William Barr testifies on the Mueller report

By Meg Wagner, Veronica Rocha, Brian Ries and Amanda Wills, CNN

Updated 8:08 a.m. ET, May 2, 2019
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8:08 a.m. ET, May 2, 2019

Barr is skipping a second day of congressional testimony today

From CNN's Ashley Killough and Jeremy Herb

Attorney General William Barr was scheduled to testify before the House Judiciary Committee today.

But committee Chairman Jerry Nadler announced Wednesday that Barr isn't expected to show, following a dispute between House Democrats and the nation's top law enforcement officer over whether Barr would publicly face questions from committee staff attorneys.

The Justice Department also informed the committee that it would not comply with its subpoena for the full, unredacted report from special counsel Robert Mueller, Nadler said, missing a deadline the committee had set for Wednesday.

If the Justice Department does not change course in the next day or two, Nadler said, the committee is likely to begin contempt proceedings against Barr over defying the subpoena for the full report.

3:37 p.m. ET, May 1, 2019

Here's what you need to know about Barr's testimony today

US Attorney General William Barr testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on May 1, 2019.
US Attorney General William Barr testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on May 1, 2019. NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

Attorney General William Barr just finished testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, marking his first public testimony since the release of the redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller's report.

Here are some of the key things Barr said:

  • He didn't exonerate Trump: Barr said he did not exonerate President Trump and urged the American people to 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 Trump cooperated (but that's not what Mueller said): Barr said President Trump “fully cooperated” with special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. But several times in his report, Mueller points out how Trump and his team fell short of complete cooperation.
  • He offered to let Mueller read his letter: Barr said he gave 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.
  • He's OK with Mueller testifying: Barr said he has no objection to Mueller testifying before Congress. But allowing former White House counsel Don McGahn to testify would be up to President Trump, he said.

Meanwhile, there were two stand-out exchanges between Barr and Democratic senators:

  • Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono accused Barr of lying to Congress and said, “America deserves better. You should resign.”
  • In a lengthy exchange with California's Sen. Kamala Harris, Barr admitted he didn’t review evidence before making decision on obstruction.
4:00 p.m. ET, May 1, 2019

Graham: If Mueller disagrees with anything Barr said today, "he can come and tell us"

Alex Wong/Getty Images
Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Senate Judiciary committee's hearing with Attorney General William Barr just wrapped up. At the end of the session, chairman Lindsey Graham said he plans to write a letter to special counsel Robert Mueller, inviting him to speak to the committee.

"I'm going to ask him, 'Is there anything you said about that conversation that he disagrees with?' And if there is, he can come and tell us," Graham said.

"I'm going to give him a chance to correct anything you said that he finds misleading or inaccurate and that will be it," he said.

After the hearing was over, reporters caught up with Sen. Graham, who then said he’s not bringing Mueller before Senate Judiciary. "It’s over," the chairman said. 

3:49 p.m. ET, May 1, 2019

Barr calls Mueller's letter "snitty" and says he won't share notes from their call

Attorney General William Barr told a Democratic senator he wouldn't share notes from a call he shared with special counsel Robert Mueller after receiving Mueller's "snitty" letter -- which he assumed was written by a staffer -- about his summary of Mueller's report.

See the exchange:

Barr: [Robert Mueller] was political appointee and he was a political appointee with me at the Department of Justice. I don't -- you know, the letter is a bit snitty and I think it was probably written by one of his staff people.

Blumenthal: Did you make a memorandum of your conversation? 

Barr: Huh? 

Blumenthal: Did you make a memorandum of your conversation. 

Barr: No, I didn't. 

Blumenthal: Did anyone, either you or anyone on your staff, memorialize your conversation with Robert Mueller? 

Barr: Yes. 

Blumenthal: Who did that? 

Barr: There were notes taken of the call. 

Blumenthal: May we have those notes? 

Barr: No. 

Blumenthal: Why not? 

Barr: Why should you have them?

Sen. Lindsey Graham, the committee's chairman, then said they would ask Robert Mueller about what Barr has been saying, and ended the hearing.

3:32 p.m. ET, May 1, 2019

Barr appears to be unaware about bombshell on polling data in Mueller's report

From CNN's Marshall Cohen

During an exchange with Democratic Sen. Cory Booker, Attorney General William Barr seemed to be unaware of one of the most intriguing and widely covered elements of the Russia investigation: The bombshell that Trump’s campaign chairman sent internal polls to a Russian oligarch close to Vladimir Putin.

Here’s the exchange:

Booker: (The Mueller report) is a document that shows over 200 connections between a presidential campaign and a foreign adversary. Sharing information that would be illegal if you did it with a super PAC, we know that.

Barr: What information was shared?

Booker: Polling data was shared, sir. It’s in the report, I can cite you the page.

Barr: With who?

The New Jersey senator then took things in a different direction, needling Barr for spinning on Mueller’s report. But it’s clear Booker was referring to how Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort provided internal campaign information to Konstantin Kilimnik, one of his Russian business associates. The FBI believes Kilimnik has ties to Russian intelligence agencies.

What the Mueller report said: “Manafort instructed Rick Gates, his deputy on the Campaign and a longtime employee, to provide Kilimnik with updates on the Trump Campaign -- including internal polling data, although Manafort claims not to recall that specific instruction. Manafort expected Kilimnik to share that information with others in Ukraine and with (Russian oligarch Oleg) Deripaska. Gates periodically sent such polling data to Kilimnik during the campaign.”

Booker, one of several Democratic senators on the committee who are running for president in 2020, later said Barr’s handling of the Mueller report has been “alarming.”

2:53 p.m. ET, May 1, 2019

Harris says Barr should resign for failing to review Mueller's evidence

From CNN's Kristin Wilson

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, speaking after she questioned Attorney General William Barr in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, told reporters he should resign.

It "should be deeply troubling to entire American public is that he made a decision and didn’t review the evidence," Harris said after leaving the room.

"No prosecutor worth her salt would make a decision on whether (the President) was involved in obstruction of justice without reviewing the evidence," Harris said. "This Attorney General lacks all credibility and I think has compromised the public’s ability to believe he is a purveyor of justice."

Asked should he resign, she said "yes."

3:36 p.m. ET, May 1, 2019

Harris grills Barr about Rod Rosenstein's dual roles as investigation supervisor and witness

Alex Wong/Getty Images
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Sen. Kamala Harris questioned Attorney General William Barr about Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's dual roles as both witness in and supervisor of the Robert Mueller investigation.

First, some background: Mueller's report disclosed a previously unknown episode in which Rosenstein resisted Trump's efforts to get him to take the blame for the firing of FBI Director James Comey.

That event was examined as a key piece of Mueller's investigation of Trump's possible obstruction of justice — meaning Rosenstein was an important witness in the probe. Rosenstein also oversaw the probe beginning in early 2017.

Here's how the exchange between Harris and Barr played out:

Harris: Did the ethics officials in your office in the Department of Justice review the appropriateness of Rod Rosenstein being a part of making the charging decision on an investigation which he is also a witness in? 

Barr: So, as I said, my understanding was he had been cleared and he had been cleared before I arrived. 

Harris: In making a decision on the Mueller report? 

Barr: Yes. 

Harris: And the findings of whether or not the case would be charged on obstruction of justice? He had been cleared on that? 

Barr: He was the acting attorney general on the Mueller investigation. 

Harris: Had he been cleared to make — 

Barr: I'm informed that before I arrived, he had been cleared by the ethics officials. 

Harris: Of what? 

Barr: Of serving as acting attorney general on the Mueller case. 

Harris: How about making a charging decision on obstruction of justice, the underlying offices which include him as a witness? 

Barr: That is what the acting attorney general's job is. 

Harris: To be a witness and to make the decision about being prosecuted? 

Barr: Well, no. But to make charging decisions. 

Harris: I have nothing else. My time has run out. 

3:48 p.m. ET, May 1, 2019

Sen. Kamala Harris accuses Barr of failing to look at evidence

Sen. Kamala Harris, a Democratic presidential candidate, accused Attorney General William Barr of failing to look at evidence before making a decision on obstruction of justice.

Harris grilled Barr on statements he made in his March 24 summary, saying he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had looked at the evidence in special counsel Robert Mueller's report before reaching their decision on obstruction of justice. In his letter, Barr said he found the evidence was not sufficient to establish that the President committed obstruction of justice.

But Harris questioned whether Barr had personally reviewed the special counsel's "great deal of evidence."

She then asked, "My question is in reaching your conclusion, did you personally review all of the underlying evidence?"

Barr responded, "No," adding that he "accepted the statements in the report as the factual record."

Here's a portion of Harris' questioning:

Harris: "As the attorney general of the United States, you run the United States Department of Justice. If in any US attorney's office around the country, the head of that office, when being asked to make a critical decision about, in this case, the person who holds the highest office in the land, and whether or not that person committed a crime, would you accept them recommending a charging decision to you if they had not reviewed the evidence?"

Barr: "Well, that’s a question for Bob Mueller. He’s the US attorney. He’s the one who presents the report."

Harris: "But it was you who made the charging decision, sir."

Barr: "What --"

Harris: "You made the decision not to charge the President."

Barr: "No -- in the [sic] memo, and in the declination memo --"

Harris: "You said it was your baby, what did you mean by that?"

Barr: "It was my baby to decide whether or not to disclose it to the public."

Harris: "And whose decision was it -- who had the power to make the decision about whether or not the evidence was sufficient to make a determination of whether there had been an obstruction of justice?"

Barr: "Prosecution memos go up to the supervisor, in this case, it was, you know, the attorney general and the deputy attorney general, who decide on the final decision. And that is based on the memo as presented by the US attorney's office"

Harris: "I think you’ve made it clear that you have not looked at the evidence. We can move on. I think you’ve made it clear sir that you’ve not looked at the evidence, and we can move on."

2:26 p.m. ET, May 1, 2019

Barr says he does not "recall" discussing investigations stemming from Mueller probe with the White House

Attorney General William Barr told lawmakers he does not recall discussing any investigations that stemmed from special counsel Robert Mueller's probe with the White House. 

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, pressed Barr about his discussions with the White House.

Here's how that exchange went:

Blumenthal: "And I want to ask you, whether on those remaining investigations, the 12 (to) 14 investigations, whether you have had any communication with anyone in the White House?"

Barr: "No."

Blumenthal: "And will you give us an ironclad commitment that you will in no way--"

Barr: "By the way I’m not sure, you know, the laundry list of investigations, but I certainly haven’t talked the substance or been directed to do anything on any of the cases."

Blumenthal: "Well let me give you an opportunity to clarify. Have you had any conversations with anyone in the White House about those ongoing investigations that were spawned or spun off by--"

Barr: "I don’t recall having any substantive discussion on the investigations-- "