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Sen. Mazie Hirono to William Barr: “America deserves better. You should resign.”

The Democrat from Hawaii delivered an indictment of Attorney General Barr’s handling of the Russia investigation and Mueller report.

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) speaks at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on April 10, 2019, in Washington, DC.
Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) speaks at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on April 10, 2019, in Washington, DC. 
Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images

After hours of listening to Attorney General William Barr answer questions from lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee about his handling of the special counsel’s Russia report, Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) had apparently heard enough of what he had to say.

So when it came time for her to question Barr, she chose instead to deliver a scorching monologue castigating his handling of the Russia investigation and the decisions he made before releasing the full Mueller report to the public.

“Mr. Barr, now the American people know you are no different from Rudy Giuliani or Kellyanne Conway or any of the other people who sacrificed their once-decent reputations for the liar and grifter who sits in the Oval Office,” she told the attorney general.

Hirono accused Barr of having consistently taken President Trump’s side over the interests of the American people, starting with his decision to send a 19-page unsolicited memo to the Justice Department criticizing the Mueller investigation in June 2018 — well before he ever became attorney general.

She also slammed him for waiting weeks to release the full report on Mueller’s findings, and for doing so only after he’d held a press conference in which he personally cleared the president of obstruction of justice and declared there had been “no collusion.”

“When you finally did decide to release the report, over a congressional recess and on the eve of two major religious holidays, you called a press conference to once again try to clear Donald Trump before anyone had a chance to read the special counsel report and come to their own conclusions,” Hirono said.

The senator continued:

But when we read the report, we knew Robert Mueller’s concerns were valid and that your version of events was false. You used every advantage of your office to create the impression that the president was cleared of misconduct. You selectively quoted fragments from the special counsel report, taking some of the most important statements out of context and ignoring the rest. You put the power and authority of the office of the attorney general and the Department of Justice behind a public relations effort to help Donald Trump protect himself.

Hirono capped off her monologue by calling on Barr to resign: “Being attorney general of the United States is a sacred trust. You have betrayed that trust. America deserves better. You should resign.”

The hearing had been tense and adversarial at times, but Hirono’s political grandstanding was a startling departure from the tone of the testimony up to that point

Hirono did actually attempt to ask Barr questions after her speech, including whether he thought Trump’s behavior — when he fired FBI Director James Comey, for instance, or when he asked White House counsel Don McGahn to lie for him — was “appropriate,” even if it didn’t rise to the level of a crime.

But Barr, understandably, wasn’t exactly inclined to engage with Hirono’s questions after all that. Instead, he simply referred her back to the report and stated he was only “willing to talk about what is criminal.”

Hirono continued to press Barr until Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Lindsey Graham (R-SC) interceded and accused Hirono of “slandering” Barr.

“I do not think that I’m slandering anyone,” Hirono replied, and ended her questions.

Hirono’s speech and the tense exchange that followed didn’t solicit much new information from Barr — the ostensible point of holding such a hearing in the first place.

But it did illuminate Democrats’ frustrations with Barr and the still-unanswered questions about his role in the conclusion of the investigation — something that many senators believe only Mueller himself will be able to answer.

Hirono’s full comments to Barr are transcribed below:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Barr, now the American people know that you are no different from Rudy Giuliani or Kellyanne Conway or any of the other people who sacrifice their once decent reputation for the liar who sits in the Oval Office.

[You] once turned down a job offer from Donald Trump to represent him as his private attorney. At your confirmation hearing, you told Sen. Feinstein that the job of attorney general is not the same as representing ... the president. So you know the difference. You’ve chosen to be the president’s lawyer and side with him over the interest of the American people.

To start with, you should never have been involved in supervising the Robert Mueller investigation. You wrote a 19-page unsolicited memo, which you admit was not based on any facts, attacking the premise of half of the investigation. And you also should have insisted that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein recuse himself. He wasn’t just a witness to some of the president’s obstructive behavior; we now know he was in frequent personal contact with the president, a subject of the investigation. You should have left it to career officials.

Then once the report was delivered by the special counsel, you delayed its release for more than two weeks and let the president’s personal lawyers look at it before you even deigned to let Congress or the public see it. During the time, you substituted your own political judgment for the special counsel legal conclusions and in a four-page letter to Congress — and now we know, thanks to a free press, that Mr. Mueller wrote you a letter objecting to your so-called summary.

When you called Mueller to discuss his letter, the reports are that he thought your summary was giving the press, Congress, and the public a misleading impression of his work. He asked you to release the report summaries to correct the misimpression you created, but you refused.

When you finally did decide to release the report, over a congressional recess and on the eve of two major religious holidays, you called a press conference to once again try to clear Donald Trump before anyone had a chance to read the special counsel report and come to their own conclusions.

But when we read the report, we knew Robert Mueller’s concerns were valid and that your version of events was false. You used every advantage of your office to create the impression that the president was cleared of misconduct. You selectively quoted fragments from the special counsel report, taking some of the most important statements out of context and ignoring the rest. You put the power and authority of the office of the attorney general and the Department of Justice behind a public relations effort to help Donald Trump protect himself.

Finally, you lied to Congress. You told Rep. Charlie Crist that you didn’t know what objections Mueller’s team might have to the March 24 so-called summary. You told Sen. Chris Van Hollen you didn’t know if Robert Mueller supported your conclusions — but you knew you lied, and now we know.

A lot of officials were surprised by your efforts to protect [the president], but I was unsurprised. You did exactly what I thought you would do. It is why I voted against your confirmation. I expected you would try to protect the president, and, indeed, you did in 1989. This isn’t something you hadn’t done before. In 1989, when you refused to show Congress an OLC opinion that led to the arrest of [Panamanian leader] Manuel Noriega in 1992, when you recommended pardons for the subjects of the Iran-Contra scandal and last year when you wrote the 19-page memo telling Donald Trump that, as president, can’t be guilty of obstruction of justice and then didn’t recuse yourself from the matter.

From the beginning, you were addressing an audience of one, that person being Donald Trump. That is why before the bombshell news of yesterday evening, 11 of my Senate colleagues and I called on the Department of Justice Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility to investigate the way you have handled the Mueller report.

I wanted them to determine whether your actions complied with the department’s policies and practices and whether you have demonstrated sufficient impartiality to continue to oversee the 14 other criminal matters that the special counsel referred to other parts of the Department of Justice.

But now we know more about your deep involvement and trying to cover up for Donald Trump. Being attorney general of the United States is a sacred trust. You have betrayed that trust. America deserves better. You should resign.