Attorney General William Barr said special counsel Robert Mueller was “a bit snitty” in his letter expressing misgivings about the attorney general’s letter to Congress summarizing Mueller’s findings.
At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday, Barr brushed off the criticisms in a new letter from Mueller, in which the special counsel objected to Barr’s initial four-page letter to Congress. Mueller’s letter showed the former FBI director felt Barr’s letter to Congress didn’t fully capture his 448-page report.
“You know, the letter’s a bit snitty, and I think it was probably written by one of his staff people,” Barr said.
A spokesman for the special counsel, Peter Carr, declined to comment to CNN when asked about Barr’s characterization.
The Washington Post first reported Mueller’s letter to Barr. CNN later obtained the full letter.
The Wednesday hearing was the first time Barr made an appearance before Congress since the release of a redacted version of Mueller’s report last month.
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In the hearing, Democrats clashed with the attorney general over his handling of the Mueller findings and his decision not to prosecute for obstruction of justice. Some of the Democratic senators accused Barr of lying to Congress and the public about Mueller’s concerns, and multiple senators called for Barr’s resignation as attorney general.
“(Mueller’s) letter was an extraordinary act, a career prosecutor rebuking the attorney general of the United States, memorializing in writing,” said Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal. “I know of no other instance of that happening.”
Barr said in the hearing that he called Mueller after receiving his letter and spoke to Mueller on speakerphone for about 10 to 15 minutes with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in the room, in addition to other staff members.
Blumenthal asked Barr if anyone had taken notes of the call, and Barr said “there were notes taken of the call.”
“May we have those notes?” Blumenthal asked.
“No,” Barr said.
“Why not?” Blumenthal followed up.
“Why should you have them?” Barr said, before Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham ended the hearing.
As of 4:30 p.m., “snitty” – which means disagreeably ill-tempered – was the top trending word on Merriam-Webster.com, and look ups had spiked 150,000%, according to the website.
CNN’s Katelyn Polantz contributed to this report.