Sen. Whitehouse Accuses Barr of ‘Masterful Hairsplitting’ on Mueller in Fierce Exchange

Sen. Whitehouse Accuses Barr of ‘Masterful Hairsplitting’ on Mueller in Fierce Exchange

If looks could start a fire, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) would have turned Bill Barr into the building in The Towering Inferno on Wednesday.

Whitehouse was questioning the attorney general about the letter that special counsel Robert Mueller sent the Justice Department at the end of March to protest Barr’s handling of the release of Mueller’s report. The letter, which The Washington Post revealed the existence of Tuesday night, contradicts testimony Barr gave in the House on April 9 that he was unaware Mueller or his team were discontented with the four-page summation he released the weekend the report was delivered to him.

That April 9 admission had been elicited by Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL), who asked, “Reports have emerged recently, general, that members of the Special Counsel’s team are frustrated at some level with the limited information included in your March 24th letter, that it does not adequately or accurately necessarily portray the report’s findings. Do you know what they’re referencing with that?”

Barr responded, “No, I don’t.”

By that point, Barr would have been in possession of Mueller’s letter for almost two weeks, and had followed up that letter with a phone call with the special counsel. So he would have darn well known that Mueller’s team was frustrated with his summary.

On Wednesday, Whitehouse asked Barr if perhaps that moment with Crist would have been a good time to reveal the existence of the letter, since Crist asked him “a very related question.”

Barr responded, “I don’t know what you mean by related, I think it is a very different question.”

That was when Whitehouse gave him a glare that could have caused Barr to spontaneously combust. The senator then tossed Barr a backhanded compliment, saying the answer was “masterful hairsplitting.”

That will teach Charlie Crist, though: next time you want Barr to admit to be honest, make sure you ask him about the letter that you had no idea Mueller had sent him.

Watch the exchange above, via C-SPAN.

Gary Legum

Gary Legum has written about politics and culture for Independent Journal Review, Salon, The Daily Beast, Wonkette, AlterNet and McSweeney's, among others. He currently lives in his native state of Virginia.