Beware the ends of March, a soothsayer might say to William Barr. Barr has finally agreed to appear before the House Judiciary Committee, after being asked to do so a year ago, in the wake of the Mueller Investigation. Jerry Nadler sent a letter to Barr yesterday, saying “In your tenure as Attorney General, you have engaged in a pattern of conduct in legal matters relating to the President that raises significant concerns for this Committee. In the past week alone, you have taken steps that raise grave questions about your leadership of the Department of Justice.”
The letter then goes on to cite Rudy Giuliani’s “process” of providing the DOJ information about Trump’s political rivals, the kerfuffle over the Roger Stone sentencing, and the removal of U.S. Attorney Jessie Liu who oversaw the prosecution of Stone, Rick Gates and Michael Flynn. The letter states, “There are not the only issues that our Committee intends to discuss with you when you appear but they are enough to require our immediate attention.” Politico:
In addition to Stone and Liu, Democrats have a long list of issues they’re likely to press Barr on, including his involvement in decisions surrounding Trump’s decision to withhold military funds from Ukraine last year, and his handling of a whistleblower complaint about the episode that DOJ determined should be withheld from Congress, overruling an intelligence community inspector general. Those episodes helped spark House Democrats’ push to impeach Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of their investigations.
Trump mentioned Barr on his July 25, 2019 call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, when he urged the country’s government to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden. DOJ has indicated that Trump did not convey this request to Barr, but he has yet to testify publicly on the matter.
Barr’s March 31 testimony may also come after the release of a book by former national security adviser John Bolton, slated for a mid-March publication. Bolton is expected to reveal details about his conversations with senior administration officials about concerns related to Trump’s handling of Ukraine. Barr denied a New York Times account of Bolton’s book suggesting that Bolton raised concerns directly to Barr that Trump might be doing personal favors for foreign autocrats.
The timing of this is exquisite. Bolton’s book is going to produce lots of juicy tidbits and watching Barr address them should be illuminating — as well as entertaining. If I had to predict one upcoming episode in politics that stands to be a real game changer, at this point, and on these facts, I would say this March 31 appearance of Barr is it.