Attorney General William Barr’s opening statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee was released late Tuesday, just hours before Barr is set to appear before lawmakers to discuss his handling of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Barr’s statement also came out right after the Washington Post and New York Times published reports revealing that Mueller had written a letter to Barr criticizing aspects of the attorney general’s initial four-page letter outlining the “principal conclusions” of the Mueller report ahead of the release of the special counsel’s full findings. In that letter, Mueller reportedly wrote that Barr’s summary “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance” of the full report.
Barr, in his prepared statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee, does not address those concerns directly. Instead, he defends his handling of the Mueller report and his decision — along with that of soon-to-be-departed Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein — to clear President Donald Trump of criminal obstruction of justice charges.
Barr and Rosenstein concluded that “the evidence developed during the Special Counsel’s investigation [is] not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.” But Mueller’s final report offers a much more complicated narrative about the actions Trump took in response to the Russia investigation.
In his prepared statement, Barr defends his decision to make that conclusion — rather than, say, leaving the question open, as Mueller did, or explicitly putting it in the hands of Congress — saying that “it would not have been appropriate for me simply to release Volume II [the obstruction portion] of the report without making a prosecutorial judgment.”
Barr is scheduled to testify before the GOP-led Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. The latest reports around Mueller’s displeasure with the AG’s initial summary are likely to change the trajectory of the hearing, especially when it comes to the types of question Democrats are likely to ask.
Barr is also scheduled to testify on Thursday before the House Judiciary Committee, but that hearing is in doubt after he reportedly objected to Democrats’ proposed question format.
Either way, the revelations about Mueller and Barr’s interactions in the days leading up to the report’s full release are sure to fuel further scrutiny about Barr’s handling of the Mueller investigation. Whether that will ultimately change the public’s perception of the Mueller report and its findings is unclear, but Wednesday’s Senate hearing will certainly be the first test.
Read Attorney General William Barr’s statement at this link, or below.