Attorney General William Barr appeared Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee and it didn’t take long for Democrats to use the opportunity to go after President Donald Trump.
Sen. Diane Feinsten, D-Calif., fresh off her ambush of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, pursued obstruction of justice with a focus on whether the president tried to have former White House counsel Don McGahn fire special counsel Robert Mueller.
According to the Muller report, the president told McGahn to contact Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and have him fire Mueller over alleged conflicts, then tried to get McGahn to write a statement saying that it did not happen.
Feinstein asked, “You have a situation where the President tries to change a lawyer’s account in order to prevent further criticism of himself.”
“That’s not a crime,” Barr replied, matter-of-factly.
“So you can, in this situation, instruct someone to lie?” Feinstein countered.
“No it has to be — well, to be obstruction of justice, the lie has to be tied to impairing the evidence in a particular proceeding. McGahn had already given his evidence and I think it would be plausible that the purpose of McGahn memorializing what the president was asking was to make the record that the president was never directing him to fire.”
“And there is a distinction between telling someone, ‘Go fire him, go fire Mueller,’ and say have him removed based on conflict.”
Barr said Trump’s instruction to McGahn was over an inaccurate New York Times story that said the president directed Mueller’s firing.
“There is evidence the president truly felt that the Times article was inaccurate and he wanted McGahn to correct it,” the attorney general said, according to Mediaite. “So we believe it would be impossible for the government to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the president understood that he was instructing McGahn to say something false because it wasn’t necessarily false.
“Moreover, McGahn had weeks before already given testimony to the special counsel and the president was aware of that,” Barr continued. “And as the report indicates, it could also have been the case that what — that he was primarily concerned about press reports and making it clear that he never outright directed the firing of Mueller.”
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