WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Attorney General William Barr will face pointed questions on Wednesday about his handling of the special counsel’s report on Russia’s role in the 2016 election when he testifies before Congress amid accusations he misrepresented the document’s findings.
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Attorney General William Barr testifies before a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the proposed budget estimates for the Department of Justice in Washington, U.S., April 10, 2019. REUTERS/Erin Scott/File Photo
Barr’s appearance will mark the first time a member of President Donald’s Trump administration will be testifying about the contents of Robert Mueller’s report into whether Moscow conspired with the Trump campaign during the 2016 vote and whether the president tried to impede the investigation.
The attorney general, appointed by Trump, will tell Congress on Wednesday it is up to them to figure out what to do with the findings of Mueller’s report, now that the Justice Department has essentially completed its work.
“The exercise of responding and reacting to the report is a matter for the American people and the political process,” Barr will tell members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, according to prepared testimony.
On Tuesday, the Washington Post reported that Mueller had complained about a four-page summary written by Barr, saying in a letter it “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance” of the investigation’s conclusions.
Democratic lawmakers, already upset at Barr’s handling of the report, reacted furiously to the news report, with Senator Mark Warner saying Barr “has lost all credibility.”
Four Senate Democrats asked the Justice Department’s attorney general in a letter on Tuesday to investigate how Barr had rolled out the report.
Two days after receiving the 448-page report from Mueller on March 22, Barr issued a summary, saying that Mueller did not establish that members of Trump’s campaign conspired with Russia during the 2016 election.
He said Mueller left unresolved the question of whether Trump committed obstruction of justice by impeding the Russia investigation. Barr said he and his deputy, Rod Rosenstein, had determined there was insufficient evidence to establish the president committed obstruction of justice.
The partially redacted report, released on April 18, described in extensive and sometimes unflattering detail how Trump tried to impede the investigation, but it stopped short of concluding the president had committed a crime.
Some Democrats say Barr acted improperly by ruling out obstruction of justice charges against the president and praising the White House in a news conference ahead of the report’s release.
Internally, Democrats are now debating whether the report serves as a suitable basis for impeachment proceedings against Trump.
Republicans, including Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, have questioned whether the FBI overstepped its authority by monitoring aides of the president who were suspected of being Russian agents during the campaign. Barr has said he would look into the matter.
Barr is also due to testify before the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday. Democrats who control the committee and the Justice Department are in disagreement over the format of the hearing.
Democrats want Barr to face extended questioning from staff lawyers once the customary round of questioning by lawmakers is complete, and sit for a closed-door session to discuss redacted portions of Mueller’s report.
The Justice Department objected because witnesses traditionally do not face questions from committee staff.
Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler has also demanded that Barr provide an unredacted version of the report and underlying evidence by 10 a.m. (1400 GMT) on Wednesday. The Justice Department has not said whether it would comply with that request.
Reporting by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Peter Cooney and Bernadette Baum