It was their first chance to interrogate Attorney General William Barr since the Mueller Report’s release, and Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee made the most of it.
Barr parried a barrage of questions about how his March 24 news conference and four-page summary of Mueller’s report allegedly spun a narrative aimed at exonerating the President.
Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii delivered a blistering condemnation.
“You called a press conference, to once again try to clear Donald Trump before anyone had the chance to read the Special Counsel’s report and come to their own conclusions. But when we read the report, we know that Robert Mueller’s concerns were valid and that your version of events was false,” Hirono said. “You knew you lied, and now we know.”
Democrats deployed new ammunition: a letter Special Counsel Robert Mueller sent the attorney general three days after Barr issued the summary, complaining it, “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this Office’s work and conclusions.”
“There is now public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation. This threatens to undermine a central purpose for which the Department appointed the Special Counsel: to assure full public confidence in the outcomes of the investigations,” the letter continued.
New Jersey’s Cory Booker underscored that.
“You’ve now put your own credibility to question, but seemed to be giving sanction to behavior through the language you used in that press conference you held, the language you used in your summary that stimulated Mueller to write such a strong, rebuking letter,” Booker said.
Barr insisted his intentions when releasing the summary were not colored by loyalty to the President and that Mueller didn’t disagree with his summary, per se.
“My understanding was his concern was not the accuracy of the statement of findings in my letter, but that he wanted more out there to provide additional context,” Barr said. “Everyone can decide for themselves. There’s an election in 18 months. That’s a very democratic process. But we’re out of it, and we have to stop using the criminal justice process as a political weapon,” Barr said.
Republicans, including Chairman Sen. Lindsay Graham, promised to explore how anti-Trump FBI agents compromised the investigation of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s email server. Graham startled the room when he quoted one FBI agent.
“‘Trump is a ******g idiot. He’s unable to provide a coherent answer.’ Sorry to the kids out there,” Graham said.
Graham also backed Barr’s actions.
“No collusion. No coordination. No conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russian government regarding the 2016 election. As to obstruction of justice — Mueller left it to Mr. Barr to decide after two years, and all this time he said, ‘Mr. Barr, you decide.’ Mr. Barr did,” Graham said.
Republicans and Democrats did agree on one thing: they expressed alarm about the Mueller Report’s intel on Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election, and they urged the attorney general to work with them on hardening U.S. resistance to cyber-tampering.