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“We will be in a Position to Release the Mueller Report by Mid-April, if not Sooner”, Says Barr

Congress is out for a two-week spring break from April 12 to April 28, making it likely the report could be delivered when lawmakers are out of town

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FILE - Attorney General William Barr leaves his house in McClean, Virginia, March 25, 2019. VOA

U.S. Attorney General William Barr said on Friday the Justice Department is preparing a redacted version of the special counsel’s nearly 400-page confidential report on the Russia investigation and will be in a position to release it by mid-April, if not sooner.

In a letter to the chairmen of the House and Senate Judiciary committees, Barr wrote that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is assisting the Justice Department in scrubbing the report of secret grand jury material and other confidential information.

“Our progress is such that I anticipate we will be in a position to release the report by mid-April, if not sooner,” Barr wrote in a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York, and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina.

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FILE – Special Counsel Robert Mueller walks past the White House, March 24, 2019. VOA

But Barr said he does not plan to share the report with the White House to get President Donald Trump’s greenlight, noting that Trump has left it up to him to release it in whatever form he deems appropriate.

“Although the president would have the right to assert privilege over certain parts of the report, he has stated publicly that he intends to defer to me and, accordingly, there are no plans to submit the report to the White House for a privilege review,” Barr wrote.

Congress is out for a two-week spring break from April 12 to April 28, making it likely the report could be delivered when lawmakers are out of town.

Mueller concluded his 22-month investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election last Friday, writing in a final report to the attorney general that he had found no evidence that Trump or anyone associated with his 2016 presidential campaign had conspired with the Russian government to change the vote on Trump’s behalf, according to a summary of the report Barr released Sunday to Congress. But Mueller left unresolved the question of whether Trump had obstructed the investigation.

The attorney general drew fire from Democrats and other critics for “summarizing” in just four pages a report that is hundreds of pages long, and determining that Trump did not obstruct justice because he’d not been involved in an “underlying crime” in connection with the Russian election interference efforts.

Barr’s pledge to release the Mueller report came after the chairmen of six committees in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives gave the attorney general until April 2 to disclose the complete report and to start handing over underlying evidence Mueller used to write it.

mueller report
FILE – Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, Dec. 11, 2018. VOA

In a statement Friday, Nadler said that deadline still stands.

“As I informed the Attorney General earlier this week, Congress requires the full and complete Mueller report, without redactions, as well as access to the underlying evidence, by April 2,” Nadler said.

ALSO READ: No Evidence of Trump ‘Collusion’ with Russia in 2016 Elections: Mueller in Final Report

Trump has repeatedly called Barr’s summary of the Mueller report a “total exoneration” of the president and has said it would be fine with him if the report was made public.

In his letter to Nadler and Graham, Barr said he’s available to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 1 and before the House judiciary panel on May 2. (VOA)

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William Barr Defends Handling of Special Counsel Mueller Report

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barr, mueller report
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.”

barr, mueller report
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)