On Tuesday, Attorney General Bill Barr appeared before the House Judiciary Committee. It did not go well. At one point, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) confronted Barr over the fact that he had lowered the sentencing recommendation for longtime Trump ally Roger Stone and thereby carried out the political will of the president. Barr refused to admit this fact — he tried to claim that his team’s decision to lower the government’s sentencing recommendation for Stone had nothing to do with what the president wanted, but that’s just not true. The president clearly wanted a better path for Stone. Barr got vehement in his attempt to convince Johnson and observers of his take.
In his initial questioning, Johnson posed the query to Barr:
‘Isn’t it true when prosecutors in the Roger Stone case filed a memo recommending a sentence of 7 to 9 years in prison, a few hours later, President Trump tweeted that the sentence recommendation was — quote — a disgrace? You’re aware of that?’
After Barr replied with a simple “yes,” Johnson continued:
‘And several hours after that, you filed a pleading with the court stating that the sentence recommendation should be changed and you would be asking for a lighter sentence for Roger Stone?’
In response, Barr claimed that “no,” Johnson’s account of the situation was not correct.
Although Johnson was fed up with Barr’s stonewalling and tried to pressure him into offering straightforward answers, part of what Barr seems to have been getting at is that — according to him — the department made the decision to lower Stone’s sentencing recommendation before Trump publicly commented about the issue. Yet, they apparently only filed their updated recommendation after Trump’s comments — to suggest that the Department of Justice acted in some kind of vacuum is ridiculous.
At one point, Barr vehemently insisted to Johnson that he was “telling [his] story,” but Johnson said that he didn’t want to hear the attorney general’s “story” — he wanted answers.
Eventually, Johnson added, addressing Barr directly:
‘You’re expecting the American people to believe that you did not do what Trump wanted you to do when you changed that sentencing recommendation and lowered it for Roger Stone? You think the American people don’t understand that you were carrying out Trump’s will?’
‘I had not discussed my sentencing recommendation with anyone at the White House or anyone outside the department… let me ask you! Do you think it is fair for a 67-year-old to be sent to prison for 7 to 9 years?’
Was it “fair” for Stone to carry out the crimes that sparked the sentence in the first place? Besides — Barr can pretend like some kind of altruism underpinned the sentencing recommendation update, but the fact is that the person who actually got the special treatment was Trump’s ally.
Watch Barr’s exchanges with Johnson below:
Barr got confronted over his nonsense at other points during the hearing. At one point, Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.), commented:
‘I would just suggest that actions speak louder than words and that you really should keep the name of the Honorable John Lewis out of the Department of Justice’s mouth.’
Throughout much of the hearing, Republicans like Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) stewed in the background.
🔥 Rep @CedricRichmond to Attorney General William Barr: “I would just suggest that actions speak louder than words and that you really should keep the name of the Honorable John Lewis out of the Department of Justice’s mouth.”
— Yamiche Alcindor (@Yamiche) July 28, 2020