His namesake just sits there and lets him: William Barr has made some weird presentations with respect to the Mueller probe, or at least he has seemed to do so.
Then too, we have the pundits. Consider a presentation by Elliott Williams on last evening's 11th Hour.
Brian Williams asked Elliott Williams, a former federal prosecutor (aren't they all?), to comment on Barr's testimony. We were struck by the lack or professionalism Brian received in reply.
Elliott Williams is plainly quite bright, but he's performing partisan cable punditry at a highly tribal time. Below, you see Brian Williams' question, and the start of his namesake's reply:
BRIAN WILLIAMS (5/2/19): What stood out to you from Barr yesterday?"Has the President directed you to investigate anybody, or whatever the wording was?" Elliott Williams was describing the most striking moment from the long hearing, and he didn't seem real sure concerning what Barr had been asked!
ELLIOTT WILLIAMS: I think just the wordsmithing. I think there was a lot of, you know—so for instance, not being able to answer the question from Kamala Harris, which was the one kill-shot of the day yesterday, sort of where she drew blood.
With not being able to answer the question, "Has the President directed"—I don't want to get the wording precisely right—wrong. Has the President directed you to investigate anybody, or whatever the wording was. And of course, he tried to parse it and wordsmith it a little bit.
So it may tend to go on channels like MSNBC, where (quite literally) no guest ever appears in prime time except those who agree with, and will repeat, the prevailing company line.
And sure enough! As Elliott Williams continued, so did his confusion. By the time he was done, he had seemed to misstate what Barr had been asked; he had made a false accusation against Barr; and he had flatly misstated something Barr clearly said. This is all part of an evening's work on a fully partisan channel:
ELLIOTT WILLIAMS (continuing directly): Based what we know about this President and how he has incorrectly treated his political adversaries, it seems undeniable that the President would have asked, or at least intimated or suggested or hinted, all of these wordsmithing words, that, you know, that the Attorney General go after his opponents. We've seen instances of this with Whitaker, with Barr—pardon me, not with Barr yet, but with Whitaker and with Attorney General Sessions.Below, we'll show you the text of the full Q-and-A in question. But that was a terrible presentation by Williams. It helps us see where fully partisan "cable news" can take us.
So it seems undeniable that the President would have asked that. And I think Barr trying to sort of slip into lawyer mode—you know, "What did you mean by suggest, Senator Harris?"—was a little bit too cute by half, I think.
First, a note on those "wordsmithing words." Rather plainly, Williams suggested, then said, that Barr had introduced such words—intimated, suggested and hinted—in an attempt to avoid answering a direct question about whether he has been asked to conduct investigations of anyone.
In fact, the only "wordsmithing words" in play were introduced by Senator Harris. In her original question, she asked Barr if Trump or anyone else at the White House had "asked or suggested" that Barr investigate anyone. As the exchange went along, she introduced two other words—"hinted" and "intimated."
Barr introduced no other words. He spoke to the two words with which he'd been confronted—"asked" and "suggested." No other words appeared in his remarks.
In that sense, Williams seemed to make a false claim about the introduction of wordsmithed words. Having noted that, let's go to the original question Barr was asked: Has anyone at the White House asked or suggested that he investigate anyone?
Has anyone at the White House asked Barr to conduct an investigation? Plainly, Williams suggested that Barr was trying to avoid that question by introducing all those "wordsmithed words."
In fact, Barr directly answered that question. He flatly said that no one has asked him to investigate anyone.
We don't know if that's true or false. But Barr did make that plain assertion, and Williams plainly suggested that he didn't—indeed, that he tried to avoid such a statement by introducing all those words.
Barr flatly said that no one has asked him to conduct an investigation. Later, he seemed to be saying that no one has suggested that he do so, but Harris cut him off.
There was nothing wrong with Senator Harris' questions. Everyone is free to judge Barr's answer. But Williams' presentation last night was just flat-out bogus.
He didn't seem to know what Barr had been asked. He didn't seem to be aware of something Barr flatly said.
He implied that Barr had introduced a bunch of additional "wordsmithing words." We're sorry, but that didn't happen.
Elliott Williams made bogus remarks. Brian Williams just sat there and took it. When corporate channels go totally tribal, that's how the tribe will be served.
The full exchange: Below, you see the full exchange between Harris and Barr:
HARRIS (5/1/19): Attorney General Barr, has the president or anyone at the White House ever asked or suggested that you open an investigation of anyone?Barr said no to "asked," seemed to be saying no to "suggested." The "wordsmithed words" are fine, but they're offered by Harris, not Barr.
BARR: I wouldn't—I wouldn't—
HARRIS: Yes or no?
BARR: Could you repeat that question?
HARRIS: I will repeat it. Has the president or anyone at the White House ever asked or suggested that you open an investigation of anyone? Yes or no please, sir?
BARR: The president or anybody else?
HARRIS: Seems you'd remember something like that and be able to tell us.
BARR: Yeah, but I'm trying to grapple with the word "suggest." I mean, there have been discussions of, of matters out there that— They have not asked me to open an investigation, but—
HARRIS: Perhaps they have suggested?
BARR: I don't know. I wouldn't say suggest—
BARR: I don't know.
HARRIS: Inferred? You don't know? Okay.
Is that how Williams functioned in court? To watch the exchange, just click here.