As Mueller release nears, White House renews attacks

10 April, 2019, 04:47 | Author: Emmett Rice
  • Jerry Nadler and Robert Mueller

Barr's assurance came at a congressional hearing about his department's budgetary request for 2020, which was expected to be also, if not more, about the Mueller report, as this was the first time he was testifying since Special Counsel Robert Mueller turned in his report on his 22-month investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Representative Nita Lowey, a Democrat from NY, accused Barr of "cherry-picking" aspects of the Mueller report to be more favorable toward the president during her opening statement on Tuesday morning.

In his testimony, Barr did not reference the Mueller investigation or his report.

On March 24, Barr released a four-page letter to congress laying out what he said were Mueller's main findings.

With or without the threat of impeachment, there is a possibility that Democrats could obtain disclosure if a court, recognizing that the fight over the Mueller materials is an extraordinary circumstance, exercises its authority over grand jury matters to make a disclosure.

Justice Department lawyers and officials in Mueller's office are working to redact sensitive information in the lengthy document, a process that is going smoothly, Barr testified before the House Appropriations Committee.

"I'm glad to talk to Chairman [Jerry] Nadler and Chairman [Lindsey] Graham as to whether they feel they need more information and if there's a way we can accommodate that", Barr said.

"This Congress voted unanimously to see that report", the subcommittee's chairman, Jose Serrano said, adding that he could not simply ignore the "elephant in the room". "That's something that has been really important to us".

Others have said Barr made the right decision on the obstruction question, noting that it is hard to prove that Trump committed criminal obstruction if Mueller did not find that he destroyed evidence or directly interfered with the investigation - even though he assailed the inquiry as a "witch hunt" and called the investigators partisan zealots.

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Asked about the House Democrats mulling a subpoena to force Barr to release the unredacted report, the attorney general said, "there's been a recent case decided in the District of Columbia just, I think within the last week, on this that 6 (e) material is not releasable".

Democrats have criticised that bare-bones description, and some on Mueller's team have told associates that they are frustrated with the limited information made available about their work. This will (hopefully) minimize contention among members of Congress over the redactions; at the very least, it will provide Congress with a more specific road map toward which pieces of redacted information they may want to challenge. "Even for someone who has done this job before, I would argue it's more suspicious than impressive", Lowey said.

Mueller sent his final report to Barr on March 22, ending his nearly two-year investigation into possible ties between Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and Russian Federation.

But many have speculated that Barr, who was appointed by the president and confirmed by Congress earlier this year, may have interpreted Mueller's report in a way that showed Trump in a more positive light.

"From a prosecutor's standpoint", he said, "the bottom line is binary, which is charges or no charges".

The Democrats are demanding to see the full report and all its underlying evidence, though Trump and his Republican allies are pushing back. He said that he had "some inkling as to some of the thinking of the special counsel" due to public reporting on indictments, etc. filed by Mueller.

"To get into a squabble with the Justice Department, take away their funding because we don't like one or two of their positions, that may be over the top", the Pennsylvania Democrat said.

"If you think it's such an outrageous position, you have nothing to worry about", Barr said. He added, "My intention is not to ask for it at this stage".

Democratic leaders of the House Appropriations Committee plan to raise the report and Barr's summary in their opening statements, according to excerpts released Monday, making clear that Mueller will be front and center at the hearing.


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