Senator Lindsey Graham of the Senate Judiciary Committee points out anti-Trump biases of former FBI agent Peter Strzok.
Attorney General William Barr’s first appearance before Congress since the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election featured some political fireworks during exchanges between Democratic senators and America’s top law enforcement officer.
Barr – recently appointed to the role by President Donald Trump – defended his supervision of Mueller’s investigation, his decision to summarize the report’s principal conclusions and his determination that Trump did not obstruct justice during an appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.
Democrats, on the other hand, expressed their frustration with Barr on those three points and indicated they were not satisfied with his responses, at times accusing the attorney general of not being honest with his answers.
Here are some of the top moments from Barr’s sometimes tense exchanges with senators on the Judiciary Committee:
William Barr: Mueller report was ‘my baby’
“His work concluded when he sent his report to the attorney general,” said Barr. “At that point it was my baby, and I was making a decision as to whether or not to make it public… it was my decision how and when to make it public, not Bob Mueller’s.”
In his opening statement, Barr took responsibility for his handling of the report’s release as well as his earlier release of a four-page summary of the report’s findings. Yesterday, the Department of Justice revealed that special counsel Robert Mueller had submitted a letter to Barr, dated March 27, criticizing his release of the report.
Lindsey Graham on Mueller report: ‘Can’t say I’ve read it all’
“Can’t say I’ve read it all, but I’ve read most of it,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., confessed during his opening remarks as he held aloft a copy of the 448-page report.
Graham said Mueller found “no coordination” and “no conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.” He then moved on to the FBI’s handling of the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server –and used the full “f-word” while reading a quote from former FBI agent Peter Strzok.
Dick Durbin: ‘It is really about Hillary Clinton’s emails’
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., mocked Republican committee members who focused their questions for Barr on the effect of potential political bias in the probe into Clinton’s emails.
“I’ve been listening carefully to my Republican colleagues on the other side and it appears that they are going to work together and coordinate the so-called ‘lock her up defense,'” Durbin said referring to a common chant at Trump’s political rallies.
“This is really not supposed to be about the Mueller investigation, the Russian involvement in the election, the Trump campaign and so forth. It is really about Hillary Clinton’s emails. Finally, we get down to the bottom line,” Durbin said, sardonically suggesting that the committee should also explore previously investigated matters involving Clinton such as the Whitewater and Benghazi affairs.
Pat Leahy: ‘Your answer is purposefully misleading’
“I think your answer is purposefully misleading and I think others do too,” Sen. Pat Leahy, D-Vt., told Barr. Leahy was referencing Barr’s congressional testimony earlier this month in which he denied knowing that members of Mueller’s team were frustrated with his portrayal of their findings.
Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., asked Barr on April 9, during a House Appropriations Committee hearing, about news reports describing such frustration and if he knew what the reports were referencing. “No, I don’t,” Barr said at the time.
But on March 27, Mueller wrote a letter to the Justice Department that said Barr’s summary “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance” of the report.
Mazie Hirono: ‘America deserves better. You should resign’
Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, sharply criticized Barr and called on him to resign for lying to Congress that he did not know about Mueller’s criticism of his summary of the report.
“Now, we know more about your deep involvement in trying to cover up for Donald Trump. Being attorney general of the United States is a sacred trust. You have betrayed that trust. America deserves better. You should resign.”
Hirono was part of a group of 11 Democrats who had sent a letter to the Department of Justice calling on the Department to investigate Barr’s handling of the investigation.
John Kennedy: ‘Include the Mueller team’ in investigations of leaks
Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., told Barr, “When you are investigating leaks at the Department of Justice and the FBI, I hope you will include the Mueller team as well.”
Kennedy wanted further information on how the FBI counterintelligence investigation into Trump’s campaign was started, as well as the disclosure of all documents from “the FBI and the Justice Department pertaining to the 2016 election.”
Kamala Harris: Has Trump ‘asked or suggested that you open an investigation of anyone?’
Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif. asked Barr, “Has the president or anyone at the White House asked or suggested that you open an investigation of anyone?”
Barr initially didn’t directly respond to Harris, saying that “I’m trying to grapple with the word ‘suggest.’ There have been discussions of matters out there that they have not asked me to open an investigation.”
Harris’ comments come as Barr confirmed to Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, during the hearing that the Department of Justice was investigating the origins of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
After leaving the hearing room, Harris called on Barr to resign.
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