Lindsey Graham didn’t turn in the most despicable performance at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing today with William Barr. That honor belongs to first-term Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, who seriously claimed that the entire Russia investigation began because Peter Strzok did not like how Trump supporters smelled. Josh Hawley, the guy to go to when your existing conspiracy theory just isn’t wacky enough.
But while Hawley was advancing conspiracy science from Q all the way to Z, the more important performance was that of Senate Judiciary Chair Graham. Unbelievably, Graham opened a hearing on the Mueller report by declaring that, as far as he was concerned, “It is over.” Graham began the hearing by declaring that he wasn’t going to hear it—a position that was shared by Ted Cruz, who stumbled near the conclusion to remark on how rare the word “Russia” was during the day’s hearing, even though it had been used hundreds of times.
At the end of the day, Graham went out of the hearing the way he came in—by declaring the Mueller report “over.” So over, in fact, that Graham is going to refuse to call Robert Mueller as a witness.
During the day, every Democratic senator made the point that both Mueller and former White House counsel Don McGahn needed to appear before the committee to clarify their sides of critical issues. And with Barr saying over a dozen times during the hearing that he was “confused” or “puzzled” or “didn’t understand” Mueller’s position on obstruction, there seems only one possible way to clear up the issue—ask Mueller.
Even Barr seemed to understand that it was necessary that Mueller appear. In the shortened second round of questioning, Sen. Amy Klobuchar asked about whether the investigation had looked into Trump’s taxes or finances, as Trump had claimed. Barr responded that he did not know: “You can ask Mueller when he comes.”
But Klobuchar will not get that chance. Neither will anyone else. Not so long as Republicans control the Senate.
At the very end of the hearing, as Barr began to complain about Mueller, demeaned the professionalism of his team, denied that Mueller was an experienced prosecutor, and called his letter “snitty,” he also admitted that other people had witnessed the call between Barr and Mueller.
According to Barr, the call was on speaker phone, Rod Rosenstein was in the room, and so were … others. Others whom Barr would not name. One of those others apparently took notes in the meeting. However, Barr refused a request for those notes, telling Sen. Richard Blumenthal, “Why should you have them?” Actually, confirming the accuracy of congressional testimony should be enough of a reason.
But Graham jumped in quickly here, saying he would contact Mueller and see if he had any disagreement with Barr’s statements regarding the call. That might seem almost fair, except that the reason Graham handled it so quickly and in that way was explicitly so that he could have Mueller not appear as a witness.
Republicans know that if Robert Mueller sits down as a witness, the nation will be watching. And while it is watching, Democrats will be able to ask Mueller about all the incidents of obstruction, all the hundreds of contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia, and all of the special counsel’s concerns about how Barr distorted his results.
Graham doesn’t want that. Because … it’s over. Now, let’s get back to the important stuff, like Hillary’s emails.