Barr contradicted and struggled with key findings of Muller report

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ABC NEWS)

 

Barr contradicted and struggled with key findings of Mueller report

PHOTO: Attorney General William Barr responds as he is asked a question from Sen. Richard Blumenthal during testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 1, 2019.Susan Walsh/AP
WATCHAttorney General William Barr defends himself in Senate Judiciary Committee hearing

During his four-hour back and forth with senators on Wednesday, Attorney General William Barr questioned, and at times seemed to contradict, key findings in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report.

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Time and again, faced with questions from probing Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats about the report’s contents, Barr also seemed unfamiliar with some of the report’s significant details.

When Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., brought up how then-Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort shared polling data in August 2016 with his former business associate, Konstantin Kilimnik — identified by prosecutors as having ties to Russian intelligence — Barr struggled.

“What information was shared?” Barr asked, prompting Booker to reply, “Polling data was shared, sir. It’s in the report.”

“With who?” Barr followed up.

PHOTO: U.S. Attorney General William Barr testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee May 1, 2019 in Washington, D.C. Barr testified on the Justice Departments investigation of Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election.Win Mcnamee/Getty Images
U.S. Attorney General William Barr testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee May 1, 2019 in Washington, D.C. Barr testified on the Justice Department’s investigation of Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election.more +

The special counsel’s team had concluded there weren’t sufficient grounds to prosecute Manafort’s actions as a crime of conspiracy, but a top prosecutor in Mueller’s office previously described Manafort’s interactions with Kilimnik as being at the “heart” of the probe about whether Trump’s campaign had coordinated with the Russian government.

In another instance, when Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., quoted the Mueller report about “multiple links between Trump campaign officials and individuals tied to the Russian government” and that in some instances “the campaign was receptive to the offer whereas others they were not,” Barr indicated that he did not understand “what communications that referred to.”

Leahy said, “You have the report. I just gave you the page from the report.”

At another point Leahy questioned if Trump had “fully cooperated” with Mueller, as Barr wrote, “by instructing a former aide to tell the attorney general to un-recuse himself, shut down the investigation and declare the president did nothing wrong.”

“Where is that in the report?” Barr asked. When Leahy pointed to the page number, Barr muttered, “Right.”

At other times, the attorney general appeared to directly contradict key findings in the Mueller report, including when giving his view of the interactions between Trump and then-White House Counsel Don McGahn about the president’s attempts to get rid of Mueller.

During questioning by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Barr stated that Trump had attempted to remove Mueller because of “conflict of interest” and not to terminate the investigation. He said the president had directed McGahn to correct a New York Times article that reported on what Trump had told McGahn only because he deemed it inaccurate.

According to the Mueller report, however, evidence showed that “the President was not just seeking an examination of whether conflicts existed but instead was looking to use asserted conflicts as a way to terminate the special counsel.” The Mueller report also stated, “There is also evidence that the President knew that he should not have made those calls to McGahn.”

“The report is over 400 pages,” a Justice Department official told ABC News. “It would be impossible for anyone to remember every detail of the report off-hand.”

Asked whether Barr’s testimony contradicted Mueller’s findings, the Justice Department official answered, “No.”

PHOTO: Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Cory Booker, left, and Sen. Kamala Harris, right, listen as Attorney General William Barr testifies during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., May 1, 2019.Andrew Harnik/AP
Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Cory Booker, left, and Sen. Kamala Harris, right, listen as Attorney General William Barr testifies during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., May 1, 2019.more +

Maybe one of the most contentious moments came when Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris asked Barr if he, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein or anyone in his executive office had questioned or reviewed the underlying evidence supporting the report’s findings, and Barr replied, “No.”

“In the Department of Justice, we have cross memos every day coming up,” Barr said. “We don’t go and look at the underlying evidence. We take the characterization of the evidence as true.”

Harris shot back, questioning Barr’s decision to accept charging recommendations without reviewing underlying evidence when making a “critical decision” about “the person who holds the highest office in the land and whether or not that person committed a crime.”

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

ABC News’ Alexander Mallin contributed to this report.

William Barr proved himself to be Donald Trump’s lawyer, Not America’s

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE USA TODAY NEWSPAPER)

(Yesterday the Attorney General William Barr Proved to the American people that he, Our Nation’s Top Cop is totally bought and paid for as well as proving himself to be an habitual liar, just like his boss. The DOJ needs to change its call letters to DONJ, STANDS FOR DEPARTMENT OF NO JUSTICE, but of course it could mean Donald, as in Teflon Don’s Justice) (oldpoet56)

William Barr proved himself to be Donald Trump’s lawyer, not America’s: Today’s talker

‘Barr was now fully invested in portraying Trump as its innocent victim,’ says Brian Dickerson.

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Attorney General William Barr was a no-show on Thursday, skipping a second congressional hearing into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Barr writes his obituary — and it’s not flattering

By Brian Dickerson

Attorney General William Barr snookered me.

Back in January, testifying before senators considering whether to confirm him as the nation’s top law enforcement officer, Barr was at pains to dispel suspicions that he would use his office to undercut the work of special counsel Robert Mueller, then nearing the conclusion of his investigation.

Senators who opposed Barr’s confirmation had ample reason to question his bona fides as an honest broker. Half a year before his nomination as attorney general, in a 19-page memo mailed to Department of Justice leaders, Barr had asserted that Mueller’s inquiry into the allegations that the president had broken the law by obstructing DOJ investigators was “fatally misconceived” because the president’s authority over the department was absolute.

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But at his confirmation hearing, Barr insisted the memo was merely a summary of his disinterested legal judgment, not a veiled pledge of unquestioning loyalty to the president who had nominated him. He had already served as attorney general under President George H.W. Bush, he reminded senators; he wanted to restore confidence in the DOJ, not use it as a shield for presidential misconduct.

The prospect that Barr had misled senators about his independence emerged on March 24, when he released a four-page summary of Mueller’s report that eerily echoed the language of the White House propaganda machine. Barr confirmed his critics’ worst suspicions on April 18, when he preempted the release of the redacted report with a news conference in which he portrayed White House efforts to derail the investigation as the reasonable reaction of a president “frustrated and angered” about the allegations against him.

Along with his assertion that the FBI had spied after obtaining a warrant to monitor the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russian agents, Barr made it clear that contrary to his promise to defend Mueller’s investigation, he was now fully invested in portraying Trump as its innocent victim.

Mueller made plain his dismay at Barr’s metamorphosis from attorney general to chief defense counsel in a March 27 letter, made public just before the attorney general’s testimony Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, in which the special counsel protested that Barr had distorted “the context, substance and nature” of his investigators’ work and threatened to undermine public confidence in their findings.

In his Senate testimony, Barr dismissed Mueller’s circumspect letter as “snitty,” brushed off previous sworn testimony in which the AG denied any inkling of the special counsel’s displeasure, and insisted, with the Trump White House’s characteristic disdain for candor, that he had meant to telegraph “no negative connotations” with his insinuations about FBI “spying.”

Yet it is impossible to imagine that Mueller, his investigators, or the FBI agents and DOJ lawyers working on the 14 criminal investigations Mueller’s team referred to other U.S. attorneys came away from Wednesday’s hearing with the confidence that Barr has their backs.

Contrast that with the almost reverent appreciation Justice Department officials expressed for Barr’s predecessors, the late Elliot Richardson and William Ruckelshaus, when they resigned rather than enlist in President Richard Nixon’s campaign to co-opt the Justice Department.

Barr won’t lose any sleep over my own disappointment, and he won’t be around to see how historians remember the cause for which he sacrificed, in a few short months, his reputation for integrity.

But he is quickly rewriting the obituary that might have appeared if he had demurred when Trump enlisted him as the White House’s principal propagandist. The updated version is unlikely to be one he or his children will take much pride in.

Brian Dickerson is the editorial page editor of the Detroit Free Press, where the full version of this column first appeared. You can follow him on Twitter: @BRIANDDICKERSON.

What others are saying

James Comey, The New York Times: “Amoral leaders have a way of revealing the character of those around them. … More often, proximity to an amoral leader reveals something depressing. I think that’s at least part of what we’ve seen with Attorney General William Barr and former acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Accomplished people lacking inner strength can’t resist the compromises necessary to survive President Donald Trump, and that adds up to something they will never recover from.”

The Wall Street Journal,  editorial: “This trashing of Bill Barr shows how frustrated and angry Democrats continue to be that the special counsel came up empty in his Russia collusion probe. He was supposed to be their fast track to impeachment. Now they’re left trying to gin up an obstruction tale, but the probe wasn’t obstructed and there was no underlying crime. So they’re shouting and pounding the table against Bill Barr for acting like a real attorney general.”

Dana Milbank, The Washington Post: “Barr continued undermining Mueller on Wednesday, calling Mueller’s letter to him ‘a bit snitty’ and saying Mueller should have ended the investigation if he didn’t think it in his purview to say whether Trump committed a crime. And Barr eagerly played Trump’s defense lawyer. … Repeatedly, Barr said it didn’t matter that Trump had deceived the public. ‘I’m not in the business of determining when lies are told to the American people,’ he said. But now Barr, by misrepresenting his dealings with Mueller, has gotten himself into the business of lying to the American people.”

What our readers are saying

Attorney General William Barr is not America’s lawyer, he’s President Donald Trump’s private counsel hired to lie to Congress and Americans. Barr lied to Congress on Wednesday regarding former special counsel Robert Mueller’s letter and said it was probably written by a subordinate. He has no shame and will do anything to protect our “dictator.”

— Russell E. Glass

I’m glad Barr told them to stick it on a second congressional hearing. Barr was ready to testify until the House Judiciary Committee agreed to add an hour of questions by staff lawyers — a nonsensical demand. Democrats just wanted another day of theatrics.

— Gerd Eysser

So many people don’t understand the true danger in this administration and their lawlessness. It sets the dangerous precedent that money and power mean you are above the law, and their total disregard for the Constitution and our laws is deplorable and putting us all at risk.

— Eileen Carlson Sierra

The Mueller report is done. There was no collusion! Liberals need to get over themselves and quit spending all this money.

— Pamela Hyder Lewis

To join the conversations about topics on USA TODAY or provide feedback to this newsletter, email [email protected], comment on Facebook, or use #tellusatoday on Twitter.

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William Barr is in Deep Trouble

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

William Barr is in deep trouble

(CNN)Attorney General William Barr did two strange things between the time he received special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election and when he released it to Congress and the public.

The first came on March 24 when, two days after receiving the Mueller report, Barr released a four-page summary letter in which he made clear his conclusion that the report found no collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians and that Mueller hadn’t made any recommendation as to whether President Donald Trump should be charged with obstructing justice.
 

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The second came on the morning of April 18 when Barr, with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein by his side, held a press conference to reiterate those findings — in remarkably Trumpian language — 90 minutes before actually making a redacted version of the report public.
On Tuesday night, those two moves came into far sharper — and more troubling — focus when it was revealed that Mueller sent a letter to Barr on March 27 expressing concern about the ways in which Barr’s summary document described the evidence surrounding obstructive behavior. Mueller did not make issue with any of the factual statements in Barr’s four-page letter but rather the lack of nuance on obstruction — and the resultant media coverage, according to CNN’s Laura Jarrett’s reporting.
That revelation creates a series of problems for Barr — most notably that he appeared to be, at best, misleading in his answers about Mueller’s feelings about his summary of the report.
On April 9, in a House hearing, Barr seemed entirely unaware of Mueller’s issues with his summary report. Here’s the key exchange between Barr and Florida Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist:
CRIST: Reports have emerged recently, general, that members of the special counsel’s team are frustrated at some level with the limited information included in your March 24 letter, that it does not adequately or accurately portray the report’s findings. Do you know what they are referencing with that?
BARR: No, I don’t.
In an April 10 appearance before the Senate Appropriations Committee, this exchange happened between Barr and Maryland Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen:
VAN HOLLEN: Did — did Bob Mueller support your conclusion?
BARR: I don’t know whether Bob Mueller supported my conclusion.
What Barr quite clearly knew at that point — and had known for the better part of two weeks — was that Mueller had issues with the way in which he presented the conclusions of the report in the four-page letter.
Now, you can argue that Barr technically didn’t lie there. He knew that Mueller wasn’t thrilled with the way he summarized the broader report but that didn’t mean that Mueller opposed the conclusions. Again, that is technically possible. But, in the real world, it sure as hell seems like Barr was purposely obfuscating when it came to Mueller’s view of the report so as to downplay any sense that a) he didn’t present a full picture of the report and b) there was any rift between the two men.
And, given all of what he knew about Mueller’s opinion of his summary letter, Barr’s decision to hold a press conference more than an hour before the release of the actual report is even more concerning.
At the time — even without the knowledge we now possess about the Mueller letter of March 27 — it seemed odd. The attorney general holding a press conference about a report that he had seen but no one in the media had been given — and wouldn’t be for another 90 minutes? It seemed, even before Barr began speaking, to be a relatively transparent attempt by the AG to frame the soon-arriving Mueller report — to set the terms of the conversation for both Congress and the American public.
Within minutes, it became clear that was exactly Barr’s intent. Here’s just a piece of what Barr said that day:
“So that is the bottom line. After nearly two years of investigation, thousands of subpoenas, and 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 schemes.”
As I noted at the time, Barr’s language was strikingly similar to how Trump himself had long described the Mueller probe. But, that language from Barr seems far more damning for the attorney general in light of what he knew about both the repeated incidents of seemingly obstructive behavior in the Mueller report and also Mueller’s own concerns about the language Barr had used to describe the finding in his March 24 summary letter.
Barr is set to sit to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. He’s got a lot to answer for.
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