Attorney General William Barr faced tough questions from lawmakers Tuesday morning about special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and questions about obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump.
Barr has been criticized by Democrats for releasing a four-page memo that he said summarized Mueller’s findings, but included very few direct quotes from the special counsel’s lengthy report. The New York Times reported that Mueller’s office created summary documents that Barr chose not to release.
Barr has yet to publicly release a more comprehensive version of Mueller’s report, saying his office was working to redact at least four categories of information before releasing it to Congress and the public. Barr told lawmakers he expected to release a redacted version of Mueller’s report “within a week," but also said he wouldn’t provide members of Congress with an unredacted version.
The House Judiciary Committee voted last week to authorize a subpoena for Mueller’s full, unredacted report and all the evidence gathered by investigators. Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D., N.Y.) called Barr a "a biased defender of the administration” Sunday on CBS’ Face the Nation.
“He’s entitled to be a defender of the administration, but he’s not entitled to withhold the evidence from Congress,” Nadler said.
Here are the highlights of Barr’s testimony before the House Appropriations subcommittee Tuesday morning:
Barr refuses to discuss reports he pushed back against backing Obamacare lawsuit
Barr refused to discuss a Politico report that both he and Heath and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar opposed Trump’s decision to have the Justice Department back a lawsuit seeking to invalidate the Affordable Care Act in its entirety.
"I’m not going to get into internal deliberations of the administration on this point,” Barr said to Rep. Matt Cartwright (D., Pa.). “I had ample opportunity to present my views. I believe the final decision reached is a legally defensible and reasonable legal position.”
“Are you citing executive privilege by declining to tell me about the discussions between you, Mr. Azar and Mr. Mulvaney?” Cartwright asked.
“Call it what you wish, I’m not discussing,” Barr responded.
Barr makes an interesting comment about Affordable Care Act
Facing another question about the Affordable Care Act from Cartwright, Barr suggested it was unlikely a controversial lawsuit that seeks to overturn the health care legislation in its entirely would succeed.
“Do you think it’s likely we’re going to prevail?” Barr asked Cartwright, who pressed the attorney general on the Trump administration’s decision to back the lawsuit, which would overturn the ACA in its entirely and take away health care from millions of Americans, including roughly 750,000 in Pennsylvania.
“I’m just saying if you think it’s such an outrageous position you have nothing to worry about. Let the courts do their job,” Barr said.
Barr was also pressed on the lawsuit by Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D., Mich.), who said she was “concerned” over his reasons behind backing the lawsuit.
Barr dodges question about Trump’s claim of ‘total exoneration’
Barr chose to dodge a question asked by Rep. Nita Lowey (D., N.Y.) the chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, on whether Trump’s claims of “total exoneration” by Mueller’s investigation were accurate.
“I’ll be in a position within a week to release the report. People can then read the report,” Barr said. “I’m not going to discuss it any further until the report is out.”
In his four-page memo, Barr quoted a portion of Mueller’s report, which states that “while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him” when it comes to potential obstruction of justice.
Despite this, Trump has repeatedly called Mueller’s report a “complete and total exoneration” of his behavior during and after the 2016 presidential election.
Barr expects to release redacted Mueller report ‘within a week’
Barr told lawmakers he expected to release a redacted version of Mueller’s lengthy report “within a week” to both Congress and the public, though he did not offer a specific day:
Top Democrat calls Barr’s handling of Mueller report ‘unacceptable’
Lowey, chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, called Barr’s handling of Mueller’s report “unacceptable” during her opening remarks.
"I want to address a serious oversight matter — your unacceptable handling of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report,” Lowey said. "All we have is your four-page summary letter, which seems to cherry pick from the report to draw the most favorable conclusion possible for the president. In many ways, your letter raises more questions than it answers.”