Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Jerry Nadler has said many idiotic things and asked a multitude of dumb questions in his long career in DC, but the one-sentence political statement he made regarding Attorney General William Barr’s refusal to testify before the committee may be the most asinine thing the 14-term Congressman has ever said in public.
“I don’t know what he’s afraid of,” he said.
It has been known for a while that Barr would agree to testify before the committee, just as he did today before the Senate committee, as long as the format was aligned with the standard hearing procedures members of the executive branch are normally given. But Nadler continued to refuse all the way up until the day before. He wanted a very different format, one we never see. He wanted staff lawyers to question Barr. This is both irregular and dangerous.
Barr isn’t scared of questions. He’s not scared to testify. But if he’s going to take the time to do so, he wants there to be the same checks and balances of accountability on the table. This is the real reason he won’t accept this format. I’ll explain…
These hearings are always a two-edged sword. Yes, whoever is in the hot seat is often at a disadvantage, but the people asking the questions also have an opportunity to be embarrassed, get unnecessarily emotional, or get caught on poor footing in the back and forth. After three decades, Democratic presidential frontrunner Joe Biden, a former Senator, is still answering questions about how he handled the Anita Hill hearings.
Nadler knows Barr is exceptional at answering questions as they pertain to the law. He is very capable of turning the tables on the people asking questions, as he did several times today during the Senate hearings. For example…
Attorney General Bill Barr shuts down Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-NJ) after Whitehouse gets upset over Barr's use of the term "spying"https://t.co/2TQNh73jmR
— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) May 1, 2019
Any members of the House committee asking questions must be guarded with how they ask. They can’t badger the witness without fear of it becoming a soundbite played over and over again by their opponents during election seasons. They can come out looking like fools, especially with a witness as potent as Barr.
Nadler wants staff attorneys asking the tough questions because they have no accountability. If they get embarrassed or appear to be badgering, nobody’s going to remember their names the next day. But if a member of the committee gets into it with Barr, they’re more likely to come out looking poorly.
And they each have an election next year.
Jerry Nadler wants it to appear that Barr is scared, but all Barr wants is the accountability that comes with facing members of the House directly. It’s Nadler who’s clearly too scared of Barr to risk asking the questions himself.