Democrats have intensified their offensive against Attorney General William Barr as he prepared to release on Thursday a redacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry into alleged collusion between US President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia in the 2016 election.
Barr has a scheduled a news conference at 9:30 a.m. (7 p.m. IST) to talk about the inquiry report and is expected to hand it over it to Congressional leaders later.
The House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler raised an objection to Barr speaking to the media before giving him the report, calling it “wrong”.
“The Attorney General appears to be waging a media campaign on behalf of President Trump… Rather than letting the facts of the report speak for themselves, the Attorney General has taken unprecedented steps to spin Mueller’s nearly two-year investigation,” Nadler said at a Wednesday night news conference here.
The New York Times quoting unnamed sources reported that Justice Department officials had discussed the Mueller report with White House functionaries. This, Nadler said, “has helped them prepare a rebuttal response for the President”.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is currently in Ireland, tweeted that Barr “has thrown out his credibility” and the Justice Department’s “independence with his single-minded effort” to protect Trump.
“The American people deserve the truth, not a sanitised version of the Mueller Report approved by the Trump Admin,” she added in the tweet.
Soon after he received the Mueller report last month, Barr said in a summary sent to Congressional leaders that it had exonerated Trump of the collusion allegations, but it had not concluded either way if the President had obstructed justice by interfering with the inquiry.
Unconvinced that the inquiry had cleared Trump, Democrats have demanded a copy of the entire report without redactions.
Barr has said that he would edit out portions of the report that relate to intelligence agency secrets, testimony that is considered legally secret and innocent third parties.
Nadler accused Barr of having “cherry-picked findings in his March 24th letter to Congress” and withholding “summaries written by the Special Counsel that were intended for public consumption”.
Trump, meanwhile, sounded confident that the exoneration in Barr’s summary would hold when the report is released and tweeted his constant complaint about the inquiry: “The Witch Hunt has been a total fraud on your President and the American people! It was brought to you by Dirty Cops, Crooked Hillary and the DNC (Democratic National Committee).”
One of the hopes for the Democrats is that even if Trump is exonerated on the Russian collusion charges, the report may have something on which to pin the obstruction of justice charges, which Barr has dismissed.
“Seems like it doesn’t ‘totally exonerate’ Trump,” Neal Katyal, who was the acting solicitor general in former President Barack Obama’s administration, said in a series of tweets.
“I am most interested to know whether Barr made legal conclusions that prevented an indictment and whether he second-guessed Mueller in this respect.”
The main lines of counterattack for the President and his supporters are that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) “spied” on the Trump election campaign and the that basis of the inquiry was a dossier on hi, that was partly paid for the Democratic Party.
The author of the report is Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence agent, and court documents later revealed that he was also paid by the FBI.
Trump brought this up in a tweet: “FBI made 11 payments to Fake Dossier’s discredited author, Trump hater Christopher Steele.”
Judicial Watch, a conservative activist organisation, filed a freedom of information lawsuit in a federal court on Tuesday demanding that the FBI release its correspondence with Steele and his associates and details of payments made to him.
Barr had said in a testimony to a Congressional panel last week that Trump’s campaign had been spied on during Obama’s administration.
The Attorney General did not give any details, but it is likely he was referring to a warrant obtained by the FBI to place campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page under surveillance.
He was suspected of having Russian links but he was never charged with anything.