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Investigators Say ‘Findings in Mueller Report are more Damaging for the President’

Barr issued a four-page summary March 24 of the Mueller report and its investigation into allegations the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to influence the election in Trump’s favor

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FILE - Attorney General William Barr leaves his house. VOA

Some investigators in the nearly two-year probe of U.S. President Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign say the findings in a report submitted by special counsel Robert Mueller are more damaging for the president than what has been suggested by Attorney General William Barr, The New York Times and The Washington Post reported late Wednesday.

Barr issued a four-page summary March 24 of the Mueller report and its investigation into allegations the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to influence the election in Trump’s favor. Barr said Mueller’s team found no evidence that Trump or anyone associated with his campaign conspired or coordinated with Russia.

The attorney general also said Mueller did not conclude that the president illegally interfered with the investigation, but added that he was also not exonerated. Barr said he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein decided there was not enough evidence to charge Trump with obstruction of justice.

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The attorney general also said Mueller did not conclude that the president illegally interfered with the investigation, but added that he was also not exonerated. VOA

But the Times and the Post say Mueller’s investigators have told associates that Barr failed to adequately portray the findings of their inquiry. The Post says the members of Mueller’s team believe the evidence they gathered on obstruction was “alarming and significant.” The Times says in its report that the investigators are concerned that because Barr’s summary was “the first narrative” of the team’s findings, the public’s views will be fixed before the final report is released.

The attorney general has vowed to publicly issue the report by mid-April after he and his staff take out any sensitive information, such as grand jury testimonies. But the Democratic-controlled House Judiciary Committee voted Wednesday along party lines to authorize Chairman Jerry Nadler to issue subpoenas to obtain the full copy of Mueller’s final report and its supporting evidence.

 

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Trump has left it to Barr to decide whether to release the complete report. VOA

While Trump has left it to Barr to decide whether to release the complete report, the president is expected to assert what is known as executive privilege over some portions of records other congressional committees are seeking as part of their investigation of the administration. That has set the stage for a showdown between Democrats in Congress and the White House, raising the specter that the issue may ultimately end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

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The committee also authorized Nadler to subpoena documents and testimony from five of Trump’s former aides, including former political adviser Steve Bannon and former White House counsel Donald McGahn.

Despite Barr’s determination that he was not fully exonerated by Mueller’s report, Trump has boasted that he has been fully cleared of any wrongdoing in the probe. (VOA)

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William Barr Defends Handling of Special Counsel Mueller Report

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Attorney General William Barr testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 1, 2019. VOA

U.S. Attorney General William Barr appeared before Congress on Wednesday to defend his handling of special counsel Robert Mueller’s March 22 report on Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, saying the decision to release an early summary of the report was his and dismissing questions about his depiction of Mueller’s findings.

In a hearing marked by partisan acrimony, Democrats grilled the attorney general over his four-page summary letter to Congress and Mueller’s subsequent complaint about the summary.

Democrats accused Barr of grossly understating evidence of President Donald Trump’s misconduct in the summary in an effort to justify his controversial decision to exonerate the president of obstruction of justice during the investigation.

‘My baby’

“It was my baby whether or not to disclose it to the public,” Barr told the Senate Judiciary Committee. “I determined that it was in the public interest for the department to announce the investigation’s bottom-line conclusions — that is, the determination of whether a provable crime has been committed or not.”

Much of the hearing focused on a letter Mueller wrote to Barr on March 27 in which the special counsel complained that Barr’s summary “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance” his office’s work and conclusions and urged the attorney general to release the report’s executive summaries without delay.

In a subsequent phone call, Barr said, the special counsel expressed concern about how his findings were being portrayed in the media. However, he said Mueller did not characterize the summary as either “misleading” or “inaccurate.”

Barr said he turned down the special counsel’s request because he did not want to release “additional portions of the report in piecemeal fashion, leading to public debate over incomplete information.” The Justice Department released a redacted version of the 448-page report on April 18.

The special counsel wrote in his final report that the evidence was not sufficient to charge any Trump campaign member with conspiring with Russian government representatives to meddle in the 2016 election, but the office did not draw conclusions about whether the president had obstructed justice.

Decision defended

That left it to the attorney general “to determine whether the conduct described in the report constituted a crime,” Barr wrote in his March 24 summary letter to Congress, adding that he and his No. 2, outgoing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, had examined the evidence and determined that it was not enough to support obstruction charges against Trump.

Barr defended his decision, saying the lack of “an underlying crime” — in this case, the absence of a criminal conspiracy between Trump and Russia — made it difficult to prove Trump’s “criminal intent,” which is key in proving obstruction of justice.

Asked by the committee chairman, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, if he “felt good” about his decision, Barr responded, “Yes.”

The Mueller report examined 11 instances of potential obstruction of justice, including an attempt by Trump in June 2017, just weeks after Mueller’s appointment, to get the special counsel fired, and then get his then-White House counsel, Don McGahn, to deny a newspaper account about it.

But Barr defended the president’s right to fire a special counsel and said none of the episodes documented by Mueller constituted obstruction of justice. And when Democrats pressed him to denounce the president for getting underlings to lie on his behalf, Barr demurred.

“I’m not in the business of determining when lies are told to the American people,” Barr said. “I’m in the business of determining whether a crime has been committed.”

Sessions’ replacement

Barr, a former attorney general in the administration of the late President George H.W. Bush in the 1990s, returned to the Justice Department in February after Trump tapped him last year to replace his first attorney general, Jeff Sessions, whom he fired in November.

Barr’s confirmation hearing was dominated by questions about his expansive views of presidential powers and his past criticism of the Mueller investigation. In a 19-page memo last June to Rosenstein, who then oversaw the Russia investigation, Barr called the special counsel’s obstruction investigation “fatally conceived.”

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Special counsel Robert Mueller’s redacted report on the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election is photographed, April 18, 2019, in Washington. VOA
Democrats accused Barr of bias.  “You’re biased in the situation and you’ve not been objective,” said California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris, a 2020 presidential candidate.  Republicans came to Barr’s defense, with Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas accusing Democrats of impugning the attorney general’s integrity.
Barr was also widely criticized for holding a news conference to discuss the findings of the Mueller report hours before either members of Congress or journalists had a chance to read it.The attorney general told reporters that the special counsel’s probe did not find that Trump or anyone in his campaign had coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 election, and that later, after he assumed power, Trump had “no corrupt intent” to obstruct the probe.

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Barr said the president “took no act that in fact deprived” Mueller of “documents and witnesses necessary to complete his investigation.”

The Justice Department informed the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday night that Barr would not testify at a planned hearing Thursday. This raises the prospect that Democrats will hold the nation’s top law enforcement official in contempt of Congress. (VOA)