Speaker Nancy Pelosi has accused Attorney General William Barr of lying to Congress about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report and the Special Counsel’s concerns with how Attorney General Barr characterized the report’s findings. “What is deadly serious about it is the attorney general of the United States of America is not telling the truth to the Congress of the United States. That’s a crime,” Speaker Pelosi told reporters. “He lied to Congress. If anybody else did that, it would be considered a crime. Nobody is above the law.”
Frustrated that their Russian-Trump conspiracy narrative has gone up in smoke, Democrats are looking to hang an obstruction of justice charge around President Trump’s neck and are targeting Attorney General Barr as a convenient scapegoat for getting in their way. Speaker Pelosi’s accusation of criminal conduct against Mr. Barr is a desperate act that crosses the line into malicious falsehood of her own.
Speaker Pelosi followed the example of such lightweights on the Senate Judiciary Committee as Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, who made the same charge Wednesday during Mr. Barr’s appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee on which she sits. Senator Hirono followed up her baseless accusation with this bit of self-praise: “Please, Mr. Attorney General, give us some credit for knowing what the hell is going on around here with you.” The only thing that Senator Hirono deserves “credit” for after her disgraceful performance during Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing and during Mr. Barr’s Wednesday appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee is how easily she embarrasses herself.
Pelosi and Hirono were apparently in a lather over testimony that Attorney General Barr gave to the House Appropriations Committee last month that his accusers claim was perjurious. They contend that Mr. Barr misrepresented his knowledge of the Mueller team’s displeasure over how he characterized the Mueller report’s findings in his 4-page letter summary of the report’s bottom line conclusions that he presented to Congress and the public on March 24th. A letter that Mr. Mueller had sent to Mr. Barr before Mr. Barr’s April 9th testimony to the House committee had voiced Mr. Mueller’s concern that Mr. Barr had not fully captured “the context, nature, and substance” of the Special Counsel Office’s “work and conclusions.” In responding to a question by Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla) about press reports claiming that the Mueller team was unhappy with what Mr. Barr had written in his short summary of conclusions to Congress, Mr. Barr did not elude to the Mueller letter.
Here is the supposedly infamous exchange:
Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Fla.: “Reports have emerged recently, general, that members of the special counsel’s team are frustrated at some level with the limited information included in your March 24 letter. … Do you know what they are referencing with that?”
Barr: “No, I don’t. I think I think, I suspect that they probably wanted more put out, but in my view I was not interested in putting out summaries.”
There is absolutely nothing misleading in Mr. Barr’s response. As the attorney general told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, his dealings were directly with Special Counsel Mueller, not members of his staff. Therefore, he could not be certain what was in their minds. Nevertheless, Mr. Barr correctly surmised that staff members were frustrated for the same reason that Mr. Mueller had expressed in his letter to Mr. Barr and his subsequent phone conversation. They wanted more information “put out” into the public domain, including the detailed summaries prepared by the Mueller team. However, Mr. Barr thought it was not wise to release portions of the Mueller report, including the detailed summaries, in a piecemeal fashion, especially before the review process for possible necessary redactions was completed. In any event, according to Mr. Barr, Special Counsel Mueller did not refute the accuracy of Mr. Barr’s March 24th letter during a telephone conversation subsequent to Mr. Mueller’s letter to Mr. Barr. And as Attorney General Barr testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, the objective of his March 24th letter was simply to “notify the people as to the bottom line conclusion. We were not trying to summarize the 410-page report. So I offered Bob Mueller the opportunity to review that letter before it went out and he declined.”
Moreover, the whole matter involving how Mr. Barr characterized the Mueller report is now moot. More than 90 percent of the Mueller report was made publicly available within 10 days after Attorney General Barr’s testimony to the House Appropriations Committee. Congress and the public were soon able to read the report for themselves and draw their own conclusions.
There is also absolutely nothing misleading in Mr. Barr’s original March 24th letter to Congress in how he described the bottom-line conclusions of the Mueller report. Regarding the allegation of conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russians to interfere with the 2016 presidential election, the attorney general quoted from the Mueller report: “[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” That was the verdict, to which the attorney general added some information from the Mueller report on the principal means by which Russia sought to influence the election. He also referenced the fact that there were multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign.
Regarding obstruction of justice, Attorney General Barr accurately reported that “The Special Counsel…did not draw a conclusion – one way or the other – as to whether the examined conduct constituted obstruction. Instead, for each of the relevant actions investigated, the report sets out evidence on both sides of the question and leaves unresolved what the Special Counsel views as ‘difficult issues’ of law and fact concerning whether the President’s actions and intent could be viewed as obstruction. The Special Counsel states that ‘while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.’”
Again, Mr. Barr accurately communicated the bottom-line verdict – or, in this case, the lack of one – in the Mueller report. Mr. Barr did not summarize each of the incidents described in the Mueller report that might or might not give rise to a finding of obstruction of justice. He did not have to do so since the Special Counsel decided not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment as to criminal liability regarding those incidents. Besides, the mostly unredacted report, with a full description of the incidents, would be made available to the public shortly thereafter.
Mr. Mueller left the decision up to the attorney general as to whether the conduct described in the Mueller report constitutes the crime of obstruction of justice. Attorney General Barr, along with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, concluded that “the evidence developed during the Special Counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.” For reasons far stronger than former FBI Director James Comey’s determination that Hillary Clinton had lacked the requisite intent to commit a crime in connection with her handling of government e-mails on her private server, the evidence described in the Mueller report comes nowhere close to proving corrupt intent beyond a reasonable doubt.
Speaker Pelosi owes Attorney General Barr an apology for her slanderous ad hominem attack on the attorney general’s character and veracity. Of course, this self-righteous Trump hater and her cohorts would never apologize. She is also a hypocrite of the first order. When Republicans in the House called for a contempt-of-Congress vote against then-Attorney General Eric Holder for allegedly failing to cooperate in their probe of the Operation Fast and Furious scandal, then-House Minority Leader Pelosi claimed that the Republicans were targeting Mr. Holder because his Department of Justice was cracking down on state voter ID laws. When the attorney general was a Democrat, Ms. Pelosi defended his obstruction of a congressional oversight investigation on nonsensical grounds. When the attorney general is a Republican, she distorts what the attorney general actually said and wrote to Congress just to score cheap political points, even if it means defaming his character with maliciously false charges. We should not be surprised.