Barr stands up to scrutiny before Senate Judiciary Committee, shuts down Dems’ hype over letter

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Attorney General William Barr is facing the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday over his handling of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report.

Barr is being grilled by lawmakers in a hearing that is expected to last more than three hours, with the nation’s top law enforcement officer explaining the department’s actions with regard to the release of the probe’s findings last month.

Congressional Democrats have contended that Barr intentionally attempted to present Mueller’s findings in a way that was favorable to President Trump. And the controversy was further stoked by reports that Mueller was allegedly frustrated and contacted the attorney general about the summary of the report he issued just ahead of the report’s release.

“I wanted to get the whole report out. And I thought summaries by very definition, regardless of who prepared them, would be under-inclusive and we would have sort of a series of different debates and public discord over each information that went out and I wanted to get everything out at once and we should start working on that,” Barr said, defending his handling of Mueller’s findings in his opening remarks Wednesday.

Barr indicated that he was “surprised” that the special counsel had not reached a conclusion on obstruction.

“He couldn’t decide about obstruction, you did, is that correct, are you OK with your decision?” Sen. Lindsey Graham asked Barr, who replied “absolutely” and agreed that Mueller “did a thorough job.”

The ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, also questioned Barr Wednesday, taking the lead in the Democrats’ stand that obstruction had occurred.

“Congress has both the constitutional duty and the authority to investigate the serious findings contained in the Mueller report,” the California Democrat said.

Before Wednesday’s hearing began, the House Judiciary Committee received a copy of Mueller’s letter to Barr  complaining about “public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation.”

Barr indicated that he had called Mueller after the complaints and was told “he was not suggesting that we had misrepresented his report.”

Barr’s appearance Wednesday is his first on Capitol Hill since he released the redacted version of Mueller’s more than 400-page report.

The attorney general was scheduled to testify before the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, but that has come into question after Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler indicated that Judiciary Committee staff, not members of Congress, would conduct the inquiry.

“He is certainly testifying to the Senate so it’s not like he is afraid to answer questions under oath,” Counselor to President Trump, Kellyanne Conway, told Fox News Tuesday, slamming Democrats for their “disrespect” and “harassment” of the attorney general.

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Frieda Powers

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