Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Dear Bill: Barr Back in Hot Seat

The Attorney General has 10am ET date with destiny in Senate to explain himself after secret Mueller letter revealed.

My take: This is the last paragraph of Barr’s prepared remarks: “From here on, the exercise of responding and reacting to the report is a matter for the American people and the political process. As I am sure you agree, it is vitally important for the Department of Justice to stand apart from the political process and not to become an adjunct of it.”

There now seems to be little doubt that Mueller believes Barr’s conduct took the prestige of the Attorney General’s office and injected it directly into the political process in a way that was misleading at best.

Barr will do his best before the Senate to avoid explaining what his motives have been to apparently do Trump’s bidding at every turn since he received the Mueller report.

We now know in black and white that Mueller has differences with how Barr has handled things. What has yet to be explained is why Mueller has stayed silent for so long in the face of the very concern he highlighted in his letter to Barr: that the public’s confidence in the investigation itself has been undermined.

That has occurred because of Barr’s actions, but also because of Mueller’s silence.

First, came leaked word that Mueller’s staff was concerned about Barr’s behavior and characterization of the report. Now comes leaked word of Mueller’s letter.

We already knew before yesterday that (a) Mueller thought it was possible that Trump obstructed justice; and (b) Barr has gone out of his way to minimize attention to that specific conclusion of Mueller.

As these two realities play out in congressional hearings, will Nancy Pelosi change her mind on pursuing impeachment or will public opinion about Trump’s conduct change substantially?

Despite Tuesday night’s breaking news and Wednesday’s dramatic hearing, the answer to both is probably “no.”

Key: Republicans in Congress are already/still shamelessly circling the wagons in support of Barr. That will impact Pelosi’s calculations.

Biden’s To Lose

Polls show Joe is the undisputed frontrunner as Bernie goes contrast.

My take: Senior Democratic sources say Biden is benefiting from many establishment-leaning voters seeing no other candidate in the field who is demonstrating both the ability to stop Bernie Sanders and the capacity to take on Trump. By avoiding answering too many questions about his issue positions and focusing on Trump, Biden has smartly leveraged his name ID and perceived electability to gain early momentum.

There have been stumbles, to be sure, but Biden is off to a faster start than I thought he would be. Sanders has engaged Biden directly on trade, the Iraq war, and other issues because he needs to win back both support and the perception that he and Biden are alone in the top tier. Until key state and national polls again show Sanders closer to Biden than the rest of the pack, Biden will continue to build momentum from momentum.

There’s a long way to go, but Sanders has to hope that Biden (1) loses support from the left after being pinned down on key issues; (2) has trouble sustaining his fundraising over time; (3) isn’t seen by Democratic voters as overwhelmingly the most able to beat Trump, as he is currently.

The moment is now for candidates such as Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren to demonstrate they are in the top tier and win some of the current vote away from their rivals. At least some of Biden’s current support is soft enough to pry away.

2 thoughts on “Wednesday, May 1, 2019

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