Category: Robert Mueller

Pres. Trump invokes executive privilege to block release of unredacted Mueller report

By Laura Jarrett and Veronica Stracqualursi, CNN

President Donald Trump has invoked executive privilege over special counsel Robert Mueller’s unredacted report and the underlying evidence just before the House Judiciary Committee is set to vote on holding Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with the committee’s subpoena for the materials.

The Justice Department informed House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler Wednesday morning in a letter that the “President has asserted executive privilege over the entirety of the subpoenaed materials.”

While this is only a “protective assertion” of executive privilege, according to the letter, it is a dramatic escalation in the ongoing battle between the Department of Justice and Democrats on Capitol Hill after negotiations over the report went nowhere for weeks.

“Faced with Chairman Nadler’s blatant abuse of power, and at the Attorney General’s request, the President has no other option than to make a protective assertion of executive privilege,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.

William Barr to skip House hearing Thursday

WASHINGTON — Attorney General William Barr is no longer expected to testify before the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, the committee’s chairman Jerry Nadler announced, following a dispute between House Democrats and the nation’s top law enforcement officer over whether Barr would publicly face questions from committee staff.

In comments to reporters on Capitol Hill, Nadler also said the Justice Department told the committee it would not comply with its subpoena for the full, unredacted report from special counsel Robert Mueller, a subpoena which had a deadline of Wednesday to comply.

The decision by Barr to skip the hearing comes after Democrats on the committee demanded that the attorney general face questions from the committee’s lawyers, a decision formalized by a vote Wednesday. Nadler did not rule out issuing a subpoena for Barr’s testimony Thursday, though he didn’t commit to doing so, saying obtaining the report was the main focus.

“He’s trying to blackmail the committee,” Nadler said of Barr’s unwillingness to appear over staff attorneys questioning him. “The administration cannot dictate the terms of our hearing in our hearing room.”

Nadler also said the committee is considering May 15 as a possible date for special counsel Robert Mueller to testify.

Justice Department spokesperson Kerri Kupec confirmed that Barr would not attend Thursday’s hearing and said the department would continue working with the committee on oversight requests.

“Unfortunately, even after the Attorney General volunteered to testify, Chairman Nadler placed conditions on the House Judiciary Committee hearing that are unprecedented and unnecessary,” Kupec said in a statement. “Congress and the Executive branch are co-equal branches of government, and each have a constitutional obligation to respect and accommodate one another’s legitimate interests.”

Barr had previously objected to the proposal for lawyers to ask questions in the hearing, but after the committee formalized its move on Wednesday to allot time for staff questioning, the Department of Justice communicated to the committee that Barr will not appear, according to a committee aide.

Separately, Barr testified for hours before the Republican-led Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

The top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee blamed Nadler for Barr’s decision to skip the hearing.

“It’s a shame Members of the House Judiciary Committee won’t get the opportunity to hear from Attorney General Barr this Thursday, because Chairman Nadler chose to torpedo our hearing,” Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia said in a statement Wednesday.

The committee voted earlier Wednesday to allow staff to question Barr during his hearing on the special counsel’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. The vote was 21 to 14.

“I don’t know what he’s afraid of,” Nadler said earlier.

This story has been updated with additional developments Wednesday.

William Barr to defend his handling of Mueller report in face of Senate furor

By Jeremy Herb and Laura Jarrett, CNN

Attorney General William Barr will defend his handling of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report and his decision there wasn’t sufficient evidence to prosecute an obstruction of justice case on Wednesday from the Senate hot seat.

Barr is likely to face a barrage of questions from Democrats at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing over a letter revealed Tuesday night in which Mueller wrote to object to his characterization of the special counsel investigation in his four-page summary.

According to his prepared opening statement released late Tuesday, Barr will defend his characterization of Mueller’s investigation.

“The Special Counsel’s report demonstrates that there are many subsidiary considerations informing that prosecutorial judgment — including whether particular legal theories would extend to the facts of the case and whether the evidence is sufficient to prove one or another element of a crime,” Barr states in his prepared remarks.

“But at the end of the day, the federal prosecutor must decide yes or no. That is what I sought to address in my March 24 letter.”

READ: Attorney General William Barr’s prepared testimony on Mueller report before Senate committee

Mueller’s letter, which was first reported by The Washington Post, stated that Barr’s summary of the probe “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance” of the special counsel investigation. The criticism adds a whole new level of scrutiny for Barr, who was already facing sustained criticism for Democrats who had accused Barr of mischaracterizing Mueller’s findings.

Now they’ve got Mueller’s own words to back up their misgivings about the attorney general.

“Barr will have to answer for this at our hearing. Updating my questions!” Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, tweeted after news of the letter broke Tuesday evening.

Barr is making his first appearance before Congress Wednesday since the release of a redacted version of Mueller’s report last month. The attorney general’s relationship with Democrats has soured over the past two months, as Democrats accused him of misleading the public with his summary letter on Mueller’s conclusions, questioned his decision to clear the President on obstruction of justice and issued a subpoena to try to force him to provide Congress with the full, unredacted report.

Democrats have also slammed Barr for claiming at a Senate subcommittee hearing that the Trump campaign was spied on, as well as for holding a press conference the morning before the report was released.

Barr made reference to the political storm he’s facing over the Mueller report in his prepared remarks, and sought to distance himself from it.

“From here on, the exercise of responding and reacting to the report is a matter for the American people and the political process,” his prepared remarks state. “As I am sure you agree, it is vitally important for the Department of Justice to stand apart from the political process and not to become an adjunct of it.”

Wednesday’s hearing is the first of potentially two days of hearings where Barr will be pressed by Democrats on his handling of the Mueller investigation. In a sign of the deteriorating relationship between Capitol Hill Democrats and Barr, his second-day testimony before the House Judiciary Committee is now in doubt over a dispute between the panel and the Justice Department over the format of the hearing. At the same time that Barr will be appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the House Judiciary Committee will be voting to allow Democratic and Republican staff a half-hour to question Barr — a stipulation that has the attorney general threatening not to show.

In a statement Tuesday, Nadler demanded a copy of the Mueller’s letter and said that the special counsel “must be allowed to testify.”

There doesn’t appear to be similar drama over whether Barr appears Wednesday, but that doesn’t mean the questions won’t be just as contentious from Senate Democrats on the Judiciary panel, including three — Sens. Klobuchar, Kamala Harris of California and Cory Booker of New Jersey — who are running for President.

Another 2020 hopeful, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, tweeted Tuesday that Barr “should resign his position or face an impeachment inquiry immediately.”

In a shot across the bow ahead of the hearing, a dozen Senate Democrats led by Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii sent a letter to the Justice Department inspector general Tuesday urging an investigation into Barr’s handling of the Mueller report.

“Attorney General Barr’s actions raise significant questions about his decision not to recuse himself from overseeing the special counsel’s investigation, whether his actions with respect to the release of the report complied with Department of Justice policies and practices and whether he has demonstrated sufficient impartiality to continue overseeing the 14 criminal matters related to the Special Counsel’s investigation,” the senators wrote.

Republicans argue that Barr has provided much more of the Mueller report than he was required to disclose under the law. They say Democrats are simply lashing out at Barr because they are unhappy with the results of the Mueller investigation.

“They didn’t find what they wanted to in the Mueller report, and they now have to make it a sideshow to blame Barr,” said Rep. Doug Collins, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee.

In his prepared remarks, Barr explained he didn’t think it was in the public interest to release piecemeal portions of the report, which is why he says he provided the four-page summary on March 24 and then worked to release a public version.

“I did not believe that it was in the public interest to release additional portions of the report in piecemeal fashion, leading to public debate over incomplete information,” Barr will say, according to the remarks.

While the House hearing is in jeopardy, Barr has been preparing at length for the back-to-back appearances, according to a source with knowledge of the preparations. Barr has been holed up with several senior officials in the Justice Department in his conference room for hours at a time since early last week, the source said, in addition to preparing on his own.

Mueller’s letter will fuel questions about how Barr crafted his four-page letter released after Mueller’s investigation ended, which stated that Mueller did not establish a criminal conspiracy between Trump’s team and the Russian government and that Mueller did not reach a conclusion on obstruction of justice.

Democrats say that Barr cherry-picked lines from Mueller’s report to make it sound as rosy as possible for President Donald Trump, when Mueller detailed numerous contacts between Trump’s team and Russians and instances where Trump sought to interfere in the investigation.

Democrats are also going to press Barr on the decision he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein concluding there wasn’t sufficient evidence to prosecute an obstruction case, after Barr himself wrote before he was named attorney general that such a case was “fatally misconceived.”

Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham said he wanted to look forward, and not just backwards, with his questions of Barr.

“I want him to explain his decision in the four-page letter and talk about what are the takeaways from the report,” Graham said. “One of the takeaways is that the Russians were heavily involved in trying to influence our election. I think they’re still up to it. See if he agrees with that and try to find ways to defend American election system in 2020 from Russian interference and others.”

Barr Says Mueller Examined 10 Instances of Possible Obstruction by Trump

Attorney General William Barr defended his conclusion there was no evidence of obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump, as he prepares to release a redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report.

The redacted report, which is nearly 400 pages, will fill in some — but likely not all — of the details explaining what Mueller’s team uncovered during the 22-month investigation that’s hung like a cloud over Trump’s presidency while the special counsel investigated possible collusion between Trump’s team and Russia and any possible obstruction of justice.

Barr said at a press conference Thursday morning that Mueller’s report did not find “collusion” between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

“After nearly two years of investigation, thousands of subpoenas, and hundreds of warrants and witness interviews, the special counsel confirmed that the Russian government sponsored efforts to illegally interfere with the 2016 presidential election, but did not find that the Trump campaign or other Americans colluded in those schemes,” Barr said.

10 episodes of potential obstruction by Trump

Mueller’s investigation examined 10 episodes involving the President and potential obstruction of justice, Barr said.

Mueller did not make a “traditional prosecutorial judgment” on the obstruction question, Barr said. Instead, Barr said he concluded the evidence was “not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.”

“The President took no act that in fact deprived the special counsel of the documents and witnesses necessary to complete his investigation,” Barr said.

“Apart from whether the acts were obstructive, this evidence of non-corrupt motives weighs heavily against any allegation that the President had a corrupt intent to obstruct the investigation,” he added.

Barr said the President’s lawyers were permitted to read the redacted version of the report, but the President would not assert executive privilege.

Fight over full report

Democrats have demanded to see Mueller’s full, unredacted report, charging that Barr cannot be trusted to provide an accurate accounting of Mueller’s findings as a Trump political appointee who previously argued against the merits of an obstruction case against the President.

Congressional Democrats rose up in anger at Barr’s decision to hold a press conference before the release of the report. Five House Democratic committee chairs said in a joint statement Wednesday night that Barr should cancel the press conference and slammed Barr.

“With the Special Counsel’s fact-gathering work concluded, it is now Congress’ responsibility to assess the findings and evidence and proceed accordingly,” the joint statement read.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer jointly called for Mueller to testify before Congress publicly, saying there was a “crisis of confidence” in Barr’s independence and impartiality.

“We believe the only way to begin restoring public trust in the handling of the special counsel’s investigation is for special counsel Mueller himself to provide public testimony in the House and Senate as soon as possible,” they said.

Democrats have been particularly suspicious at the fact that Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein made the decision there was not sufficient evidence to prosecute such a case, especially in light of reports that some on Mueller’s team have told others they were unsatisfied with Barr’s characterization of the investigation.

In a series of tweets on Wednesday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler questioned why Barr was having a press conference to explain the report at all, saying he was “deeply troubled by reports” the White House had been briefed on the report ahead of release, as The New York Times reported. He likewise said it was “wrong” for the Justice Department to time the release of the redacted report to Congress for after Barr’s press conference.

Congress will get to see a little bit more of Mueller’s report and his findings than the general public once the report is delivered to them.

Federal prosecutors said in a court filing related to the case against Trump associate Roger Stone on Wednesday that there would be two versions of the redacted special counsel report, with one for public release and another, less redacted, version for a limited number of members of Congress.

Congressional Democrats have already authorized a subpoena for the full report and the underlying evidence, and they urged Barr to change course and provide them an unredacted version. They’re likely to move forward now with the subpoena, which could spark a court battle between House Democrats and the Trump administration.

Barr said Thursday he would redact four types of information before making the report public: grand jury material, classified material, material about ongoing investigations and “information that would unduly infringe on the personal privacy and reputational interests of peripheral third parties.”

This story is breaking and will be updated.

Attorney General Barr to Release Redacted Mueller Report

The Mueller report is coming: Attorney General William Barr is expected Thursday to release a redacted version of Robert Mueller’s report detailing the findings of the special counsel investigation.

The redacted report, which is nearly 400 pages, will fill in some — but likely not all — of the details explaining what Mueller’s team uncovered during the 22-month investigation that’s hung like a cloud over Donald Trump’s presidency while the special counsel investigated possible collusion between Trump’s team and Russia and any possible obstruction of justice.

At a 9:30 a.m. ET press conference, Barr is expected to discuss whether executive privilege was invoked, Justice Department interactions with the White House in the past few weeks and the redaction process, according to Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec.

About 90 minutes later, some time in the 11 a.m. ET hour, the report will be released to Congress on discs, according to a senior Department of Justice official. After it’s been delivered to Congress, it will be posted on the special counsel’s website.

A source familiar with the report told CNN Wednesday that the publicly released version of Mueller’s report is expected to have relatively minimal redactions in the section on obstruction of justice. The Washington Post reported Wednesday evening the report will have an in-depth look at Mueller’s investigation into potential obstruction of justice by Trump. The report will show Mueller could not determine Trump’s intent and some of his actions could have innocent explanations, the Post reported.

Trump and Republicans have claimed total exoneration after Barr released a four-page summary last month, in which the attorney general said Mueller did not establish a criminal conspiracy between Trump’s team and Russia and left the obstruction question undecided.

But Democrats have demanded to see Mueller’s full, unredacted report, charging that Barr cannot be trusted to provide an accurate accounting of Mueller’s findings as a Trump political appointee who previously argued against the merits of an obstruction case against the President.

Congressional Democrats rose up in anger at Barr’s decision to hold a press conference before the release of the report. Five House Democratic committee chairs said in a joint statement Wednesday night that Barr should cancel the press conference and slammed Barr.

“With the Special Counsel’s fact-gathering work concluded, it is now Congress’ responsibility to assess the findings and evidence and proceed accordingly,” the joint statement read.

On Thursday morning, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer jointly called for Mueller to testify before Congress publicly, saying there was a “crisis of confidence” in Barr’s independence and impartiality.

“We believe the only way to begin restoring public trust in the handling of the special counsel’s investigation is for special counsel Mueller himself to provide public testimony in the House and Senate as soon as possible,” they said.

Democrats have been particularly suspicious at the fact that Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein made the decision there was not sufficient evidence to prosecute such a case, especially in light of reports that some on Mueller’s team have told others they were unsatisfied with Barr’s characterization of the investigation.

In a series of tweets on Wednesday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler questioned why Barr was having a press conference to explain the report at all, saying he was “deeply troubled by reports” the White House had been briefed on the report ahead of release, as The New York Times reported. He likewise said it was “wrong” for the Justice Department to time the release of the redacted report to Congress for after Barr’s press conference.

Congress will get to see a little bit more of Mueller’s report and his findings than the general public once the report is delivered to them.

Federal prosecutors said in a court filing related to the case against Trump associate Roger Stone on Wednesday that there would be two versions of the redacted special counsel report, with one for public release and another, less redacted, version for a limited number of members of Congress.

Congressional Democrats have already authorized a subpoena for the full report and the underlying evidence, and they urged Barr to change course and provide them an unredacted version. They’re likely to move forward now with the subpoena, which could spark a court battle between House Democrats and the Trump administration.

After Barr released his summary of Mueller’s conclusions, Barr told Congress that he would redact four types of information before making the report public: grand jury material, classified material, material about ongoing investigations and “information that would unduly infringe on the personal privacy and reputational interests of peripheral third parties.”

Democrats have argued that some of that information cannot be made public, but it should still be turned over to Congress as part of the legislative branch’s oversight role. Nadler made clear the day his panel authorized a subpoena for the full Mueller report that he was willing to take the fight to the courts if the Justice Department would not turn over all of Mueller’s materials.

“If the Department still refuses, then it should be up to a judge — not the President or his political appointee — to decide whether or not it is appropriate for the committee to review the complete record,” Nadler said.

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