Attorney General Barr defends Mueller report handling amid furore

The top ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee sparred with Attorney General William Barr on Wednesday over President Trump's alleged efforts to remove Special Counsel Robert Mueller from the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether or not Trump's actions constituted obstruction of justice.

The report also refrained from stating that Trump or other senior officials in his camp engaged in obstruction of justice - with many critics of the U.S. leader arguing that Mueller found plenty of evidence of this actually happening.

Barr has testified to Congress previously that Mueller declined the opportunity to review his four-page memo to lawmakers, which attempted to distill the essence of the special counsel's findings.

"These are the people that made a decision that [Hillary] Clinton didn't do anything wrong and that counterintelligence of the Trump campaign was warranted", Graham said. He repeatedly asserted his authority as attorney general to make the final determination about whether Trump obstructed justice.

The fact is that this letter from the special counsel, and it was one of at least three contacts with the Attorney general between March 25th and March 27th, was a clear indication that the Attorney General was upset, very upset with the letter that had been sent out by the Attorney General and wanted it changed.

To be fair, Department of Justice officials claimed that on the call Mueller did not say he felt the summary was inaccurate, although the letter itself appears to make clear that is not the case.

Accordingly, Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had to assess whether the findings merited criminal charges, he said - and they concluded that they did not.

Many Democrats have been calling for a grilling of Mueller ever since his report into Russiagate failed to meet their expectations and incriminate the president or members of his inner circle of having criminal ties with Russian Federation. In it he says - and he isn't talking about press reaction.

According to a letter, dated March 27, Mueller said Barr's four-page summary of the report sent to Congress on March 24 "did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance" of the special counsel's investigation. It was also a forum for him to fix a reputation bruised by allegations that he's the Republican president's protector and by the emergence of a private letter from Mr Mueller that criticized his handling of the report.

But the report but did not exonerate the president of obstruction of justice in his attempts to undermine Special Counsel Mueller.

It's hard to avoid the suspicion that Mueller's moan was driven by members of his team of Democratic partisans and Trump haters.

His testimony came after revelations that Mr Mueller expressed frustration over the summary of the report. Jerry Nadler, New York Democrat and House Judiciary Committee chairman, said in a statement. "I thought he was unfit when he was appointed, I opposed him and now, clearly the Department of Justice needs new leadership", Blumenthal said. He even took Mueller himself to task, alleging that the special counsel engaged in prosecutorial overreach by pursuing the obstruction probe at all.

Barr is scheduled to testify before the committee on Thursday, but the Department of Justice (DOJ) has voiced objections over the format of the hearing.

Will Barr testify before House panel?

Barr answered "yes" to all of the questions.

  • Tracy Klein