The first article is by Brian Cates: Senator Harris Misses Huge Revelation From Barr During Senate Testimony. Cates provides an extensive transcript of Barr's testimony, but focuses on a different aspect than I intend to focus on. Cates focus on the fact that, in the second half of the transcript, Harris attacks Rod Rosenstein for what seems to be a conflict of interest in participating in the Mueller inquisition. What Harris doesn't seem to get is that that conflict--Rosenstein is a key fact witness in the Mueller inquisition--if it raises any question at all must raise questions about the very legitimacy of the entire Mueller inquisition--not of Barr's impartiality.
However, what I want to focus on is the simple fact that Harris very clearly doesn't understand what "conflict of interest" means. Bear in mind that this is a woman who passed the bar exam in California (on the second try), served as District Attorney for a major city for 7 years, and was the Attorney General of this nation's largest state for 6 years. Here's a definition of "conflict of interest":
1. A situation that has the potential to undermine the impartiality of a person because of the possibility of a clash between the person's self-interest and professional interest or public interest.
2. A situation in which a party's responsibility to a second-party limits its ability to discharge its responsibility to a third-party.
Note that a conflict of interest involves a "situation," a structural factor that "undermines" or "limits" the very ability to be impartial because of a clash of interests. It is not at all the same thing, contra Harris, as bias, or prejudging, or--as really seems to be the case here--having a different opinion than someone else, such as the questioner.
Here's the transcript (I've left some of Cates' interjections). You'll see what Cates is interested in, but pay attention to the part where Barr, clearly nonplussed, asks "What's my conflict of interest?" and Harris attempts to explain. Barr is far too polite to say what clearly must have been in his mind, but patiently tries to explain what the issues are.
Harris: Will you agree to consult career DOJ ethics officials about whether your recusal from the fourteen investigations that have been discussed by my colleagues is necessary?
Barr: I don’t see any basis for it, I already consulted with them and…
Harris: Have you consulted with them about the 14 other investigations?
Barr: About the Mueller case.
Harris: Have you consulted with the career DOJ ethics officials about the appropriateness of you being involved or recusing yourself from the 14 other investigations that have been referred out?
Barr: On what basis?
Harris: Conflict of interest! Clear conflict of interest!
Barr: What’s my conflict of interest?
Harris: I think the American public has seen quite well that you are biased in this situation and have not been objective and that would arguably be the conflict of interest.
Barr: I haven’t been the only decision maker here. Now, let’s take the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who was approved by the Senate 94 to 6 with specific discussion on the floor that he would be responsible for supervising the Russian investigation. [emphasis added]
At this point Harris grins broadly as if Barr has just wandered into a trap she’s been waiting to spring shut, and says:
Harris: I’m glad you brought that up. That’s a great topic.
Barr: He has thirty years experience and we had a number of senior prosecutors in the Department involved in this process, both career and noncareer.
Harris: Yes, I’ve read the process, sir. I have another question and I’m glad you brought that subject up, because I have a question about that. Earlier today in response to Senator Graham, you said quote “that you consulted with Rosenstein constantly,” unquote, with respect to the Special Counsel’s investigation and report but Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein was also a key witness in the firing of FBI Director Comey. Did you consult with –”
Barr: Well that’s….
Harris: I’m not finished. Did you consult with DOJ Ethics officials before you enlisted Rod Rosenstein to participate in a charging decision for an investigation the subject of which he is also a witness? [emphasis added]
Harris has now swung her trap shut and stares triumphantly at Barr waiting for his answer.
Try to fully grasp what Harris’ loaded question implies: the Deputy Attorney General who oversaw the Mueller Special Counsel’s Office during its entire existence [and who actually brought it into existence] should have recused himself from any involvement whatsoever with it.
You can see from Barr’s face he can’t quite believe he’s being asked this.
Barr: My understanding was that he had been cleared already to participate in it.
This clearly was not the answer Harris expected, and her face shows it.
Harris: You had consulted with them and they cleared it?
Barr: No. I think they cleared it when he took over the investigation. That’s my understanding. [emphasis added]
Harris: You don’t know whether he has been cleared of a conflict of interest?
Barr: He wouldn’t be participating if there was a conflict of interest.
Harris: So you’re saying that it did not need to be reviewed by the career ethics officials in your office to determine if it was appropriate?
Barr: Well, I believe it was reviewed. And I also point out this seems to be a bit of a flip flop. Because when the President’s supporters were challenged…
Harris: Sir, the flip flop I think in this case is that you’re not answering the question directly. Did the ethics officials in your office and the Department of Justice review the appropriateness of Rod Rosenstein being a part of making a charging decision on an investigation which he is also a witness in?
Barr: So, as I said, my understanding was that he had been cleared and he had already been cleared before I arrived. [emphasis added]
Harris: In making a decision on the Mueller report?
Harris: And the findings of whether or not the case would be charged on obstruction of justice? He had been cleared on that?
Barr: He was the Acting Attorney General on the Mueller investigation.
Harris: Had he been cleared … by your side, a decision…
Barr: I am informed that before I arrived, he had been cleared by the ethics officials. [emphasis added]
Harris: Of what?
Barr: [Clearly stunned that he has to state the obvious] Serving as Acting Attorney General on the Mueller case.
Harris: How about making a charging decision on obstruction of justice when the underlying offenses include him as a witness?
Barr: That’s what the Acting Attorney General’s job is.
The second article, Kamala Harris Lets Another Fish Get Away, is by Christopher Scalia. The reference to fish is explained in the first paragraph:
The reviews are in, and Sen. Kamala Harris’s performance during Attorney General William Barr’s testimony last week was a hit! “Kamala Harris Guts Barr Like a Fish, Leaves Him Flopping on the Deck,” Vanity Fair announced. The only problem with her made-for-TV performance is that Ms. Harris’s questions were absurd—so vague or weird that they perplexed the attorney general.
Scalia is being kind. Yes, Harris' questions were both vague and weird, but those qualities emerged from the appalling ignorance that lay behind them--as we saw above. But Scalia is absolutely on target when he describes her performance (as i did earlier) as "made-for-TV". You can see that in the absurd theatrics, her attempts to not only ask the questions but to also dictate the answers: "Yes or no!" That may seem incisive to ignorant people, but it's simply absurd and must have tried Barr's patience sorely. That mirrors the similar theatrics in her attempted interrogation of Brett Kavanaugh: “Be sure about your answer, sir.” As if Kavanaugh--or Barr--would be anything but careful about choosing their words in such a setting. Those theatrics, purely for the ignorant (among whom are many journalists), were followed by her predictable post-hearing spin: having used vague words such as "suggest" that would require Barr to interpret the intentions of third parties, she attempted to criticize Barr for being "careful" about what she meant by "suggest", for "parsing the word" (itself an improper use of the term). As if the Dem calls for Barr's impeachment didn't justify any amount of care that he exercised in answering these absurd questions!
And then there was the goofy business of the way Harris narrowed her eyes, fixing them keenly on Barr, as if exerting some mysterious force on her supposedly hapless (to read lib MSM accounts) victim. Harris' absurd attempt at grilling Barr reminded me for all the world of Sacheverell Mulliner in P. G. Wodehouse's The Voice From The Past (also, A Voice From The Past). The timid Sacheverell, an interior decorator, signs up for a correspondence course on Scientific Agriculture to curry favor with the farmer father of his beloved, Sir Redvers Branksome, but is mistakenly sent the course on How To Acquire Complete Self-Confidence and an Iron Will. When the mistake is discovered, Sacheverell opts to continue with developing his new found iron will rather than boning up on scientific agriculture--in which he has no interest, anyway. Thus, we find Sacheverell setting out to lay down the law to his (so he thinks) hapless father-in-law to be:
Sacheverell was feeling at the top of his form when he set out for Branksome Towers on the following Saturday. The eighth lesson of his course on how to develop an iron will had reached him by the morning post, and he studied it on the train. It was a pippin. It showed you exactly how Napoleon had got that way, and there was some technical stuff about narrowing the eyes and fixing them keenly on people which alone was worth the money. He alighted at Market Branksome Station in a glow of self-confidence. The only thing that troubled him was a fear lest Sir Redvers might madly attempt anything in the nature of opposition to his plans. He did not wish to be compelled to scorch the poor old man to a crisp at his own dinner-table.
He was meditating on this and resolving to remember to do his best to let the Colonel down as lightly as possible, when a voice spoke his name.
I won't spoil the ending.