Attorney General Bill Barr faced pointed questions on a range of issues at a House Judiciary Committee hearing this week. Connecticut Public Radio’s Morning Edition host Diane Orson reached out to Jim Himes, the state’s 4th District congressman, for his reaction. Himes, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, questioned Robert Mueller last year on the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
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You say the Barr hearing left you feeling dispirited. Why?
Because if you watch the hearing, you think this is a conflict between Democrats and Republicans. It’s dispiriting because [Barr] is a trained attorney, he’s a good thinker so the chances you’re going to get clear, honest answers from him in a five-minute period of time are fairly low.
But the issue here is the attorney general, from the moment he became the attorney general, has constantly overstepped his authority in favor of the president. That started, of course, with his mischaracterization of what the Mueller report said, such a mischaracterization that Bob Mueller actually said it was a mischaracterization.
The Mueller report came up during the hearing. Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee made the point that the Judiciary Committee still doesn’t have an unredacted copy of that report. Why does that matter?
Certainly the Congress and eventually the American people deserve to know all the facts. Particularly at a time when the attorney general -- and this is probably the worst part of his testimony -- in his written testimony he said the “Russia-gate,” he sort of challenged the notion that there was anything there around the Russia investigation.
We know because of the unanimous assessment of the intelligence community that Russia interfered in the 2016 election and that they did it on behalf of Donald Trump. And then we also know that there was plenty of untoward activities between the Trump campaign and Russia. And to have the attorney general dismiss it as “Russia-gate” is just unacceptable for a man who is supposed to be independent.
So, what’s your takeaway from the hearing?
My main takeaway -- and I hate to get political when we’re talking about the business of the American people -- is that Barr is going to be a defender of the president and not a defender of justice till the next administration.