William Barr testifies on the Mueller report
Attorney General William Barr said he did not exonerate President Trump and said that the American people can decide for themselves.
"I didn’t exonerate. I said that we did not believe that there was sufficient evidence to establish an obstruction offense which is the job of the Justice Department," he said
He added: "The job of the Justice Department is now over. That determines whether or not there is a crime. The report is now in the hands of the American people. Everyone can decide for themselves: There’s an election in 18 months."
Barr also said that special counsel Robert Mueller also did not exonerate President Trump.
"I made it clear in the March 24th letter that Bob Mueller didn't make a decision, but that he felt he could not exonerate the President," he said. "I wasn't hiding on where Mueller was, and that was presenting both sides of the issue — all the evidence. But he was not making a call. He felt he couldn't exonerate the President."
Since Mueller wrapped up his report and after Barr released his summary of it, President Trump has repeatedly declared it means "total exoneration" for his campaign.
Former FBI Director James Comey penned an op-ed in The New York Times saying President Trump's appointees sometimes make "compromises" to survive their boss.
In the piece published today, Comey wrote people had asked him "what happened" to people like Attorney General William Barr, whom Comey previously said deserved "the benefit of the doubt" ahead of the release of special counsel Robert Mueller's report. The op-ed was published on the same day Barr was grilled during a Senate hearing about his handling of the Mueller report.
"Accomplished people lacking inner strength can't resist the compromises necessary to survive Mr. Trump and that adds up to something they will never recover from," Comey wrote in the Times. "It takes character like (former Secretary of Defense James) Mattis's to avoid the damage, because Mr. Trump eats your soul in small bites."
Comey, whom Trump fired early into his presidency, said such compromises began with officials "sitting silent while he (Trump) lies, both in public and private, making you complicit by your silence." Comey continued to say the "private circle of assent" moves to "public displays of personal fealty," making an implicit reference to a Cabinet meeting where department heads praised Trump at length.
Comey said staying on in the administration required "further compromises" where "you use his language, praise his leadership, tout his commitment to values."
"And then you are lost. He has eaten your soul," Comey wrote of Trump officials.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, grilled Attorney General William Barr about his four-page summary on special counsel Robert Mueller's report.
He also presented a color-coded poster board titled, "Evidence that Donald Trump obstructed justice" during his remarks.
The sign includes 14 claims (or pieces of evidence) that are categorized by "obstructive act," "nexus," and "intent."
Here's how Blumenthal explained his reason for the chart:
"Robert Mueller concluded that there was substantial evidence on four -- on the three necessary elements of obstruction ... You ignore in that press conference and in the summary that Robert Mueller found substantial evidence. And it's in the report. And we have a chart that shows the elements of that crime, intent, interference with an ongoing investigation and the obstructive act. So I think that your credibility is undermined within the department, in this committee and with the American people."
Sen. Ben Sasse, a Republican from Nebraska, used a part of his questioning time to remark on the state of today's hearing. He said it's "tragic" that most Americans won't watch it altogether or only take away pro- and anti-Trump rhetoric.
"Let me interrupt for a second and say one of the things I think is painfully tragic about a hearing like this, I think the vast majority of the American people are going tune it out. And those that pay attention will think the only two aways is a bunch of people were pro-Trump before they came — and they stayed pro-Trump — and a bunch of people were anti-Trump before they came — and they stayed anti-Trump. And we didn't dig into any of what the report actually says," he said.
Sasse said special counsel Robert Mueller's report includes "a whole bunch of really important things about intelligence operations against the United States people and our public and our government and our public trust."
He urged the US to pay attention, since the 2020 election will likely be under attack, too.
"If one of the most important things we take away from this — it needs to be that we are going to be under attack again in 2020, and it isn't just gonna be Russia, who's pretty dang clunky at this stuff. But It's also, over time, likely gonna be China, who is much more sophisticated about this stuff," Sasse said.
Sen. John Kennedy, a Republican from Louisiana, said he hopes that Attorney General William Barr includes special counsel Robert Mueller's team if he investigates leaks at the Department of Justice and FBI.
Kennedy said there were two investigations launched in 2016.
"One was an investigation of Donald Trump. There was another investigation of Hillary Clinton. I'd like to know how that one started, too. And it would seem to me that we all have a duty. If not to the American people, to the FBI to find out why these investigations were started, who started them and the evidence on which they were started. I hope you will do that and you will get back to us," Kennedy said.
Kennedy then encouraged Barr to release all documents related to the 2016 election, "instead of us going through all this spin and innuendo and rumors. Let’s just let the American people see them."
He also had one final request for Barr: "When you’re investigating leaks at the DOJ and the FBI, I hope you’ll include the Mueller team as well."
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a 2020 presidential candidate, just asked Attorney General William Barr if he'd help her get the Secure Elections Act passed.
The measure, which has bipartisan support, would require backup paper ballots and would audits for for anyone gets federal funds, she said.
"What I would like to know from you as our nation's chief law enforcement officer if you will work with us to get this bill done," she asked. "Otherwise we have no clout to get back up paper ballots if something goes wrong in this election."
Here's how Barr responded:
"I will work with you to enhance the security of our election, and I will take a look at what you are proposing. I'm not familiar with it.
The House Judiciary Committee did not receive the unredacted Mueller report and the underlying evidence by 10 a.m. ET today, meaning the Justice Department missed the deadline for the subpoena that the committee issued last month.
A spokesperson for Judiciary confirmed the committee did not receive the materials.
Earlier this morning, Rep. Jerry Nadler said he plans to "take steps to enforce the subpoena" but did not get specific on the steps he would take.
“Well the more important question is that we issued a subpoena of the unredacted report and the underlying evidence that is due today. If he doesn’t supply that today, we will take steps to enforce the subpoena," Nadler told reporters.
There are 14 senators left to question Attorney General William Barr.
Three of them are Democratic candidates for president: Sens. Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar and Cory Booker.
Republican Sen. John Kennedy just told CNN he has “no problem” hearing testimony from Robert Mueller to hear what the special counsel's concerns.
Kennedy's response breaks with Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham who said that the hearing with Barr would be the last word. (Graham would not comment today until the hearing is over.)
“I'd like to know what he’s unhappy about," Kennedy said.
Sen. Doug Jones, one of three Democrats to vote for Barr, said that he’s “incredibly disappointed” with Barr’s handling of the Mueller report and that “I’m getting close” to losing confidence.