Attorney General William P. Barr pulled out of a Thursday hearing of the House Judiciary Committee, and he has left House lawmakers who are investigating the president fuming and calculating.
In the letter, the special counsel took Mr. Barr to task for the way that the attorney general had initially summarized his findings, leaving “public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation.” That appeared to undercut Mr. Barr’s claims at a House hearing on April 9 that he was not aware of any such discontent.
“What is deadly serious about it is the attorney general of the United States of America was not telling the truth to the Congress of the United States,” Ms. Pelosi told reporters. “That’s a crime.”
The Justice Department and Republicans on Capitol Hill fired back; Kerri Kupec, a department spokeswoman, called Ms. Pelosi’s comments a “baseless attack” that was “reckless, irresponsible and false.”
Mr. Barr had offered his own defense on Wednesday, telling senators that his comments about not knowing the feelings of the special counsel’s office referred to the investigators — not Mr. Mueller himself.
The calls for Mr. Barr to be held in contempt of Congress stem not from Mr. Mueller’s letter or his refusal to appear in front of the committee on Thursday. Instead, they follow the Justice Department’s decision not to honor the House Judiciary Committee’s subpoena for Mr. Mueller’s report without redactions and all the evidence his investigators collected.
Democrats are not alone in their unhappiness over how the nearly two-year special counsel investigation is coming to a close.
In a letter to Mr. Barr that was dated April 19 but released on Thursday, a top White House lawyer, Emmet T. Flood, complained that the special counsel had violated the regulations governing his appointment by failing to reach a prosecutorial decision on obstruction of justice. Mr. Flood described Mr. Mueller’s findings as a 182-page discussion of evidence that were “part ‘truth commission’ report and part law school exam paper.”
Echoing Mr. Trump’s complaints about the “deep state,” though couching them in legalese, Mr. Flood accused unnamed officials of “a campaign of illegal leaks” to damage the president. He said James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, who was not named in the letter, had talked to reporters about his encounters with Mr. Trump to engineer the appointment of a special counsel.
“That the head of our country’s top law enforcement agency has actually done so to the president of the United States should frighten every friend of individual liberty,” Mr. Flood wrote.
Mr. Flood cautioned the attorney general that despite choosing against exerting executive privilege over material contained in the report, the president maintained the right to conceal raw evidence collected by the special counsel and to block witnesses from appearing before Congress.
Officially, Mr. Barr refused to show for the Judiciary Committee hearing because Democrats had insisted that he sit for questioning from Democratic and Republican staff lawyers. In a statement on Wednesday, Ms. Kupec called Democrats’ demands “unprecedented and unnecessary.” She said Mr. Barr would be happy to testify if Democrats would drop that demand.
Mr. Cohen was not having it. “Chicken Barr should have shown up today and answered questions,” he told reporters. “An attorney general who’s picked for his legal acumen and his abilities would not be fearful of attorneys questioning him for 30 minutes.”
Seeking to dramatize the attorney general’s absence, Democrats set out an empty chair with a name card for Mr. Barr and insisted it was their prerogative to decide how to run their hearings.
“The so-called attorney general is abrasive, evasive and unpersuasive,” said Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the No. 5 House Democrat and a member of the Judiciary Committee. “He is a disgrace to the office that he currently holds.”
Representative Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the committee, lit into his Democratic colleagues for making “ludicrous” demands and accused Mr. Nadler of manufacturing a conflict instead of trying to get at the truth.
“The reason Bill Barr is not here today is because the Democrats decided they did not want him here today,” Mr. Collins said, his rapid-fire Georgia accent winding up in indignation.
When Republicans tried to prolong the brief session with parliamentary objections, Mr. Nadler gaveled out, cut the microphones and walked out of the hearing room.
Saudi Arabia Pumps Up Stock Market After Bad News, Including Khashoggi Murder
The government of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has spent billions to counter selloffs in recent months
Saudi Arabia’s government has been spending billions of dollars to quietly prop up its stock market and counter selloffs that have followed repeated political crises in recent months.
According to a Wall Street Journal analysis of trading data and interviews with multiple people with direct knowledge of government intervention efforts, the Saudi government has placed huge buy orders, often in the closing minutes of negative trading days, to boost the market.
The Saudi stock market is a pillar of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s plan to revamp his country’s economy. Since he ascended to a top leadership position three years ago, the de facto Saudi ruler and his deputies have faced a series of foreign-relations predicaments—most recently the October murder of columnist Jamal Khashoggi—that prompted investors to dump Saudi stocks.
The Saudi stock exchange normally discloses how much stock the government buys. The recent purchases after political crises have been concealed from public view. That is because the government, rather than buying stock directly, has routed its money through asset managers at Saudi financial institutions who run funds that don’t need to reveal their clients, those people say.
.. It is a strategy the kingdom used last year after it launched an economic blockade of Qatar, following the arrest and torture of prominent Saudis, a corruption crackdown that some inside the government called a political purge, and after Prince Mohammed detained Lebanon’s prime minister, the Journal found.
Through the upheaval, Prince Mohammed’s government has been keen to show the world that Saudi Arabia remains safe for foreign investors. “We need to highlight to the world that Saudi investment is good,” said a Saudi government official.
.. China and other developing countries have been intervening for years in their stock markets. The Saudi efforts stand apart because they’re geared to attract foreign investors to a market with little foreign ownership. Foreigners only own about 4% of stock on the Saudi market, where all of the companies are Saudi-based and many have some government ownership.
.. Antoine van Agtmael, who coined the term “emerging market” almost 40 years ago, and who now works as an adviser for publisher FP Group, said government intervention makes the Saudi stock exchange “more of a fake market, and that kind of undermines the trust of investors in the long run.”
.. Having a healthy stock market is especially important because the Saudi stock exchange, known as the Tadawul, will be included next year in global emerging-market indexes. That inclusion will result in billions of dollars of foreign capital entering the exchange, which currently has a market capitalization of around $500 billion.
.. To prop up the market, the government has bought stocks via its sovereign Public Investment Fund, or PIF, say people familiar with the matter. PIF has been Prince Mohammed’s main investment instrument at home and abroad, taking a high-profile stake in Uber Technologies Inc. and investing billions of dollars with SoftBank Group Corp.
.. When local share prices falter, one of these people says, Mr. Rumayyan tells deputies to start buying. They use the messaging program WhatsApp to contact managers at institutions including state-controlled NCB Capital Co. who manage PIF funds, this person says.
Bill Shine Likely as Next White House Communications Director
Bill Shine, a former Fox News executive who was close to Roger E. Ailes, the network’s ousted chairman, is expected to be offered the job of White House communications director, according to four people familiar with the decision.
Mr. Shine, who was forced out as co-president at Fox News last May for his handling of sexual harassment scandals at the network, has met with President Trump in recent weeks about taking the West Wing communications job, which has been vacant since Hope Hicks left the job in March.
.. Mr. Shine’s reluctance to walk into a chaotic West Wing.
.. As recently as a month ago, Mr. Shine didn’t want the job
.. The former television executive was reluctant to deal with all the scrutiny, part of which could focus on his own connection to the sexual harassment scandal at Fox News
.. widely seen as one of the top executives and protégé to Mr. Ailes.
.. A Long Island commuter and son of a New York City policeman, the unassuming Mr. Shine was viewed inside Fox News as embodying the network’s typical viewer, urging producers to run segments on bread-and-butter issues that would appeal to conservatives.
.. He was also known as a loyal taskman for Mr. Ailes
.. so devoted to his bosses that Rupert Murdoch .. once privately described Mr. Shine to other executives as a “fine company man.”
.. Mr. Shine was accused in several lawsuits of covering up Mr. Ailes’s behavior and dismissing concerns from women who complained about it.
.. Several former employees at Fox News reacted with alarm — but not surprise
.. few people internally were concerned about the accusations that Mr. Shine played a role in concealing Mr. Ailes’ behavior, in part because some staffers think Mr. Shine was just doing his job to protect the company.
.. enjoys powerful allies inside the president’s inner circle.
.. He is close with Kellyanne Conway, the White House counselor, who is said to have advocated for him
.. Mercedes Schlapp, a communications adviser to the White House, was seen initially as a favorite for the job, in part because of her good relationship with the chief of staff, John F. Kelly.
.. it would add to the ties between Mr. Trump and the Fox News network
.. Mr. Shine is also close to Sean Hannity, the Fox News host who has the president’s ear.
Was the Payment to Stormy Daniels a Campaign Contribution?
Some say the payment—far beyond federal campaign limits—had to have been coordinated with Trump; others say it would have been paid even if Trump hadn’t been running for office
The former chairwoman of the Federal Election Commission takes a different view than Mr. Cohen. Ann Ravel, a Democrat who served on the elections body from 2013 to 2015 said the timing and circumstances around the payment makes it “obvious” it was campaign-related.
“The real issue here is coordination,” she said. “How did Michael Cohen know about the relationship if not from either the candidate himself or the campaign?”
.. Charlie Spies, a Republican campaign attorney not involved with Mr. Trump, said the payment to Ms. Clifford is “an expense that would exist irrespective of whether Mr. Trump was a candidate and therefore should not be treated as a campaign contribution.”
He dismissed the notion that timing matters. “There is no precedent to indicate that a personal expense becomes a campaign expense simply because it is temporally close to the election,” he said.
.. The allegations in the Common Cause complaint filed with the Justice Department resemble criminal charges once faced by John Edwards, the former senator and Democratic presidential candidate. Mr. Edwards was charged in connection with $900,000 two of his donors allegedly spent to conceal an extramarital affair with a campaign worker during his 2008 campaign.
.. A defense against campaign violations linked to the payment to Ms. Clifford could be more challenging than Mr. Edwards’, some campaign-finance experts said. Unlike in the Edwards case, Mr. Cohen arranged to pay Ms. Clifford days before the election, as Mr. Trump faced questions about his treatment of women.
.. If Mr. Cohen made the payment with his own money and wasn’t reimbursed, his motive would be central to the legal analysis
.. But if Mr. Trump ultimately paid, prosecutors would have to demonstrate his intent was to prevent Ms. Daniels from damaging his campaign.
.. No law limits the amount Mr. Trump could spend on his own campaign, but if he ultimately paid Ms. Daniels to protect his candidacy, he would have had to disclose it as a campaign expenditure
.. Mr. Cohen or Mr. Trump could argue that Ms. Clifford was paid to guard against negative publicity, avoid embarrassment or keep Mr. Trump’s wife, Melania, and children from finding out about the allegations, Mr. Hasen said.
.. “Just because something isn’t true doesn’t mean that it can’t cause you harm or damage,” he said.