There is no second day of the testimony of William P. Barr because William P. Barr has decided not to appear before the House Judiciary Committee. So, to him, it comes as a surprise to find himself in a limousine on his way to testify.
“Testify where?” he asks, sounding a bit snitty. It is dark in the car. The figure in the front does not turn, but Barr thinks he sees something red and luminous — like eyes, but not quite like eyes — glinting in the rearview mirror. “I told the House ‘no.’ ”
“After seeing your performance yesterday,” the driver says, “my boss wanted you to come testify on his behalf, as well.”
“Call him Individual-0, if you like.” He holds up a tiny plastic bag with what look like some dirty coffee grounds in it. “Here, do you want the remnants of the credibility of the Justice Department? If not, I’m going to toss it next to the little chunk that is all that remains of John Kelly’s soul."
Barr chuckles nervously. “Now, look, uh, nobody’s been eating anybody’s souls, no matter what that showboat Comey says in the New York Times.”
“One of the best tricks Individual-0 ever pulled,” the figure says. “Ensuring that people who are right are often also extraordinarily annoying. Enough. Just do what you did yesterday. It was perfect.”
“Who is the client?”
“What would you say if it were the Night King?”
“I would say he was within his rights to try to protect himself and that the creation of an army of wights was well within the scope of his power and a logical step for a man who believes he has done nothing wrong.”
“What would you say if it were Sauron?”
“A man is entitled to try to hang on to his jewelry. I’ve always felt strongly in favor of the rights of the Lidless Eye of Flame as an institution.”
“Then you should have no trouble."
Barr then is in another hearing room. It is about the same as in Congress, only the light all feels artificial, as though it is deep underwater, seen through feet of smeared glass. Perhaps deeper than that. The walls of the room seem to heave and breathe and perspire.
Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) is still running the hearing, but he looks a little more concerned, and hotter. Barr is in the midst of talking. There is a Bible in front of him, but for some reason he does not wish to touch it.
The words begin. They do not cease. They are drawn up and out of him, like something stuck to the bottom step of an escalator.
“I have not read the full evidence,” Barr says, “but I am confident this so-called Good Book largely exonerates my client. The serpent did no wrong.”
There is a noise like a thousand flies buzzing with satisfaction, and like Reince Priebus trying and failing to swat them. The words continue to come.
“There isn’t any law against offering people free apples. Though it could be argued that those apples were planted there by his opponent and, thus, any attempt to use them to indict him is fruit of a poisoned tree. In fact, the real question is why a nude woman was trying to take ownership of a garden. The real question is what she was trying to cover up afterward.”
All around, a thousand pig heads nod on the ends of sharpened stakes. In the stalls, a dog begins to howl.
“All these allegations that they saw him transform into a serpent are just mind-bendingly bizarre, and I don’t know why they were spying on him. He should be allowed to transform into a serpent in privacy, although, of course he did not. ‘Spying’ is not a pejorative term.”
There is the sound of someone perhaps attempting to ask a question, then an enormous crunch. His voice continues.
“Tormenting a righteous man and covering him with boils and demolishing his cattle — some would call that Job creation. That’s what I call it.”
A deep sulfurous rumble, almost like laughter, like the belch after you had eaten a soul that did not agree with you.
“The real question is why this framework for judgment and investigation was constructed in the first place. My client has a right to retaliate when he feels he is being treated unjustly. If anyone comes along and seeks to cast you out of a place, you are entitled to retaliate. You are where you are because you deserve to be there.”
Pandemonium ensues. Much flashing and flapping of wings and gnashing of teeth. The testimony does not halt.
“Did he try to lead people into temptation? I am struggling with the word temptation. I will spend up to 40 days struggling with it. Tempt? Did he tempt people? I’m sorry, I do not know what the word means. I am confused. Did he suggest that people do bad things? What are words? What is bad? I am sorry, I have forgotten the meaning of all words. I have forgotten even myself. I am just a little baby who has gotten here for the first time today. No word carries any value or meaning. I say them and they flutter away and I forget them, like instructions from a president.”
The room seems to be getting darker. The buzzing is louder now. The darkness is nearer to where he stands, and from it comes another crunch, and a satiated hiss.
“Yes, I am familiar with the people who have called him directly and personally responsible for every bad thing that happens, and who have castigated me for my willingness to serve as his personal defender. But afterward, I called them on the phone and they said they did not mean it. They said really they were upset because of the way it was talked about. They regretted denouncing me. I wish that instead of the evidence of all the derogatory things they said publicly in writing, you had evidence of all the good things that they said afterward, definitely, in secret, where only I could hear them. And my client, who hears all things. No matter where we are.” The light is gone. His voice echoes. “Where are we?”
If this were a nightmare, the sound would wake him, but it has not awakened him yet. He meant well enough. He knows where he is.
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