‘When we pressed him on it, he said his team was still formulating an explanation…’
(Ben Sellers, Liberty Headlines) In the first hours of Attorney General William Barr‘s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, several Democratic members honed on a letter that Special Council Robert Mueller sent to the AG’s office on March 24, which they claimed contradicted Barr’s previous testimony.
The letter, revealed the day before the testimony in a piece by The Washington Post, seemed to suggest, according to the Democrats, that Mueller was dissatisfied with Barr’s conclusions summarizing the key findings of the special counsel’s report on claims that President Donald Trump potentially obstructed the investigation.
But Barr disputed this, saying in response to a question from Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., that he had spoken directly with Mueller and been told otherwise.
“My understanding was his concern was not the accuracy of the statement of the findings in my letter, but that he wanted more out there to provide additional context to explain his reasoning on why he didn’t reach a decision on obstruction,” Barr said.
Democrats have hammered the attorney general as part of their deflective efforts to undermine and scapegoat over the Mueller Report’s unsatisfactory conclusions about President Donald Trump’s campaign activity.
Following the revelations of the Mueller letter, some on the Left called on Barr to resign, claiming he had lied to Congress when directly questioned about any concerns that Mueller’s office might have had with the summary.
Barr, however, said the specific question he was asked cited complaints from unnamed staffers whose concerns he was not directly aware of. Regarding what Mueller had represented to him in the letter as a concern, Barr analogized his summary of the report to a judge rendering a verdict.
“After a monthslong trial, if I wanted to go out and get out to the public what the verdict was … and the prosecutor comes up, taps me on the shoulder and says, ‘Well, the verdict doesn’t really fully capture all my work. How about that great cross examination I did, or how about that third day of trial where I did that—- this doesn’t capture everything’—my answer to that is I’m not trying to capture everything,” Barr said.
He said Mueller was offered the opportunity to review in advance his four-page summary but declined.
Durbin expressed his skepticism, saying the fact that Mueller put it in writing was a telling indicator that he objected to the way the conclusions were being represented.
“There’s a good rule in politics: A good attorney doesn’t write a letter and doesn’t throw one away,” he said.
Passing the Buck on Obstruction
During the testimony, Barr also directly addressed Mueller’s decision to pass the buck on determining whether Trump had obstructed justice.
Barr said both he and recently resigned Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein—who oversaw much of the investigation—were surprised that Mueller had deferred on the obstruction question, which was part of his charter to decide conclusively.
“I think that if he felt that he shouldn’t go down the path of making a traditional prosecutive decision then he shouldn’t have investigated—that was the time to pull up,” Barr said, responding to a question from Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.
Barr said that when he initially asked Mueller why his office had failed to reach a conclusion he didn’t get a direct answer. “When we pressed him on it, he said his team was still formulating an explanation.”
Given the burden of making that highly politicized determination, Barr said he weighed the evidence individually on each of the 10 possible obstruction claims, using the “analytical framework” provided by Mueller.
Ultimately, Barr said he found that it would be difficult to prove obstruction without an actual crime having occurred since the report had found no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
“The paradigmatic case is there’s an underlying crime and the persons implicated are concerned about the crime being discovered,” Barr told Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, the committee chair.
Barr said that one of the more publicized accounts from the report—that Trump directed attorney Don McGahn to dismiss Mueller was not outside of the scope of the president’s authority and may have stemmed from valid concerns about Mueller’s conflicts of interest related to a key player in the investigation, former FBI Director James Comey.
However, Barr noted that dismissing Mueller would be different from trying to end the investigation and that the White House had, in fact, fully cooperated with the investigative efforts, with McGahn testifying for more than 30 hours.
Graham pointed to several prominent Democrats having called for the dismissal of Comey, and Barr said Mueller’s findings supported the fact that there was no attempted cover-up involved in the firing.
“Even the report at the end of the day … came to the conclusion that a reason that loomed large there … was his refusal to tell the public… that the president was not under investigation,” Barr said.
Although Comey had told Trump as much in their private conversations, it was later revealed that the FBI had been investigating Trump, albeit under false pretenses supplied by the Steele Dossier.
Improperly Predicated Investigation
Republicans on the committee focused on the dossier and the role of Hillary Clinton’s actions and the Obama Justice Department’s actions in their own campaign interference.
Barr told Grassley that he was currently looking into whether the investigation into Trump, led by biased FBI agents including Peter Strzok, was properly predicated and that he hoped to deliver his findings to Congress.
Both Grassley and Graham noted that the Democrats’ actions using the firm Fusion GPS seemed, ironically, to be the most obvious case for foreign interference in the 2016 election.
“The Mueller Report spent millions investigating and found no collusion between Trump campaign and Russia,” Grassley said, “but the Democrats paid for a document created by a foreign national with reported foreign government sources—not Trump, but the Democrats. That’s the definition of collusion.”
However, Durbin attempted to redirect the conversation, saying that the GOP’s “Lock Her Up” Defense had no bearing on the testimony that Barr was there to provide.
He mocked the Republican questioning, claiming that their focus was really about Hillary Clinton’s e-mails and other scandals—including the Bill Clinton-era Travelgate and Whitewater investigations.
“There’s a lot of material we should be going through today, according to their response to this, that is totally unresponsive to the reality of what the American people want to know,” Durbin said.