William Barr Testimony Live: Attorney General Faces Lawmakers’ Questions About Mueller Report

Attorney General William Barr is facing questions Wednesday from the Senate Judiciary Committee over his handling of the Mueller report.

Mr. Barr said that he met with special counsel Robert Mueller in early March, where he was told by Mr. Mueller that the special counsel report wouldn’t reach a determination on the question of obstruction — something he said that the department didn’t expect.

“We were frankly surprised that they were not going to reach a decision on obstruction,” Mr. Barr said.

“We did not understand exactly why the special counsel was not reaching a decision and when we pressed him on it, he said his team was still formulating the explanation,” Mr. Barr said of the meeting, which took place on March 5.

Once it became clear that the Mueller team was going to punt on the question of obstruction, Mr. Barr said it became his responsibility.

The special counsel investigation was meant to deliver a verdict on criminality — not to simply report facts to the public, he said. “We don’t conduct criminal investigations just to collect information and put it out to the public,” Mr. Barr said.

After the special counsel’s report was delivered and Mr. Mueller objected to the attorney general’s four-page characterization of its findings, Mr. Barr said he called Mr. Mueller after receiving his March 27 letter and asked him “what’s the issue here?”

Mr. Mueller told him his characterization of the investigation’s findings was not inaccurate but he was frustrated that news reporting had failed to capture his team’s nuanced thinking, according to Mr. Barr.

“I asked him specifically what his concern was, and he said his concern focused on his explanation of why he did not reach a conclusion on obstruction and he wanted more put out on that issue,” Mr. Barr said. “He was very clear that he was not suggesting we had misrepresented his report. I told Bob I wasn’t interested in putting out summaries …. I wanted to put out the whole report.”

..  In his remarks, Mr. Barr said the Justice Department’s primary obligation is to determine whether a crime has been committed, rather than lay out facts without making a determination.

“At the end of the day, the federal prosecutor must decide yes or no. That is what I sought to address,” Mr. Barr will say, according to his prepared remarks. “It would not have been appropriate for me simply to release the obstruction section of the report without making a prosecutorial judgment.”

He ended his prepared remarks by saying the facts Mr. Mueller uncovered are now public, and it is up to Americans to figure out what happens next.

Man Up, Grassley. Question Blasey Ford Yourself.

Outsourcing this responsibility to female aides or an outside female lawyer because of bad optics is sexist and cowardly.

.. Dr. Blasey and her lawyers have pushed back, demanding that Mr. Grassley and his colleagues question her themselves. They are right to do so. The Republicans’ attempt to outsource the questioning of Dr. Blasey is cynical, sexist and cowardly.

.. Let’s start with the cynicism. Mr. Grassley said, “We reserve the option to have female staff attorneys, who are sensitive to the particulars of Dr. Blasey’s allegations and are experienced investigators, question both witnesses.” The chairman knows the optics are bad for him. Mr. Grassley and his 10 Republican colleagues on the judiciary committee are all white men. Their median age is about 60; Mr. Grassley and his colleague Orrin Hatch of Utah are in their mid-80s.

.. But the solution isn’t to remove men from the script. It’s to ask that they embody different characters: people who can pose respectful, probing questions, rather than bullies intent on shaming and demeaning the witness.

.. Many people think that’s impossible, which leads to the second point: The Republicans’ plan is sexist. Handing off the questioning of Dr. Blasey to female staff members would be a gross departure from Senate practice and based on the risible idea that the questioning of sexual assault survivors is “women’s work.”

.. I have written about the entrenched gender bias against female litigators. After a year of reporting, what stood out was a phenomenon of women being steered, often explicitly, into specialties where the cases turned on proving or disproving injuries to women’s genitals and reproductive organs.

.. Quite rightly, female Senate aides are “appalled” by the idea of having Dr. Blasey questioned in this fashion. “They always have to bring a woman in to save their bacon,” one told Britt Peterson

.. Which brings me to my final point. Cowardice.

Republican senators have no problem trying Dr. Blasey in the court of public opinion. Senator Hatch has already made up his mind: Judge Kavanaugh is telling the truth and Dr. Blasey is simply “mixed up.” Lindsey Graham, another Republican committee member, told The Washington Post, “I’ll listen to the lady,” then immediately implied the opposite. “We’re going to bring this to a close,” he said and called the accusation “a drive-by shooting.”

.. And yet, they are apparently too afraid to speak to her face to face. It is true that Dr. Blasey may prove to be a formidable opponent. She holds advanced degrees from Stanford and the University of Southern California, enjoys the respect of her colleagues and has had numerous people attest to her good character. But that’s no excuse for Republicans to shirk their responsibilities and turn tail.

Come on, gentlemen. Man up.

Anita Hill: How to Get the Kavanaugh Hearings Right

In 1991, the Senate Judiciary Committee had an opportunity to demonstrate its appreciation for both the seriousness of sexual harassment claims and the need for public confidence in the character of a nominee to the Supreme Court. It failed on both counts.

As that same committee, on which sit some of the same members as nearly three decades ago, now moves forward with the Kavanaugh confirmation proceedings, the integrity of the court, the country’s commitment to addressing sexual violence as a matter of public interest, and the lives of the two principal witnesses who will be testifying hang in the balance.

.. the public expects better from our government than we got in 1991, when our representatives performed in ways that gave employers permission to mishandle workplace harassment complaints throughout the following decades.

.. That the Senate Judiciary Committee still lacks a protocol for vetting sexual harassment and assault claims that surface during a confirmation hearing suggests that the committee has learned little from the Thomas hearing, much less the more recent #MeToo movement.

.. To do better, the 2018 Senate Judiciary Committee must demonstrate a clear understanding that sexual violence is a social reality to which elected representatives must respond.

.. The details of what that process would look like should be guided by experts who have devoted their careers to understanding sexual violence.

.. Select a neutral investigative body with experience in sexual misconduct cases that will investigate the incident in question and present its findings to the committee. Outcomes in such investigations are more reliable and less likely to be perceived as tainted by partisanship. Senators must then rely on the investigators’ conclusions, along with advice from experts, to frame the questions they ask Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Blasey.

.. The investigators’ report should frame the hearing, not politics or myths about sexual assault.

.. Do not rush these hearings. Doing so would not only signal that sexual assault accusations are not important — hastily appraising this situation would very likely lead to facts being overlooked that are necessary for the Senate and the public to evaluate.

.. Process is important, but it cannot erase the difficulty of testifying on national television about the sexual assault that Dr. Blasey says occurred when she was 15 years old. Nor will it negate the fact that as she sits before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Dr. Blasey will be outresourced. Encouraging letters from friends and strangers may help, but she cannot match the organized support that Judge Kavanaugh has.

Donald Trump Goes Full Fredo

But unlike the Godfather character, the president of the United States is backed by powerful people enabling him.

.. The Corleone family had the awareness and vigilance to exclude Fredo from power. The American political system did not do so well.

.. Until now, Trump’s worst moments have occurred behind closed doors, and have become known to the public only second-hand, leaked by worried officials, aides, and advisers. Yesterday and today, we have seen a Trump temper-tantrum in real time on Twitter

.. the most important moment in Wolff’s book are words attributed at second or third-hand to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at the time of Donald Trump’s election. “He will sign anything we put in front of him.”

.. Who and what Donald Trump is has been known to everyone and anyone who cared to know for years and decades.

  • Before he was president, he was the country’s leading racist conspiracy theorist.
  • Before he was the country’s leading racist conspiracy theorist, he was a celebrity gameshow host.
  • Before he was a celebrity gameshow host, he was the multi-bankrupt least trusted name in real estate.
  • Before he was the multi-bankrupt least trusted name in real estate, he was the protege of Roy Cohn’s repeatedly accused of ties to organized crime.

.. Instead, since he announced his candidacy in mid-2015, Donald Trump has been enabled and protected.

The enabling and protecting not only continues. It accelerates.

.. The Senate Judiciary committee—the Senate Judiciary Committee! The committee that oversees the proper enforcement of the law!—formally filed a criminal referral with the Department of Justice against Christopher Steele, the author of the infamous dossier about Trump’s Russia connections. The referral was signed by the committee’s chairman, Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, without even notice to Democrats on the committee, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein said; a startling abuse of majority status and a sharp departure from the norms of the Senate, especially a 51-49 Senate.

.. It’s ominous, however, that on the very same day, the FBI obeyed Trump’s repeated demands and reopened a long-closed criminal investigation into the Clinton Foundation.

.. the important thing about Trump is not the man; it’s the system of power surrounding the man.

.. What sustains Trump now is the support of people who know what he is, but back him anyway.

Republican political elites who know him for what he is, but who back him because they believe they can control and use him;

conservative media elites who sense what he is, but who delight in the cultural wars he provokes;

rank-and-file conservatives who care more about their grievances and hatreds than the governance of the country.

.. he is indeed the “very stable genius” he claims to be: Trump understands how to mobilize hatred and resentment to his own advantage and profit. He has risen higher than Joe McCarthy or Charles Lindbergh or Theodore Bilbo—and he has lasted already nearly a full year in office, holding the approval of one-third of the country

.. without the complicity of other power-holders, Trump would drop from his central position like a tooth from a rotten gum. What we need to do now is widen the camera angle beyond Fredo Trump to the hard-faced men and women over his shoulders. Those are the people who put Trump where he is, and keep him there, corrupting the institutions of American democracy and troubling the peace and security of the world.

 

The Republicans’ Fake Investigations

Republicans have refused to release full transcripts of our firm’s testimony, even as they selectively leak details to media outlets on the far right.

.. As we told the Senate Judiciary Committee in August, our sources said the dossier was taken so seriously because it corroborated reports the bureau had received from other sources, including one inside the Trump camp.

.. The intelligence committees have known for months that credible allegations of collusion between the Trump camp and Russia were pouring in from independent sources during the campaign. Yet lawmakers in the thrall of the president continue to wage a cynical campaign to portray us as the unwitting victims of Kremlin disinformation.

We told Congress that from Manhattan to Sunny Isles Beach, Fla., and from Toronto to Panama, we found widespread evidence that Mr. Trump and his organization had worked with a wide array of dubious Russians in arrangements that often raised questions about money laundering. Likewise, those deals don’t seem to interest Congress.
.. Yes, we hired Mr. Steele, a highly respected Russia expert. But we did so without informing him whom we were working for and gave him no specific marching orders beyond this basic question: Why did Mr. Trump repeatedly seek to do deals in a notoriously corrupt police state that most serious investors shun?
.. After the election, Mr. Steele decided to share his intelligence with Senator John McCain via an emissary. We helped him do that. The goal was to alert the United States national security community to an attack on our country by a hostile foreign power.
.. It is time to stop chasing rabbits. The public still has much to learn about a man with the most troubling business past of any United States president. Congress should release transcripts of our firm’s testimony, so that the American people can learn the truth about our work and most important, what happened to our democracy.