Tuesday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing was surprising only in that the Attorney General who was its subject for questioning actually showed up. The rest was completely predictable — though, of course, still outrageous and notable for several reasons. We had a Hitlerian Reichstag Fire-type video played (against Committee Rules by Gym Jordan.) Bill Barr’s racism was on full display while he grew visibly more agitated when challenged by Black members of the Committee than by white members. And, in this exchange with Rep. David Cicilline (D-NY) Barr seemed to struggle with the question of acceptability of foreign interference in our elections.
Rep. Cicilline noted that Barr’s claims in his opening statement that he’s fighting Russian interference in our elections seem to be at odds with his gross mischaracterization of the Mueller report, and with Barr’s calling the Russia investigation a “hoax.”
REP. CICILLINE: But the Justice Department’s own Inspector General, your department’s Michael Horowitz found that the investigation had been initiated properly and without political bias. Isn’t that correct?
REP. CICILLINE: That was not Mr. Horowitz’s finding?
REP. CICILLINE: You’re wrong. He found it had —
BARR: He said he found —
REP. CICILLINE: I’m reclaiming my time, without political bias. Reclaiming my time. In April of this year, the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee unanimously found that Russia interfered with our elections and attempted to undermine American democracy, correct?
BARR: And I said so too.
REP. CICILLINE: Is it ever appropriate, sir, for the president to solicit or accept foreign assistance in an election?
BARR: (*long pause*) Depends what kind of assistance.
REP. CICILLINE: Is it ever appropriate for the president or presidential candidate to accept or solicit foreign assistance of ANY kind in his or her election?
BARR: No, it’s not appropriate.
REP. CICILLINE: Okay, sorry you had to STRUGGLE with that one, Mr. Attorney General.
That was nearly a Senator Kamala Harris moment, when he couldn’t answer her question because he didn’t know what the word “suggested” meant.
Then Rep. Cicilline turned to the issue of Federal officers violently suppressing peaceful protest. He called Barr out for neglecting, conveniently, to mention the vast majority of peaceful protesters in his absurd, gaslighting opening statement, and the kidnapping, tear gassing, and beating of American citizens posing no threat to anyone, nor Federal property. He asked if it was ever appropriate to use force against peaceful protesters. Surprisingly, Barr answered “Not against peaceful protesters.
Rep. Cicilline talked about elected officials who had been teargassed at peaceful protests and then asked again if it’s ever appropriate to use tear gas on peaceful protesters. Suddenly Barr wasn’t so sure.
BARR: The problem in these things sometimes occur because it’s hard to separate people who —
REP. CICILLINE: My question is specific. Do you think it’s ever appropriate to use tear gas on peaceful protesters? Yes or no?
BARR: It is appropriate to use tear gas when it’s indicated to disperse an unlawfully assembly. Sometimes unfortunately peaceful protesters are affected by that.
REP. CICILLINE: There’s video evidence as well. I’m going to ask you to look at this video. Just so you know — this is the video that’s capturing the nation’s attention this weekend shot by tribune — that video is of Christopher David a Navy veteran being beaten and teargassed by the officers. Do you think that was appropriate?
BARR: I didn’t see them tear gas. There seemed to be gas in the area. I don’t know what kind of gas it was and I don’t know whether it was directed at him.
REP. CICILLINE: Do you think what happened to Mr. David was appropriate, Mr. Barr?
BARR: The Inspector General’s reviewing that particular instance.
REP. CICILLINE: Well, do you think he deserved to get pepper sprayed and beaten to the point of broken bones?
BARR: As I said, the Inspector General is going to review the incident.
REP. CICILLINE: So as the top law enforcement official in our country, do you think Americans who show up to peacefully protest should expect to be beaten and pepper sprayed and have their bones broken by federal officers?
BARR: Well, I don’t think that what was happening immediately around the courthouse was a peaceful protest.
REP. CICILLINE: That’s not my question, Mr. Barr. My question is, do you think as the chief — reclaiming my time. Reclaiming my time. Mr. Barr, my question is do you think as the top law enforcement official in this country that Americans who show up to peacefully protest should expect to be beaten, pepper sprayed, and have their bones broken by federal officials? Yes or no?
BARR: I don’t think peaceful protesters should face that.
REP. CICILLINE: That’s correct.
OH, Barr didn’t see them TEAR GAS. That was HAPPY gas sprayed in the Navy Vet’s face! Nitrous oxide, probably? Those were maybe those balloon things they bang together at ballgames they were hitting him with! And the gas in the air was probably HELIUM, people, because isn’t it so much fun when everyone’s voice sounds like Alvin the Chipmunk? It’s a big PARTY! It’s not the Federal officers’ fault that Navy Vets’ bones broke — he probably has that disease where his bones are like thin, fragile glass and they shatter when a strong wind comes by…
For f*ck’s sake, THAT was Barr’s response after watching a Navy Veteran standing still, in a non threatening way, getting tear-gassed and beaten by multiple extra-legal para-military troopers? It took five, count them, five repetitions of the question by Rep. Cicilline for Bill Barr to state that a peaceful protester does not deserve to be tear-gassed or have their bones broken.
Americans, here is your top Law Enforcement officer. William Barr. Foreign interference in our elections is cool, and only under extreme duress will he admit maybe people shouldn’t be beaten and gassed for protesting.