In an interview that was aired on Friday, Attorney General William Barr said that he doesn’t agree with "a lot of the legal analysis" inside Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report and said that it does “not reflect the views” of the Justice Department. During a sit-down interview with Jan Crawford from Fox News, Barr was questioned about the handling of his four-page summary of the Mueller report, which was shared at the end of March. Barr and former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein explained that the evidence they found in Mueller’s report wasn’t enough to charge the president with obstruction of justice.
Barr said: “We didn’t agree with the legal analysis, a lot of the legal analysis in the report. It did not reflect the views of the department. It was the viewpoint of a particular lawyer or lawyers, so we applied what we saw was the right law.” When speaking about Mueller's findings on obstruction, Barr said: “The bottom line was that Bob Mueller identified some episodes. He did not reach a conclusion. He provided both sides of the issue. And his conclusion was he was not exonerating the president, but wasn’t finding a crime either.”
Barr’s statements came after Mueller made a rare appearance in public this week, which is the first time he’s done so during his tenure as special counsel. Mueller explained that the investigation had officially come to an end and he was resigning from the Justice Department to return to his own life. In detailing the findings of the report, Mueller explained that there was “no evidence” of a conspiracy related to collusion between Russian and the Trump campaign. He also explained his decisions related to the inquiry on whether or not Trump obstructed justice.
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On Wednesday, Mueller said: “If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said that. We did not determine whether the president did commit a crime.” Mueller also explained the Justice Department policy, which points out that a sitting president can’t be charged with a crime. He also added that “charging the president with a crime was not an option we could consider.” Mueller said: “We concluded that we would not reach a determination one way or the other about whether the president committed a crime. That is the office’s final position.”
But according to CBS News, Barr felt that Mueller could have come to a conclusion. “I personally felt he could’ve reached a decision. The opinion says you cannot indict a president while he is in office, but he could’ve reached a decision whether it was criminal activity, but he had his reasons for not doing it, which he explained,” said Barr. The Attorney General continued by saying: “I am not going to argue about those reasons but when he didn’t make a decision, the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and I felt it was necessary for us as heads of the Department to reach that decision.”
Mueller also said that while the opinion of the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) prevents a president from being indicted while in office, “the Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse the president of wrongdoing.” Those on the left took that statement as a go-ahead to talk about bringing up impeachment proceedings against the president.
When Barr was asked if he thought that Mueller was suggesting that Congress could be the “venue” to hold Trump accountable, Barr stated that he was “not sure.” In an interview, Barr said: “Well, I’m not sure what he was suggesting. You know, the Department of Justice doesn’t use our powers of investigating crime as an adjunct to Congress.” Barr also gave his opinion on Mueller’s announcement that he doesn’t plan to testify in private or in public. “It’s up to Bob, but I think the line he’s drawing, which is he’s going to stick to what’s in the report, is the proper line for any department official,” Barr said.
At the beginning of May, the House Judiciary Committee voted to hold Barr in contempt for going against the panel’s subpoena that required him to turn over the unredacted version of Mueller’s report, along with all of the underlying evidence and documents. The president then asserted his executive privilege over the materials in order to protect them from being released. Even though Barr has received criticism over the way he handled the report, Mueller came to his defense on Wednesday. Mueller said that he doesn’t “question the attorney general's good faith" in his decision to release the report in full, with its redactions, to Congress and the public. Mueller explained that he had suggested that only “portions of the report be released,” and he said that he “appreciated” Barr’s decision.
Barr has also fallen under scrutiny over the testimony he made before a congressional committee last month. During the testimony, Barr stated that he believed that “spying did occur” on the Trump campaign during the 2016 election. Ever since, Barr has appointed John Durham, a U.S. attorney from Connecticut, to investigate the origins of the Russia investigation. When Barr was asked about his use of the word “spying,” he said: "I mean, I guess it's become a dirty word somehow. It never has been for me. I think there's nothing wrong with spying. The question is always whether it's authorized by law." He added: "It's part of the craziness of the modern day, that if the president uses a word, then all of a sudden it becomes off bounds. It's a perfectly good English word and I'll continue to use it."
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Last week, President Trump signed a memo to declassify documents that were related to the surveillance of Trump’s campaign officials. It’s unclear as to what the documents contain, or when they will be declassified. Barr told CBS News: "I had a lot of questions about what was going on, and I assumed I'd get answers when I went in, and I have not gotten answers that are at all satisfactory and in fact, probably have more questions. Some of the facts that I've learned don't hang together with the official explanations of what happened." He added: "That's all I really will say. Things are just not...jibing."