William Barr testifies on the Mueller report
Attorney General William Barr said he gave special counsel Robert Mueller the opportunity to read his four-page memo to Congress -- which he said was not supposed to be a summary of the lengthy report -- but Mueller declined.
"That's what we were trying to do: notify the people as to the bottom line conclusion. We were not trying to summarize the 410-page report. So I offered Bob Mueller the opportunity to review that letter before it went out and he declined," he said at today's hearing.
Barr said he later received the letter from Mueller in which the special counsel expressed concerns about Barr's memo.
"I asked him if he was suggesting that the March 24th letter was inaccurate and he said no, but that the press reporting had been inaccurate," Barr said. "But he was very clear with me that he was not suggesting that we had misrepresented his report."
Attorney General William Barr recalled being "surprised" that special counsel Robert Mueller would not be making a decision on whether President Trump obstructed justice.
"We were, frankly, surprised by that they were not going to reach a decision on obstruction. And we asked them a lot about the reasoning behind this and the basis for this," Barr said.
Mueller's decision came up during a March 5 meeting, Barr said.
"Special counsel Mueller stated three times to us in that meeting in response to our questioning that he emphatically was not saying that but for the OLC [Office of Legal Counsel] opinion, he would have found obstruction," Barr said.
Barr then explained Mueller's reasoning for the decision.
"He said that in the future, the facts of the case against a president might be such that a special counsel would recommend abandoning the OLC opinion but this is not such a case," he said.
Barr also said he was confused by why Mueller continued investigating obstruction if he felt he couldn't bring it to a conclusion.
Here's how Mueller explains it:
"Second, while the OLC opinion concludes that a sitting President may not be prosecuted, it recognizes that a criminal investigation during the President's term is permissible. The OLC opinion also recognizes that a President does not have immunity after he leaves office. And if individuals other than the President committed an obstruction offense, they may be prosecuted at this time. Given those considerations, the facts known to us, and the strong public interest in safeguarding the integrity of the criminal justice system, we conducted a thorough factual investigation in order to preserve the evidence when memories were fresh and documentary materials were available."
Attorney General William Barr said the publicly released version of special counsel Robert Mueller's report was only "lightly redacted."
"The public version has been estimated to have only 10% redactions," Barr said.
Barr added that the "vast bulk of those redactions relate to volume one," which is the part of the report that "deals with collusion and it relates to existing, ongoing cases."
"Volume two has only about 2% redactions for the public version. So 98% of volume two dealing with obstruction is available to the public," he said.
"Given the limited amount of redactions, I believe the publicly released report will allow every American to understand the special counsel's work," Barr said.
Last month, Barr described the four kinds of information that redacted in the report:
- Grand-jury information
- Information that could harm ongoing intelligence or law enforcement activities
- Information that could harm ongoing law enforcement matters
- Information that would infringe upon the personal privacy of peripheral third parties
Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a ranking member in the Senate Judiciary Committee, outlined details from special counsel Robert Mueller's report in her opening statement -- majorly contrasting Graham's.
She drew comparisons between special counsel Robert Mueller's report and Attorney General William Barr's four-page memo didn’t fully capture his report.
"Finally, while the March letter to Congress and the April press conference left the impression there were no remaining questions to examine, this report notes several limitations Mueller faced while gathering the facts that Congress needed to examine," she said.
She also called on Mueller to testify before the committee.
Feinstein's opening statement differed greatly from Sen. Lindsey Graham, the committee's chairman.
Graham's first 10 minutes of the Barr hearing rehashed some of the more prominent 2016 scandals and conspiracy theories, such as...
- Texts between former FBI official Peter Strzok and his mistress where they disparaged candidate Trump.
- Texts where Strzok and his mistress, former FBI lawyer Lisa Page, discuss how to handle the Russia investigation.
- The Hillary Clinton server investigation that was a major focus of the 2016 election.
- Hillary Clinton using “BleachBit” software to delete material from her private server.
- Hillary Clinton’s team supposedly using hammers to smash old phones.
The TVs in the White House are on and tuned to William Barr's testimony. So far, some officials are downplaying the significance of Mueller's letter, saying the underlying conclusion of "no collusion" is not in question (though Mueller, of course, did not use that phrase).
The letter was related to Barr's assertions on obstruction and not on the questions of whether Trump associates conspired with Russia.
One official suggested the President's initial "total exoneration" response to the report — which was informed by Barr's memo to lawmakers — would not likely have been dramatically different had Barr's letter been worded differently, since the "no collusion" conclusion was more cut-and-dry.
Trump was always going to extract the most positive version of the findings to make his case, this official said, whether Barr helped him along or not.
Officials still believe the most damaging part of Mueller's report for Trump was its broad depiction of the President as unethical and dishonest — and not any specific allegation that he worked to short-circuit the Mueller probe.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he's read most of special counsel Robert Mueller's nearly 400-page report on Russian interference in the 2016 US election.
"For me, it is over," Graham said.
Earlier in his remarks, Graham said the report showed "no collusion, no coordination, no conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russian government regarding the 2016 election."
This is how he ended his opening remarks:
"I appreciate very much what Mr. Mueller did for the country. I have read most of the report. For me, it is over."
Lindsey Graham, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Russia interfered with the 2016 US election — and insisted that they are "still doing it."
"The Russians interfered in our election," Graham said. "I would like to do more to harden our infrastructure because the Russians did it. It wasn't some 400-pound guy sitting on a bed somewhere. It was the Russians. And they're still doing it."
Graham said the US needs to do more to "defend democracy" from Russia and other "bad actors."
"It could be the Chinese or somebody next. My take away from this report is that we've got a lot of work to do to defend democracy against the Russians and other bad actors," he said.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, just kicked off today's hearing with Attorney General William Barr.
In his opening statement, Graham held up a copy of special counsel Robert Mueller's report, saying it showed that there was "no collusion, no coordination, no conspiracy between the trump campaign and the Russian government regarding the 2016 election."
He then addressed Mueller's evidence on the obstruction of justice issue.
"As to obstruction of justice, Mr. Mueller left it to Mr. Barr to decide after two years and all this time. He said 'Mr. Barr, you decide.' Mr. Barr did."
Minutes before this hearing, Mueller's letter to Barr was made public. In that letter, Mueller said Barr's summary of his report did not "fully capture the context, nature and substance of the investigation," spurring "public confusion."
Graham has, so far, not mentioned Mueller's letter.
In his letter to Attorney General William Barr, special counsel Robert Mueller said Barr's summary of his report did not "fully capture the context, nature and substance of the investigation," spurring "public confusion."
Here's how Mueller put it:
"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 outcomes of the investigations."