Attorney General William Barr is expected to face questioning from Senate Democrats during a hearing on Wednesday morning. For the first time since he released Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, Barr will face the accusations against him that he has attempted to present the findings of Mueller’s investigation in President Trump’s favor. According to the Washington Post, Mueller reached out to Barr Tuesday evening, both by phone and by letter, in an attempt to express his concerns about Barr’s release of Mueller’s report. Apparently, Mueller pushed Barr to release the summaries that were written by his office. Both the Post and the Justice Department have stated that Barr’s summary was an inaccurate depiction of Mueller’s report. Mueller explained to Barr that the media coverage of the letter had “misinterpreted” the results of the investigation concerning Trump’s obstruction of justice.
When Mueller was speaking to the DOJ, he said: “The summary letter the Department sent to Congress and released to the public late in the afternoon of March 24 did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this office’s work and conclusions. There is now public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation. This threatens to undermine a central purpose for which the Department appointed the Special Counsel: to assure full public confidence in the outcome of the investigations.”
In a statement released to Fox News, Kerri Kupec, a spokesperson for the DOJ, pointed out that Mueller had not accused Barr of inaccurately summarizing his report. “After the Attorney General received Special Counsel Mueller’s letter, he called him to discuss it. In a cordial and professional conversation, the Special Counsel emphasized that nothing in the Attorney General’s March 24 letter was inaccurate or misleading. But, he expressed frustration over the lack of context and the resulting media coverage regarding the Special Counsel’s obstruction analysis. They then discussed whether additional context from the report would be helpful and could be quickly released,” said Kupec. Kupec continued by saying: “However, the Attorney General ultimately determined that it would not be productive to release the report in piecemeal fashion. The Attorney General and the Special Counsel agreed to get the full report out with necessary redactions as expeditiously as possible. The next day, the Attorney General sent a letter to Congress reiterating that his March 24 letter was not intended to be a summary of the report, but instead only stated the Special Counsel’s principal conclusions, and volunteered to testify before both Senate and House Judiciary Committees on May 1st and 2nd.”
While speaking to Fox News, a spokesperson for the Republican House Judiciary Committee said that “recent media reports give us more reason than ever to have confidence in the attorney general by providing insight into how the attorney general and the special counsel successfully collaborated to navigate a very difficult and historically momentous situation, culminating in the release of the Mueller report, which provides the account of the special counsel’s investigation in the words of Mr. Mueller and his team.” The spokesperson continued by adding: “As the Senate Judiciary Committee prepares for tomorrow’s hearing, House Democrats have another opportunity to put partisan politics aside and recognize Attorney General Barr has conducted himself in an exemplary manner.”
Of course, the Democrats weren’t just going to sit idly by. House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerry Nadler demanded in a tweet that Mueller testify. He also suggested that Barr had misled the lawmakers. “I note with interest AG Barr’s 4/10 Senate testimony. ‘Q: Did Bob Mueller support your conclusion? A: I don’t know whether Bob Mueller supported my conclusion.’ Now it appears that Mueller objected in this 3/27 letter,” wrote Nadler. In agreeance, Sen. Chris Van Hollen wrote on Twitter that Barr “must resign” on the grounds that he “misled me, the Congress, and the public.”
Conservatives defended Barr, saying that Nadler was misrepresenting the situation. Washington Free Beacon reporter Alex Griswold wrote: “Barr was being asked whether Mueller agreed with his ultimate conclusion on obstruction, not whether he agreed with his summary, his framing, etc.” Nadler stuck to his guns by saying: “The Special Counsel’s concerns reflect our own. The Attorney General should not have taken it upon himself to describe the Special Counsel’s findings in a light more favorable to the President. It was only a matter of time before the facts caught up to him.” Nadler also said that Barr “should not have withheld [Mueller’s] letter from Congress for as long as he has.” Nadler added, “I have demanded a copy from the Department of Justice. I have asked that it be delivered no later than 10:00 tomorrow morning.” Jumping on the bandwagon, Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro tweeted: “Attorney General Barr willfully misled the American people to cover up attempted crimes by Donald Trump. He should resign his position or face an impeachment inquiry immediately.”
Barr is expected to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee for questioning for more than three hours. The hearing will give Barr the opportunity to explain his actions, including the press conference he held before the report was released. It will also allow him to confront the accusations that he has sacrificed his integrity in order to protect President Trump. Barr has also been invited to appear in front of the Democratic-led House Judiciary panel. But according to the Justice Department, Barr would not testify if the committee insisted on their lawyers questioning Barr, instead of Congress members. According to Fox News, the DOJ has said that they were “blindsided” by the Democrats announcement that Barr would be questioned by their attorneys. On Monday, Stephen Boyd, the Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs, went to Capitol Hill in an attempt to work things out, but things haven’t been resolved as of yet.
According to Fox News, House Democrats will take a vote on Wednesday on how to proceed. They’ve also said that the DOJ has taken the idea of staffers questioning a sitting Cabinet member “off the table.” Once Nadler said that there was no room for compromise and staffers would be questioning Barr, even threating arrest to those who didn’t comply, White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said that Congress “needs to calm down.” While speaking to Fox News, a DOJ official said: “The attorney general agreed to appear before Congress; therefore Congress does the questioning.” The spokesperson continued by saying: “Attorney General Barr wasn’t asked to testify before the committee—he offered. He provided the Mueller report voluntarily. He invited Democrat leaders to view the less redacted report in person. Yet the only thing, apparently, that will satisfy Democrats, who refuse to read the less redacted report, is to have staff pinch hit when a cabinet-level official appears before us.”
During Barr’s appearance on Wednesday, Democrats will more than likely focus on his actions and statements from the past six weeks. The first incident occurred last month when Barr released his four-page summary of Mueller’s report, which consisted of hundreds of pages of information. In his letter, Barr concluded that he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had cleared Trump of obstruction after Mueller’s report found evidence on both sides, but not enough to prove anything. Barr will most likely defend himself by saying that he chose to release the report on his own, which fulfilled his pledge to be as transparent about his findings as the law would allow him to be.
Barr has stated that Mueller’s investigation didn’t provide evidence that Trump colluded with Russia, even though Mueller stated that “collusion” was not a legal term and there were multiple contacts between Trump’s campaign and Russia. Barr also praised the White House for giving Mueller and his team “unfettered access” to witnesses and documents. He also claimed that President Trump had the right to be upset by the investigation, provided his “sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents, and fueled by illegal leaks.”
As of Tuesday, it remained unclear as to whether or not Barr would appear in front of the House committee. Barr, who has said that witnesses can easily filibuster when lawmakers are limited to five minutes of questioning, believes that having the lawyers do it will allow the committee “to dig down on an issue and pursue an issue.” Nadler continued by saying: “And it’s not up to anybody from the executive branch to tell the legislative branch how to conduct our business.” The committee will take a vote on Wednesday as to whether or not they’ll allow staff to question Barr. Rep. Doug Collins, the top Republican on the House Judiciary panel, has said that Nadler “has taken a voluntary hearing and turned it into a sideshow.” Eliot Williams, who previously served as deputy assistant attorney general and a lawyer on the Senate Judiciary Committee, stated: “The Justice Department’s stance appears consistent with the Trump administration’s broader strategy of “undermining Congress as an institution.” He claimed that if he was still advising an attorney general he would be against the idea of having a staffer do the questioning, as well. “It’s a rational response to not want them questioning the attorney general,” said Williams.