Top Dems: Barr 'deliberately distorted' portions of Mueller report
Top congressional Democrats on Thursday accused Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrHouse Dems demand Barr cancel ‘inappropriate’ press conference on Mueller report DOJ plans to release ‘lightly redacted’ version of Mueller report Thursday: WaPo Nadler accuses Barr of ‘unprecedented steps’ to ‘spin’ Mueller report MORE of “deliberately” distorting large swaths of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE‘s report on his investigation surrounding the 2016 election.
“Special Counsel Mueller’s report paints a disturbing picture of a president who has been weaving a web of deceit, lies and improper behavior and acting as if the law doesn’t apply to him. But if you hadn’t read the report and listened only to Mr. Barr, you wouldn’t have known any of that because Mr. Barr has been so misleading,” Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiDOJ plans to release ‘lightly redacted’ version of Mueller report Thursday: WaPo Pelosi accuses Barr of ‘single-minded effort’ to protect Trump against Mueller report Dems attack Barr’s credibility after report of White House briefings on Mueller findings MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSchumer slams Justice Dept over ‘pre-damage control’ on Mueller report Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Sanders welcomes fight with Trump over ‘Medicare for all’ | DOJ attorney in ObamaCare case leaving | NYC mayor defends vaccination mandate | Ohio gov signs ‘heartbeat’ abortion bill Dems see room for Abrams in crowded presidential field MORE (N.Y.) said in a joint statement.
They added that Barr “deliberately distorted significant portions” of the report and outlined four “significant ways” they believe the attorney general has misled the public, arguing that it’s “imperative” that Mueller testify before both chambers of Congress.
Schumer and Pelosi knocked Barr over his findings that President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Dems demand Barr cancel ‘inappropriate’ press conference on Mueller report DOJ plans to release ‘lightly redacted’ version of Mueller report Thursday: WaPo Nadler accuses Barr of ‘unprecedented steps’ to ‘spin’ Mueller report MORE didn’t obstruct justice, arguing that the report included several instances that “appear to undercut” the attorney general. Mueller’s report analyzed 10 “episodes” in its obstruction inquiry.
“Attorney General Barr led us to believe that the Office of Legal Counsel [OLC] opinion did not play a significant role in special counsel Mueller’s refusal to make a decision on obstruction. In fact, the report shows the opinion played a major role, and probably the decisive, role,” they continue.
Barr said during his press conference earlier Thursday that the OLC guidance that a sitting president can’t be indicted didn’t keep Mueller from being able to determine whether or not Trump committed a crime.
Mueller “made it very clear, several times, that … he was not saying but for the OLC opinion he would have found a crime,” Barr told reporters.
Mueller made several references to the OLC decision in his report, but also raised concerns about the ramifications if they had tried to challenge the memo.
“The concerns about the fairness of such a determination would be heightened in the case of a sitting President, where a federal prosecutor’s accusation of a crime, even in an internal report, could carry consequences that extend beyond the realm of criminal justice,” Mueller wrote.
He added that “apart from OLC’s constitutional view, we recognized that a federal criminal accusation against a sitting President would place burdens on the President’s capacity to govern and potentially preempt constitutional processes for addressing presidential misconduct.”
Democrats have homed in on the obstruction portion of Mueller’s report, signaling the direction lawmakers are likely to dig into further in the coming weeks.
Barr first indicated to lawmakers in a four-page letter late last month that Mueller’s probe “did not draw a conclusion — one way or the other — as to whether the examined conduct constituted obstruction,” leaving Barr to make a decision about if a crime had been committed.
The attorney general defended his decision during Thursday’s press conference, saying that Trump faced an “unprecedented situation” in the course of Mueller’s investigation.
Schumer and Pelosi also argued that Barr “directly and dramatically” overplayed the degree to which Trump cooperated with the Mueller investigation, and glossed over that Trump campaign officials were aware of Russia’s attempts to influence the 2016 election.
“The Trump campaign and President Trump himself openly encouraged it for the purposes of winning a presidential election. That Attorney General Barr omitted this from all of his public statements regarding the report should shake any patriotic American to the core,” Schumer and Pelosi said.
Mueller said in his report that while the Trump campaign “expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts, the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”