Barr Skips House Hearing After Senate Testimony
On Wednesday, Attorney General William Barr testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, answering questions about his handling of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s final report.
Earlier in the week, it was reported that Mueller was not satisfied with Barr’s four page summary of the investigation. According to two senior Justice department officials, Mueller had written a letter to Barr criticizing his summary, citing that it “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance” of the Russia investigation.
During the testimony, the attorney general faced a number of tough questions, primarily from the panel’s Democrats. Barr had a difficult time answering Senator Kamala Harris, (D-CA) who expressed concern on whether or not the president was seeking to use the attorney general’s office for his personal needs. The former prosecutor and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate asked, “Has the President or anyone at the White House ever asked or suggested that you open an investigation of anyone? ... Yes or no?”
Barr stuttered, but ended the short exchange with, “I don't know, I wouldn't say suggest. I don't know.” The attorney general’s vague response later prompted the senator to explain on CNN, “He did not answer the question, and I'm sure he didn't because he knew he was under oath, and he knew that he could potentially expose himself to perjury if he didn't answer honestly.”
On the issue of obstruction of justice, Barr admitted that he did not look over the underlying evidence that appeared in the Mueller report. The attorney general said, “We accepted the statements in the report as the factual record. We did not go underneath it to see whether or not they were accurately accepted as accurate.”
However, Barr stated to the panel that he had expected the Mueller team to make a decision on obstruction. The attorney general said, “I think the deputy attorney general and I thought it was [Mueller’s responsibility to make a charging recommendation].” Barr proceeded to claim that because Mueller did not make a decision on obstruction, he believed it was his responsibility to determine if President Trump had obstructed justice.
When asked to clarify about the discrepancies behind the accuracy of the summary, Barr said that he had contacted Mueller after writing the summary. Barr took aim at the media’s reporting of the summary, citing, “I called Bob and said, you know, what's the issue here? Are you -- and 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.”
Following the testimony, Barr was expected to appear before the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday morning for more questioning. However, it was announced shortly after Wednesday’s Senate hearing that the attorney general would not testify with the House Committee. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), the Committee’s chairman, threatened to hold Barr in contempt over the Mueller report, saying, “Yes, we will continue to negotiate for access to the full report. And yes, we will have no choice but to move quickly to hold the attorney general in contempt if he stalls or fails to negotiate in good faith.”
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi took the criticism a step further, telling reporters, “What is deadly serious about it is the attorney general of the United States of America is not telling the truth to the Congress of the United States. That’s a crime.” With the Democratic party split on whether or not to begin impeachment proceedings against President Trump, Pelosi has held firm on her strance of the issue, claiming that “it is not worth it.”