Attorney General Bill Barr, as you’ve probably heard, is spending the day testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which includes some members who believe the Republican lawyer misled Congress and the public about the contents of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the Russia scandal.
There have already been plenty of fireworks and important exchanges, but there was something Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said – literally in the first minute of the hearing – that struck me as notable.
“The hearing will come to order, and the first order of business is to try to cool the room down. So we’ll see if we can do that. But the attorney general will be testifying here in a bit about the Mueller report. And I want to thank him for coming to the committee and giving us an explanation as to the actions he took and why he took them regarding the Mueller report.
“And here’s the good news; here’s the Mueller report. You can read it for yourself. It’s about 400 and something pages. I can’t say I’ve read it all, but I’ve read most of it.”
Perhaps Graham thought this brief moment of candor would be charming. That’s not how I saw it.
Graham isn’t just some random congressional back-bencher; he’s the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. For that matter, the Mueller report isn’t just some wonky GAO document that’s easy to overlook; it’s a document summarizing the results of one of the most important federal investigations in modern American history.
Indeed, it’s worth emphasizing the fact that only two members of Congress have reviewed a fully unredacted version of the special counsel’s findings – and Graham is one of the two.
And yet, by his own admission, he still hasn’t read the full report, which was made available to him and the rest of the world 13 days ago – a period that included two weekends, when an inquisitive senator with unique responsibilities could’ve caught up on his reading.
“I’m all good, I’m done with the Mueller report,” Graham said last week.
Perhaps, in hindsight, “done” was the wrong choice of words.
Look, I’m not unsympathetic. The Mueller report is a rather lengthy document and senators are busy. Lindsey Graham, in particular, has spent quite a bit of time doing television interviews (about the report he hasn’t finished reading), dismissing the importance of the report’s conclusions (despite not having finished reading it), and drawing conclusions about Mueller’s findings (before reading all of Mueller’s findings).
But when I say it’s Graham’s job to care about the details of the special counsel’s report, I’m being quite literal. The chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee has a responsibility to read the National Intelligence Estimate; the chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee has to read the farm bill, and the chair of the Judiciary Committee has to read documents like the Mueller report.
Stuff like this is in the job description.
Except, Graham hasn’t gotten around to doing his homework in between interviews about his indifference to the document’s findings. (On CBS’s “Face the Nation” a few days ago, the South Carolinian repeatedly said, “I don’t care” about evidence of Donald Trump possibly having committed obstruction of justice.)
Graham specifically called a hearing with the attorney general to discuss the Mueller report. Was he really so incurious that he couldn’t bring himself to actually read the document?