Atty. Gen. William Barr makes first appearance before Congress since he released special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s final report.

Let’s start with a hypothetical. You are a babysitter, and the youngster under your care wants a chocolate bar. You ask, “Did your father forbid you from eating candy before dinner?” The child says, “No, he didn’t, but I suspect he wanted more information about past eating of chocolate bars put out. But I’m not interested in putting out summaries of his findings because that only triggers a lot of discussion and analysis.” You are impressed with the 8-year-old’s vocabulary and give him his Hershey’s. Later, you find out he was forbidden from eating chocolate. When asked about it, the youngster responds that, well, you never asked about what Mom said.

Now, is that a classic alternative fact situation, or is just a future lawyer using his best weasel words? Substitute Attorney General William Barr for the kid and his four-page review of special counsel Robert S. Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election for the candy bar, and you have a classic Alternative Fact of the Week conundrum: Is it really lying if you keep it as ambiguous and vague as possible? Normal human beings would probably say, why yes, it is. Lawyers? Well, there’s your challenge. It’s like “Avengers: Endgame,” the normal rules of time and space just don’t apply to such highly motivated individuals. Oh, and spoiler alert on that.


The sharp-tongued House Speaker accused the attorney general of lying to Congress when he covered up Robert Mueller’s critical letter complaining about his Trump-friendly rollout of the special counsel’s bombshell report.

For the record, Mr. Barr’s appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday was yet another reminder that the nation’s top law enforcement officer is really, truly, entirely and apparently happily in the bag for President Donald Trump. He is no more an objective prosecutor than are those various Democratic candidates running for president who are now calling for Mr. Barr’s resignation. It would be nice to have someone less partisan in that particular job — neither a flamethrower nor a firefighter — but it’s apparently not to be. Turns out, Mr. Barr is not only a consummate weasel wordsmith, he’s something of a fraidy cat, too, having decided that being interviewed by a fellow lawyer before the House Judiciary Committee Thursday was a non-starter. Egad, such a person might have actually cut through the weasel stuff.

Getting back to the chocolate bar analogy, Mr. Barr’s sweet moment came when he was asked about his testimony during an earlier appearance before Congress when he was asked by Rep. Charlie Crist about whether he had heard from “members of the special counsel’s team” who had reportedly expressed frustration over the limited information in Mr. Barr’s March 24 letter summarizing the Mueller findings, complaining that it had not “adequately or accurately” portrayed them. Mr. Barr had replied, no, he hadn’t. Yet, recently, it was disclosed that Mr. Mueller had written a letter expressing just such reservations and Mr. Barr had, in fact, received and read it prior to that testimony. Uh-oh.

Attorney General William Barr skipped a House hearing Thursday on special counsel Robert Mueller's Trump-Russia report.

MAs Sen. Mazie Hirono observed, “You knew you lied. And now, we know.” Mr. Barr wasn’t going to admit to the truth that easily. Instead, he observed that the question had centered on Mr. Mueller’s “team” and not Mr. Mueller himself. “I talked directly to Bob Mueller, not members of his team,” the attorney general pointed out. He piled on some extra silliness about how Mr. Mueller’s letter to him was a “bit snitty” and exactly how the special counsel couched his objections (whether the complaints centered on inaccuracy or context, for example), too. Let’s just add that the best description of Mr. Barr’s elaborate mealy-mouthisms came from Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse who coined a term that deserves to stick: “masterful hairsplitting.”

Still, Mr. Barr’s descent down into the ethical quagmire that is the Trump White House was almost overshadowed by the big man himself who was not exactly a quiet presence this week. Whether it was calling the special counsel’s investigation authorized by his own Justice Department, led by a Republican and which resulted in multiple prosecutions, an “attempted coup” or his horrific description of infanticide at a Wisconsin political rally that falsely made it sound like ob-gyns in certain states were lining up to do ritual killings, Mr. Trump has blown past the 10,000 false or misleading statement mark (according to The Washington Post’s impressive, if painful accounting) with no sign of slowing. Perhaps this is what the president meant when he told reporters a week ago that he is a “young, vibrant man.” No president can touch him on that front. He remains no more than a preteen in moral conduct.