House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday criticized Attorney General William Barr’s summary of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, calling it “condescending” and “arrogant” and saying “it wasn’t the right thing to do.”
Asked if she is ready to accept Barr’s summary of Mueller’s conclusion that his investigation did not establish that Trump or his campaign associates conspired with Russia to win the presidential election, Pelosi didn’t directly answer, saying instead that she needs to see the full Mueller report before making a judgment about what the special counsel found and reiterating her call for it to be publicly released.
“I have said, and I’ll say again, no thank you, Mr. Attorney General, we do not need your interpretation, show us the report and we can draw our own conclusions,” Pelosi said.
The House speaker went on to say, referring to the Barr summary, “We don’t need you interpreting for us. It was condescending, it was arrogant, and it wasn’t the right thing to do. So, the sooner they can give us the information, the sooner we can all make a judgment about it.”
Barr delivered his summary of the Mueller report’s findings to lawmakers over the weekend, but Democrats argue that they and the American public must have a chance to see the full special counsel report for themselves, rather than being forced to rely solely on a description of the findings from a Trump administration political appointee.
It’s not yet clear how much of the full Mueller report will be publicly released, but Barr has said that he intends to release as much as possible from the report. In his letter to Congress, he said he is working to determine what can be publicly released, noting that Mueller will be involved in scrubbing the report to identify grand jury material that must remain secret.
Democrats are also now grappling with what steps they may take if they are not satisfied with how much of the report is ultimately released.
The “primary obstacle” to getting the full Mueller report is “the presence of grand jury information,” according to one Democratic staffer, discussing the 10-minute phone call House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler had with Attorney General Bill Barr. Nadler offered Barr the opportunity to work together to get a court order to release the grand jury information.
At a Thursday meeting where aides discussed efforts to get the Mueller report, the staffer said that Barr was “open to our arguments” but that’s “a far cry from where the chairman is right now.”
“Congress is entitled to the grand jury material,” the aide said, pointing to Watergate and other cases as precedent.
The aide added that Congress does not need the Justice Department’s cooperation to go to the courts and demand the grand jury information, a step they may take.
Aides would not discuss when they may issue a subpoena to force the Justice Department to provide documents to Capitol Hill. They said they may announce next steps after the department officially misses the Democrats’ April 2 deadline to provide the full Mueller report. They say they want to give Justice a “reasonable amount of time” to respond first.
Aides also said that while Barr said he did not plan to provide the report to the White House, “it’s not 100% clear to us how the attorney general plans to alleviate” executive privilege questions.
What Barr’s summary concluded
Barr’s letter to Congress quoted Mueller’s report as saying it “did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” It also stated that the special counsel “did not draw a conclusion” on the question of obstruction of justice. Barr wrote that he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein came to the conclusion that there was not sufficient evidence “to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.”
While Pelosi did not weigh in directly on whether she is ready to accept that Mueller did not establish collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, she did suggest that the Trump campaign may have been “delinquent in their responsibilities” if it failed to notify the FBI that a foreign government had dirt on Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential election.
“I’m deadly serious,” Pelosi said, “if a foreign government comes to you and says they have information on your opponent, I say to any member of Congress or person running for office, you take that right to the FBI. So for this report to say that there was no tacit cooperation, well, yeah, if they didn’t bring the information to the FBI, they were delinquent in their responsibilities.”
This story has been updated with additional developments.