Attorney General William Barr assured members of Congress on Tuesday that he plans to get them the report from Robert Mueller “within a week,” along with color-coded redactions and explanations why certain information was not included.
But Democratic members of a House panel made it clear they weren’t satisfied with Barr’s testimony. Several expressed skepticism about the final product they’ll get from the report regarding allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign.
“All we have is your four-page summary, which seems to cherry-pick from the report, to draw the most favorable conclusion possible to the president,” said Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., who chairs the House Appropriations Committee.
Lowey later questioned how Barr could have so quickly summarized the nearly 400-page report from the special counsel, which President Trump and the White House have praised, saying it shows there was no collusion with the Russians.
“It seems your mind must have been already made up. How did you do it?” Lowey asked.
“The thinking of the special counsel was not a mystery to the people of the Department of Justice prior to [Mueller’s] submission of the report,” Barr said in response, noting they had an “inkling” of what was coming.
Tuesday’s hearing was, in some respects, three hearings in one.
The headline part of the hearing of course revolved around the Mueller report. Democrats pressed ahead with their desire to get the report and questioning why they can’t receive an unredacted version. Barr said he couldn’t promise them the report wouldn’t include redactions, which his staff is poring over, including information related to grand jury testimony.
Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., at one point asked Barr about the Mueller finding included in the summary that states, “While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
“What is meant by exonerate is really a question I can’t answer,” Barr said.
A second part of the hearing involved Republican calls for an investigation into how the Russia probe started. Barr said he is reviewing the conduct of the FBI.
He told lawmakers that he was “trying to get my arms around” all aspects of the counterintelligence investigation that was carried out during the summer of 2016. His response came during questions from Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., the ranking Republican on the House Appropriations subcommittee that conducted Tuesday’s hearing.
Republicans have pressed for an investigation into the FBI and the approval of a FISA court order involved in surveillance during the 2016 campaign.
A third part of the hearing stemmed from the original reason Barr was called to testify — the Justice Department budget. He discussed issues related to border security, fighting drugs and the increase in criminal prosecutions.
But the hearing was dominated by the Mueller report. While it appears members of Congress will see it very soon, it’s still unclear exactly how quickly the public will see the report after it’s sent to Capitol Hill.
Barr has pledged to testify before the House and Senate Judiciary committees next month, after the report has been released. There will no doubt be many more questions swirling around him at those hearings, after lawmakers have gone over what Robert Mueller’s team submitted to Barr and the Justice Department.
He also has a date Wednesday with a Senate Appropriations subcommittee to talk about the budget.
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