Barr defends president as Dems continue to push for unredacted Mueller report

By: - April 18, 2019 11:16 am

U.S. Attorney General William Barr speaks about the release of the redacted version of the Mueller report as U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein listens at the Department of Justice April 18, 2019 in Washington, DC. | Win McNamee/Getty Images

Updated, 12:59 p.m. with comments from Sen. Peters.

WASHINGTON — Congressional Republicans and the Trump administration want to move on from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, now that a redacted version of the report has been released to the public.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein at the April 18, 2019 press conference

President Trump’s attorney general, William Barr, offered a robust defense of President Trump Thursday morning ahead of the highly anticipated public release of the 448-page redacted report detailing the findings of Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

But Democrats are just getting started.

“A two-year independent investigation into Russian election meddling produced the MUELLER report not the BARR report,” U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing) wrote on Twitter. “Mr. Barr is not President Trump’s private attorney. He is Attorney General for the American people! It’s time to release the full report!”

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Twp.) issued a statement on Twitter calling for the full report, noting that the investigation resulted in almost “200 criminal charges, dozens of indictments and more than a half dozen guilty pleas.*

Republican lawmakers were quick to call for Congress to drop the matter.

Debbie Stabenow at the Women’s March in Detroit, Jan. 19, 2019 | Ken Coleman

“For two years, the American people have been sold a lie about collusion with Russia in the 2016 election … today we know for certain that did not happen,” U.S. Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-Dryden) wrote on Facebook. “Perhaps now we can get to work on issues that actually help the American people like securing our borders, fixing our roads, and reducing the cost of healthcare.”

Florida Republican U.S. Rep. Ross Spano said in a statement issued under embargo before the report’s release:

“I applaud Attorney General Barr releasing the Mueller report for the American people to read and make up their own mind. It’s time to put this collusion delusion aside and work together in the best interest of the American people.”

Paul Mitchell

North Carolina Republican U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx said the “report shows that the facts do not bear out the accusations against the president. That truth should unite all of us to move forward, but Democrats decided long ago that they can’t accept the truth unless it can further their agenda of impeachment.”

But the fight over the report and its findings is nowhere near over, as Democrats continue to question the attorney general’s motives and demand more scrutiny of Trump’s behavior and the report’s findings. Top Democrats in both the House and Senate accuse the administration of spinning the findings ahead of the reports release, and they’re calling for Mueller to testify before Congress as soon as possible.

Barr spoke to reporters this morning at the Justice Department, where he defended Trump’s motives and reiterated findings of “no collusion” between Trump’s campaign and Russians interfering in the election.

The bottom line, Barr said, is: “After nearly two years of investigation, thousands of subpoenas, hundreds of warrants and witness interviews, the special counsel confirmed that the Russian government sponsored efforts to illegally interfere with the 2016 presidential election, but did not find that the Trump campaign or other Americans colluded in those efforts.”

The attorney general noted that Mueller’s report “recounts 10 episodes involving the president and discusses potential legal theories for connecting those activities to the elements of an obstruction offense.”

According to Barr’s four-page summary of the report released in March, Mueller declined to draw a conclusion on whether the president obstructed justice, saying that while his report “does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

Robert Mueller on Capitol Hill May 16, 2013 in Washington, DC. | Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Barr said Thursday that he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein “concluded that the evidence developed by the special counsel is not sufficient to establish that the president committed an obstruction of justice offense.”

Barr added that he and Rosenstein “disagreed with some of the special counsel’s legal theories and felt that some of the episodes examined did not amount to obstruction as a matter of law.”

The attorney general went on to defend Trump’s behavior, given the “unprecedented situation” he faced when he took office, citing scrutiny of his conduct by federal prosecutors and “relentless speculation in the news media” about Trump’s culpability.

Barr said that Trump, despite his frustrations and anger, “took no act that in fact deprived the special counsel of the documents and witnesses necessary to complete his investigation.”

But Trump’s critics, including congressional Democrats, aren’t satisfied.

House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) sent a letter to Mueller just after Barr’s press conference concluded, asking him to testify.

“It is clear Congress and the American people must hear from Special Counsel Robert Mueller in person to better understand his findings,” Nadler wrote on Twitter. He wants Mueller to appear before his committee “as soon as possible.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) also released a joint statement Thursday calling for Mueller to testify in both chambers of Congress.

“Attorney General Barr’s regrettably partisan handling of the Mueller report, including his slanted March 24th summary letter, his irresponsible testimony before Congress last week, and his indefensible plan to spin the report in a press conference later this morning — hours before he allows the public or Congress to see it — have resulted in a crisis of confidence in his independence and impartiality,” they wrote.

“We believe the only way to begin restoring public trust in the handling of the Special Counsel’s investigation is for Special Counsel Mueller himself to provide public testimony in the House and Senate as soon as possible.”

Barr told reporters during the news conference he had no objection to Mueller testifying about his investigation to Congress.

Maryland Democratic U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen wrote on Facebook, “That was quite a spin job from Attorney General Barr on a report he has allowed no one but the White House to read so far. Just like when I questioned him under oath, he wanted to make it clear that he believes President Trump wasn’t guilty of obstruction of justice — but refuses to give us the facts to back that up.”

He also urged Mueller to testify before Congress “without delay.”

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Robin Bravender
Robin Bravender

Robin Bravender was the States Newsroom Washington Bureau Chief from January 2019 until June 2020. She coordinated the network’s national coverage and reported on states’ congressional delegations, federal agencies, the White House and the federal courts. Prior to that, Robin was an editor and reporter at E&E News, a reporter at Politico, and a freelance producer for Reuters TV.