absolutely nothing wrong with him wanting to have a hearing first where he can question the DOJ about inconsistencies between its motion to dismiss and its previous filings. As a simple example, the DOJ has claimed both that Flynn’s false statements were material (in all previous filings) and that they weren’t material (in the motion to dismiss). What accounts for that contradiction? As another simple example, when Shea claimed that there was “newly discovered” information, he was talking about material that’s new to the DOJ. But he didn’t identify any material that was new to the DOJ. Sullivan should be allowed to ask them what they’d discovered that they didn’t know about earlier, and why it’s significant enough to affect the choice to continue the case.

              1. It’s just not the case that it’s normal behavior for a judge to invite / bring in a third party prosecutor to review a case. That it is a terrible civil liberties abuse. It could easily be abused all over the place.

                “There’s absolutely nothing wrong with him wanting to have a hearing first where he can question the DOJ about inconsistencies between its motion to dismiss and its previous filings.” There’s everything wrong when justice has been delayed on this level and (see above) third parties are being brought in to retry the case.

                This could be done against any criminal defendant in the country.

                1. Right John, that’s exactly right. Its reprehensible.

                  The government team is not only off the court, they showered and got on the bus and went home months ago

                  The umpire doesn’t seem to get the point, some appellate judges do, others with a clear partisan agenda to advance injustice, want to rehabilitate this gross error

                  What a shocking shame and a patent argument to update article III and cancel “lifetime tenure” for such tyrants.

                  1. It’s not even clear that liberals like Ginsburg would support inviting amicus briefs into a criminal trial to supplant / replace / augment the prosecution that had left the room.

                    This is police state level stuff — and the magnitude of the concerns raised by the prior prosecution’s and by this judge’s behavior dwarf any concerns about Flynn.

                2. Except that Sullivan hasn’t “[brought] in a third party prosecutor.” Gleeson isn’t a prosecutor. He’s an amicus. The role of amicus is quite different from the role of prosecutor.

                  “third parties are being brought in to retry the case.”

                  Nope. Gleeson cannot try the case at all. Learn the difference between a prosecutor and an amicus.

                  “This could be done against any criminal defendant in the country.”

                  No again.

        2. So you’re moving the goalposts from your original claim — “Sullivan’s animus (accusing Flynn of “treason” earlier in the trial)” — which is false, to “The point during trial was raised in a highly inflammatory way, sounded quite prejudicial, and was later apologized for.” (a) He didn’t apologize for it (though he did apologize for something else), and (b) I accept that it’s your view that it was “inflammatory” and “sounded quite prejudicial,” and some people share your view, but other people don’t. I’m someone who doesn’t share your opinion, and if you want, we can look at the actual transcript and I’ll explain why, since the details of what he actually said and to whom he said it matter.

          You say “Your comments about the standard of proof for Flynn lying shows no sense of the larger architecture of the case, wherein an outgoing administration aggressively surveilled, unmasked, and reviewed the statements of an incoming national security advisor…,” but odds are that I understand the “architecture” at least as well as you do. Among other things, I don’t consider the FBI to be part of a given president’s administration; Congress chose to give the directors 10 year terms in part to make it *not* part of an administration, and Obama specifically told Comey that he didn’t want to know the details of FBI investigations involving the Trump campaign, with the sole exception of being informed about whether he needed to be wary about sharing intelligence. Kislyak was the one under surveillance in these calls, and the Obama Admin didn’t unmask Flynn’s name in the report about his calls with Kislyak because the FBI didn’t mask Flynn’s name in the first place.

          As for “his discussions with Russia a completely regular occurrence during the transition of power,” an incoming NSA *having* a call may be regular, but the *contents* of these calls were not regular. Among other things, Obama had just made public the sanctions for Russia’s interference in our election, and Flynn was totally silent about that interference being wrong, and it’s not at all appropriate to try to undermine the current administration, which Flynn explicitly did re: the U.N. vote and did to a lesser extent re: responding to the sanctions. There’s only one President at a time, and an incoming NSA has no business acting contrary to the goals of the current President.

          “The ORIGINAL interview transcript is not available for review”

          There was no transcript, as the interview wasn’t recorded. The original notes were turned over to Flynn’s counsel, as were the drafts. This is discussed in Sullivan’s 12/16/19 ruling.

          “there is nothing inconsistent about dropping charges in this”

          That’s for the court to determine.

          “as if it was reasonable to suspect Flynn as an incoming NSA and attempt to ensnare him in a process crime”

          He wasn’t ensnared. It was totally appropriate to interview Flynn for counterintelligence reasons, as he’d apparently lied to Pence, Priebus and Spicer, and it was the FBI’s job to determine whether Flynn was compromised in any way. Flynn could have told them the truth. I don’t know what you mean by “parsing minor verbal differences.” Pence and Spicer were very explicit in publicly stating that Flynn told them that he hadn’t discussed sanctions with Kislyak. Whether Flynn had been honest with them — and if not, why not — is not a “minor” issue. Don’t you think the FBI needs to interview an incoming NSA who is apparently lying to the VP-elect about discussions with an adversary?

          The bottom line is that the full Circuit Court of DC believes that it’s appropriate to rehear the writ request en banc. That’s totally legal, and given the specifics of Rao’s 6/24 ruling, it seems appropriate.

          1. I’m saying it’s a composite argument Sir, with many damning parts. Where did I move the goalposts? “You sold your country out”? That’s not inflammatory language to dress down someone who served his country for 33 years?

            You talk of an independent FBI. The same FBI that spied on the Trump campaign based on Hillary-paid for dossier. Right sure. No signs of coordination in that Oval office meeting before the transition. Uh-huh.

            Or that marvelous non-involvement of upper administration officials with 40+ requests to unmask Flynn across multiple departments in the final days. Sure.

            The 302 is being edited 6 months later. How many things have to be fishy here?

            1. This is pro forma plausible deniability: “bama specifically told Comey that he didn’t want to know the details of FBI investigations involving the Trump campaign, with the sole exception of being informed about whether he needed to be wary about sharing intelligence. Kislyak was the one under surveillance in these calls, and the Obama Admin didn’t unmask Flynn’s name in the report about his calls with Kislyak because the FBI didn’t mask Flynn’s name in the first place.” Of no relevance to the larger amount of unmasking going on, or the serial efforts to entrap members of the Trump campaign and transition team by the tone set at the top…

              1. All of this in the vehemence of the prosecution, the Sullivan end-runs around normal judicial behavior, the media obsession, is completely incommensurate with whatever lie, if lie it was, was even told. It’s not about the “rule of law” but about political persecution of the prior administration’s enemies.

            2. A FISA court lied to, repeatedly misled on 17 major occasions… This is your politically disinterested FBI. How many people wearing wires were deployed against the Trump campaign? Do we even know yet? Was Misfud a setup too? Is Durham a lackey — after garnering lifelong bipartisan acclaim — for saying he disagrees with Horowitz’s (a political appointee) bottom line?

              How much corruption has to exist in the law enforcement / intel community before questions about the Flynn prosecution become germane?

              Speaking of looseness of language: John Brennan goes on TV and repeatedly accuses Trump of “treason”, then backtracks, without ever producing a shred of evidence for his highly inflammatory claim. Should former intel heads-turned-pundits be so loose with leveling an execution-worthy crime when they can’t provide the goods when asked? Even Maddow was correcting this guy…

              How much anti-Trump warping up these upper institutions has there to be before there are questions about ALL actions they took during and right after the transition?

              1. You put all this focus on Flynn lying to Pence… You utterly fail to connect the zeal of the prosecution — or the prosecution itself — in the larger context of all the highly unusual and increasingly obviously not-justified intel and law enforcement abuses against both the Trump campaign and transition…

                What of Comey lying to Trump? A sitting president being briefed falsely about the dossier, lies by omission, “No Sir, you’re not the target of an investigation”… etc. These lies DWARF the tiny sideshow with Flynn — yet their tidal magnitude raises questions about ALL executive decision-making done by Comey during that time period.

                How many times has Comey lied to either a sitting U.S. president, to the Congress (probably under oath if I look it up), or to the American people about Russiagate?

                Was the effort to get Flynn an effort to cover for the (infinitely greater magnitude) of the FISA abuses and spying and lies to courts etc…?

                This is not at all ungermane — and goes to the core of whether Russiagate per se is a ruse to cover for the level of intel corruption against the opposition party, as seems far more likely right now by Occam’s razor than that Trump ever conspired with Russia…

                1. ou utterly fail to connect the zeal of the prosecution — or the prosecution itself…

                  It’s not that they utterly fail; they utterly love the zeal and utterly don’t care as long as the zeal of the prosecution is directed at their political enemies. What they do utterly fail at is recognizing that that zeal, if left unchecked, will be directed at anyone that threatens them.

              2. “Speaking of looseness of language: John Brennan goes on TV and repeatedly accuses Trump of “treason”, then backtracks, without ever producing a shred of evidence for his highly inflammatory claim.”

                SMH.

                Trump has accused multiple people of treason “without ever producing a shred of evidence for his highly inflammatory claim.” I’ll take your concern about Brennan’s accusation seriously when you’re equally concerned about Trump’s accusations.

                “Should former intel heads-turned-pundits be so loose with leveling an execution-worthy crime when they can’t provide the goods when asked?”

                No. And neither should the President. I find BOTH inappropriate. How about you?

                “How many times has Comey lied to either a sitting U.S. president, to the Congress (probably under oath if I look it up), or to the American people”

                I don’t know. Lying to the public isn’t illegal. Trump does that all the time. If you have evidence of Comey lying to Congress under oath, give it to the DOJ. And your claim about “lying by omission” is false. Trump wasn’t the target.

            3. I’m a woman, so “sir” isn’t fitting, thanks.

              Have you read the sentence you quoted in context?

              Here’s what Sullivan said:
              “I’m going to be frank with you. This crime is very serious. As I stated, it involves false statements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation agents on the premises of the White House, in the White House in the West Wing by a high ranking security officer with, up to that point, had an unblemished career of service to his country. That’s a very serious offense.
              “You know, I’m going to take into consideration the 33 years of military service and sacrifice, and I’m going to take into consideration the substantial assistance of several ongoing — several ongoing investigations, but I’m going to also take into consideration the aggravating circumstances, and the aggravating circumstances are serious. Not only did you lie to the FBI, but you lied to senior officials in the Trump Transition Team and Administration. Those lies caused the then-Vice President-Elect, incoming Chief of Staff, and then-Press Secretary to lie to the American people. Moreover, you lied to the FBI about three different topics, and you made those false statements while you were serving as the National Security Advisor, the President of the United States’ most senior national security aid. [sic] I can’t minimize that.
              “Two months later you again made false statements in multiple documents filed pursuant to the Foreign Agents Registration Act. So, all along you were an unregistered agent of a foreign country, while serving as the National Security Advisor to the President of the United States.
              “I mean, arguably, that undermines everything this flag over here stands for (indicating). Arguably, you sold your country out. The Court’s going to consider all of that. I cannot assure you that if you proceed today you will not receive a sentence of incarceration. But I have to also tell you that at some point, if and when the government says you’ve concluded with your cooperation, you could be incarcerated.
              “It could be that any sentence of incarceration imposed after your further cooperation is completed would be for less time than a sentence may be today. I can’t make any guarantees, but I’m not hiding my disgust, my disdain for this criminal offense.”

              For the record, Sullivan was wrong about Flynn being “an unregistered agent of a foreign country, while serving as the National Security Advisor,” and he later had it corrected:
              Sullivan: “I made a statement about Mr. Flynn acting as a foreign agent while serving in the White House. I may have misspoken. Does that need to be corrected?”
              Van Grack: “Yes, Your Honor, that would be correct, which is that the conduct ended, I believe, in mid-November 2016.”
              Sullivan: “Allright. That’s what I thought, and I felt terrible about that. I just want the record clear on that. You agree with that, Counsel?”
              Kelner (Flynn’s lawyer): “Yes, Your Honor.”

              “The same FBI that spied on the Trump campaign based on Hillary-paid for dossier.”

              No, they didn’t. A legitimate counterintelligence investigation isn’t “spying,” and the investigation wasn’t based on the Steele Dossier. It was opened after an ally, Australia, contacted our government to report that Papadopoulos was bragging while drunk about Russia releasing hacked info that would damage the Clinton campaign. The Steele Dossier came later.

              “40+ requests to unmask Flynn”

              They weren’t requests to unmask Flynn. They were requests to unmask the name of an unknown person who turned out to be Flynn. Maybe you should wonder what Flynn was doing that would introduce so many situations where someone would want a masked name to be revealed, where it turned out to be his name.

              And again, the unmasking requests are irrelevant to this court case, as his name was not masked on the transcripts of his calls with Kislyak.

              “The 302 is being edited 6 months later.”

              Please provide evidence of that. As far as I know, it wasn’t edited after February. If I’m wrong, I’d like to know what was edited, when, and why. Thanks.

              “efforts to entrap members of the Trump campaign and transition team”

              There were no efforts to “entrap” anyone. Why aren’t you concerned that so many people who worked on Trump’s campaign and transition team engaged in criminal acts?

              “incommensurate with whatever lie, if lie it was, was even told”

              On the contrary, his lie was material, as it prevented the investigation from finding out things like:
              * did Trump direct Flynn to discuss sanctions with Kislyak?
              * why did Flynn lie to Pence, Priebus and Spicer about his calls with Kislyak (or did Flynn not lie to them, and instead Pence and Spicer were lying to the public)?
              Keep in mind that Trump refused to answer questions about that first point and others that were related (when Trump answered some of Mueller’s questions and refused to answer others, see questions V. b-h: https://apnews.com/98f22511be924ced895ce5c0bfedfe37 )
              Seriously, do you think it’s appropriate for an incoming NSA to be lying to the VP-Elect about a foreign adversary? Pence and Trump both said Flynn was fired in part for lying to Pence.

              1. Miss or Madam, my apologies on that score…

                I’m well aware (as we are all we now) how very light the predicate for opening a counter-intelligence investigation is. Never was it imagined this power would be used against a rival political campaign over a comment at a bar. By this threshold, any future campaign (in these divided times) could be spied upon.

                The centrality of the Steele Dossier is that: a) it formed the sine qua non for the approval of the FISA warrants against Page (which the Horowitz Report admits, contra the numerous press propaganda to the contrary); b) it formed the basis for Comey’s tendentious meeting with Trump where he selectively informed Trump of its contents (conveniently neglecting to mention it was an HRC/DNC production; c) the leaking of the notes of Comey’s meeting with Trump about the dossier after Comey was fired helped form the basis for the appointment of the special prosecutor, as was Comey’s stated intent later. (Also, the media’s frenetic coverage of its selectively leaked content helped build momentum for Mueller.)

                Steele Dossier is an extremely important part of this story. We might add: d) the FBI received and had numerous refutations of it, including major questions raised about Steele’s primary sub-source (a certain likely progressive with ties to the Brookings Institution) even as it CONTINUED to be used as a basis for spying on a rival campaign — again, constituting the sine qua non, the critical mass that got the warrant from a legal “NO” to a legal “YES” for spying.

                1. I’m not going to minimize the problems with the FBI’s use of the Steele Dossier and FISA applications.

                  But that’s not key to US v. Flynn. Flynn’s conversations with Kislyak were captured because *Kislyak* was surveilled, which had nothing to do with the Steele Dossier.

                  As soon as Russia failed to respond to Obama’s sanctions as expected, there were questions about why, and that’s how the Flynn-Kislyak conversations came to light.

                  And then once it became clear that Flynn was lying to Pence and Spicer (according to their public statements), denying that he’d discussed sanctions with Kislyak, there was a totally valid reason for the FBI to interview Flynn. They’d have been remiss not to investigate why he was apparently lying to the VP-Elect about his communications with an adversary’s ambassador.

              2. For a lay person such as myself, this is the whole crux:

                “They weren’t requests to unmask Flynn. They were requests to unmask the name of an unknown person who turned out to be Flynn. Maybe you should wonder what Flynn was doing that would introduce so many situations where someone would want a masked name to be revealed, where it turned out to be his name.”

  6. I love the expressions of “riot porn” and “smoking dystopian hellscape” so much i’m willing to overlook the whataboutism, Jon. Good column.

    1. riot porn is a good phrase because porneia means shame in greek, and the riots are shameful as hell

      here’s another good turn of phrase: “example of how Congress will work tirelessly not to find answers”

        1. well the shame in the riot porn was not Jordan showing it, but the fact that it has been happening.

          so i was zig zagging in my remark, inspired by Turley’s clever phrase “working tirelessly not to find answers.” Man that was a good one.

  7. John, I agree with you except that if you’re referring to the “Resistance” as the Democrats, then the “interruptions” would be more from Barr (observing their behavior of constantly shutting him up and claiming their time). If you’re referring to the Republicans as the Resistance, then your statement is correct. (Although “Resistance” seems to have a special meaning (anti-Trump) since 2016, so it may not be the best word.) The hearing was to hear them spout out their narrative, not to hear Barr, that’s for sure.

  8. Barr is such a good guy for putting up with all the junior high insults. I’m not sold on him yet until he actually does something but his demeanor in the face of lethal stupid was impressive. “Class Act” as he savaged Jerry Sadler with during the hearing for not allowing a bathroom break.

  9. “Barr offered statistics that the shootings of African Americans by police officers has been on the decline and that the eight African Americans who died in the previous year from police shootings represented a smaller number than whites shot by police officers. He also argued that police are statistically less likely to use lethal force in dealing with black suspects.

    Those claims are subject to challenge, and the hearing could have had a discussion of systemic racism, but no one wanted that type of deep dive.”


    The numbers indicated above are for shootings of UNARMED people by the police, not simply the number of people killed by police. I don’t recall Barr making that mistake.

    I don’t know the specifics of last year, but usually when these are looked at, it’s a case of the unarmed person fighting with the police (irrespective of the race of the cop or perp) and then getting shot as a consequence. That usually leaves 1 or 2 cases per year where there is a bad shooting of an unarmed black person. That’s still not good but it’s a far cry from the way it’s presented to the public.

    Furthermore, these aren’t simply “claims’. This is actual crime data. Let’s be honest about the distinction between the two.

    This reality is far, far, far, far from the narrative asserted by left and is why they refuse to have an actual conversation about so called systematic racism by US police directed at the black population. There simply is NO DATA to support that assertion.

    The claim they usually make is that black men make up a much higher percent of the prison population than their overall demographics would suggest. This is supposed to prove that black men are unfairly represented in the prison population because for some absurd reason people think the mix of prison populations should be a very close approximation of the US population.

    Seriously?

    Ever notice that it NEVER occurs to those people that 90% of prison population being male is an even greater skewing of the population allocation? Does anyone believe that the criminal justice system is terribly corrupt because the overwhelming majority of prisoners are male?

    1. Hey Lorenzo, of course not. good observation, point well taken

      …. except by those who never get the point at all

  10. Barr should have walked out of the hearing and invited all reporters present to join him outside of the hearing room to hear the answers to the questions he was asked.

    1. That’s a great idea, except rather than walking out, he could simply say he will be taking questions from the media after the hearing.

  11. Well, it took Turley a couple of days to write a love letter to Bill Barr, but we knew it was coming, so It’s not a surprize. Shame that Turley will go down in history with the likes of Barr and Dershwitz defending the impeached POTUS. Turley jumped in the swamp with both feet and now he has to defend the indefensible.

    1. Did you actually watch the proceedings? Much of the behavior, as accurately chronicled by Prof Turley was somewhere between unprofessional and pathetic. Your comment fits with the latter.

      1. Skitch,
        It’s precisely because Fishwings behavior on this blog mirrors those House Democrats that she will never recognize them as anything other than her own.

  12. I didn’t really see much to criticize regarding the Republican behavior except in calling out their colleagues and how ludicrous the hearing was in not letting Barr answer the questions. Now regarding the next day’s tech hearing, the Republicans were awful in not understanding the issues or asking hard questions. (That hearing should have had each company rep separate, in a hot seat in Congress too, just like Barr.)

  13. Since I knew it was going to be more of the same from Jerry “Antifa is a myth” Nadler” and his merry minions, I did not watch after Barr came back from the potty break.

  14. All politicians play this game, the hot seat. Regarding Lafayette Park, Barr has nothing credible to say. He lied. First he didn’t know Trump’s was going to do his trick then it was that he didn’t know at certain time then he knew. The truth comes from the periphery, those with no skin in the game. Barr is Trump’s tool so he is going to be a target and he lacks credibility, the main ingredient of a target. Enough high up people have stated that the police went too far, the ‘walk’ was a provocation with no redeeming qualities, and the use of the church for political statement was wrong six ways from Sunday. That Barr should be skewered is only fair, given the travesty he takes part in.

    1. “Enough high up people”… like our media? How many times, Sir, have the media reported “largely peaceful protests” in the past 60 days while burying the lede about the actual quotient of violence and mayhem? How many times have they covered for the throwing of projectiles at our police? By Occam’s razor, it is not more obvious that the park police would wish to impose fascism on behalf of Trump as opposed to clearing (or setting up a new fence) against yet another unruly leftist mob… From everything we’ve seen, there are concrete threats to persons and property in many of the main cities in which these “mostly peaceful protests” have occurred. With a media that lies this much (tear gas vs pepper spray), and a Congress that repeats those lies even after disproved, we can never trust the first report we hear out of the press…

      1. The ‘mostly peaceful’ phrase is a very clever linguistic ploy that relies on the audience not wanting to acknowledge the full reality of the event. This allows the audience to conclude that ‘mostly peaceful’ is about the same as peaceful.

        Of course, the reality is far different because for an objective viewer, even one act of violence in a crowd of peaceful people will always be considered the most important thing that happened during that event. For example, if someone gets stabbed on a crowded subway train, no objective person is going to describe that journey as mostly peaceful and leave out the important part about the stabbing. Instead, the stabbing is the important element of that journey.

        I can only conclude that using the phrase ‘mostly peaceful protests’ is an agreement between the author and the audience to live in denial, which makes it very effective propaganda.

    2. From everything I’ve read on AG Barr I’ve never seen any suggestion or accusation of him being a “TOOL” for any agency, person or party he worked for!!? There’s this very bad habit that seems to be systemic among democrats of accusing the President and any and all his Family, Friends, Staff ect of being these utterly lying, cheating, corrupt, under handed, ect ( basket of deplorables) and yet they never are able to prove with FACTS their remarks!!! This game by democrats of outrageous accusations must be policed and the victims need to start suing the pants off these complete FOOLS!!!

    3. That the current negligent charlatan leadership of the Democrats should be skewered is only fair. Skewered.

  15. “Republicans played what could only be described as eight minutes of virtual ‘riot porn’ for the hard right.” The fact that those 8 minutes of video existed proves the Republicans’ point. If the riots were peaceful protests there would be no footage for the Right to play. Videos of sheep in a field don’t prove there’s no wolves eating the sheep…but shots of woolly carcasses sure do, even if many of the sheep survive.

  16. Just noting, that you wrote at the start – “There was nothing in the middle: either the protests are either our final Armageddon or the Garden of Eden” but then had in your conclusion – “…as both parties fiddle with politics while the nation burns.”

    1. Turley is creating a false opposition (literally lol). Anyone who saw the protests when it was cleared who was remotely reasonable would have concluded they were violent. Such people throwing projectiles and hostilely occupying public spaces needn’t be “Armageddon” to trigger precisely the reasonable law enforcement the park police used. Turley engages in hyperbole to obscure how unreasonable the left’s claims are here. If you have a chance, watch the other hearing from the same day where leftist House members caterwaul like rude babies, interrupting and insulting the head of the park police, promoting the propaganda that this was fascistic tactics that day coordinated with Trump’s visit to the church (zero proof of that), rather than quite normal (at least until yesterday) restoral of civic order.

      1. BS John. Unusual for me, I had the TV on before and during the Lafayette Park event. The violent participants were almost all in uniform. It was a laid back crowd in close but non-confrontational proximity to the cops. It was piss poor crowd “control” with aggressive tactics without proper warning and Barr could be ssen in the immediate background in the 10-15 minutes leading up to the clearing of the 10k peaceful citizens so “Citizen 1” could have his photo op. That was a disgusting display for anyone not a complete Trump stooge.

        1. How many nights of violence had there been there prior to that afternoon, Sir? Even if one granted your version of events (highly likely to be propaganda, as you can’t have all view angles on your TV, and the media is highly selective in what it shows), it’s not unreasonable for the park service to have cordoned off a new area for the crowd prophylactically after so many prior nights of violence.

          1. John, maybe you think the police should react to events at least 12 hours prior to the those they face in real time, but that leads to really bad outcomes no matter how things trend. The crowd was contained, docile, and in a good mood, and no reason to move them other than Fatso’s photo op. Believe me or KMA, your choice.

            BTW, I was watching CNN which somehow had overhead cameras and you could see everything.

            1. Sir you have no sense of defending civilization or public order in depth if you don’t understand that if, night after night, the same group metastasizes into a group that becomes violent, that the residents, both business and civilian, who live nearby, may want a more aggressive cordoning and controlling of the space to prevent the next night’s chaos.

              You act like the right to protest — a First Amendment right I strongly support — is independent of any questions of “time, manner, and place”, and that there aren’t other competing concerns about controlling a venue by residents when there are repeated problems with chaos.

              Perhaps the best time for the police to secure an area is in the day when it’s less violent. It hardly follows that this is fascistic movement of anti-democracy, to ensure a stabler area of control for a movement that proves, night and night again, to attack the civilization around it, doing not a little damage.

              Democracies have the right to defend themselves against revolutions in the street, including taking prophylactic measures about where people may protest, to strategically ensure the common peace.

              1. Dude, I’m only doing this one more time. So, if I speed down Penn Ave Thursday night, you think the cops should give you a ticket Friday on your way to Jusiciary Square? WTF is wrong with you.

                Look at the video: The crowd was docile, not aggressive, contained and ringed in the park with zero pushing, throwing, umbrellas, nothing, nada, bupkus, zilcho ZERO violence. Even in retreat with pepper spray they remained largely the same. THERE WAS NO THREAT other than the pig presently nesting in the WH.

                1. Sir, you’re being obtuse. Your analogy is highly faulty. The question is not “if I speed down Penn Ave Thursday night, you think the cops should give you a ticket Friday on your way to Jusiciary Square” but rather if you were to speed every night down the same road, would the cops have the right to do a dragnet to capture you.

                  In this case we’re not even talking about a punishment but a changing of the cordoned are of protest.

                2. Sorry pal, they didn’t leave when ordered to do so. That’s how it works.

                  “But judge, I was being polite when I robbed the liquor store. I said please and thank you, so I should not be treated like a criminal!”

              2. I should add that there’s no right of any one group to interminably occupy a public space, day after day, where others who don’t share said views can’t use that public space for other public purposes.

                At some point other questions inhere besides just the First Amendment rights of the protesters, like the duty of local government to secure local order and permit a general access to public spaces for other reasons too.

          2. It’s totally unreasonable for them to have cleared the area **when they did**, since they could have just half an hour until the curfew, when many of the peaceful protesters presumably would have left on their own.

            It’s also totally unreasonable for them not to have given a louder notice and then waiting a few minutes before starting to attack protesters with things like tear gas, pepper balls, flash grenades, rubber bullets, and batons.

        2. During Obama years police used tear gas against protestors in Ferguson and Baltimore and at the Border. But as usual, the media doesn’t report these FACTS. And as usual Barack Obama has the audacity to politicize a eulogy in order to spread blatant lies that go un-fact-checked in the media.

        3. People can be laid back and violating the peace at the same time.

          PSA: if you don’t want the cops to be aggressive with you, follow their orders. works like a charm.

          However, if you want to pretend your rights are violated, don’t follow orders and then whine about the outcome to politicians and media outlets that support your cause.

      2. Turley’s just being fair in his customary courtroom fashion.

        Fair, kind of like Jesus being fair when he asked the Pharisees, about the log in their eyes, when they pointed out the speck in His own.

        So on the one hand there is a violent insurrection and collapse of law and order in major metros. And in Washington they attack federal buildings with attempted arson. And these crooks apologize for the disorder.

        On the other hand, Barr did something wrong. Not sure what, but they were certain of it.

  17. The Dems were looking dumb. A lot of them are dumb. Teach em this Latin phrase:. Non coitus interruptus.

    1. Some of them are way past dumb and outright idiots. Here is a famous clip of Hank Johnson (one of Barr’s inquisitors the other day) asking if a new military base on Guam would ‘tip over’ the island.

      Cannot make this stuff up!

      1. Check out Johnson talking about midgets. He corrects himself because the word isn’t PC enough and prefers “abnormally small people” to the offensive “midgets”. He must have an IQ of about 60.

  18. Dr. T your statement “Congress will work tirelessly not to find answers when a narrative is too good to check.” is wrong. This is ENTIRELY a tactic of the uncivil, scream lies at you, talk over you Democrats. They’ve taught this tactic to the youth and we’ve seen it in action for the last 3 years and even more recently over the last 4 months with the unpeaceful rioters and even the supposed protestors. Call a spade a spade – it’s a Democrat strategy. I’ve seen little of it from the other side.

  19. “Reclaiming my time.” MY time. Time to make assertions. Time to ask questions with presuppositions which are not to be challenged. NO time for witness to answer.
    There is a simple procedure: The time the witness uses to answer the question does not count against the questioner’s five minutes. Each utterance by the questioner must be a brief single-sentence question. No speeches. No demand for a “yes or no.” (Have you stopped beating your wife lately; yes or no.) Witness must be allowed to address any presuppositions in the questions. In a court my attorney gets to object to the presumption of facts not in evidence in a question. Any other committee member should be able to object with the ensuing discussion off the clock.
    A video is not a question. A speech is not a question. A committee hearing is not for the committee members to showcase.

    1. Yeah this was all Resistance agitprop of the dumbest sort. It’s insulting to the country to have watched it. I’ve never seen a greater kangaroo court, and that includes the Kavanaugh hearings…

  20. Turley understates the Orwellian aspect of the hearing that went far beyond prior interrupting gaucheness by some Republicans. The whole hearing, from beginning to end, was a show trial with constant orchestrated interruptions by the Resistance. Turley, for all his smarts and 70% objectivity, will sometimes be willfully blind about just how radical the congressional Democratic delegation — and the rest of the party’s leadership — is now acting. They show a continued real contempt for democracy, and a dangerous lust for power.

    1. Oh he gets it. What we don’t see, is, how Turley gets the heat from his simpering, pathetic “colleagues” for being fair to Trump.

      He is too much of a pro to complain about it, but you can see from all the articles he posts about other academics taking flak, that it concerns him.

      I don’t know Turley personally, I am only speculating, but I have a good hunch it’s so.

      We should be glad Turley had the brass bllz to go up there and testify at the impeachment, as to the correct law on the subject. For that he will always have my thanks

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