The Hill's 12:30 Report: Barr takes grilling from Dems

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The Hill's 12:30 Report: Barr gets grilling | Defends handling of Mueller report | Mueller twice asked Barr to release key findings | Trump lashes out on Twitter over union backing Biden | Retweets 58 messages of support | Biden cements status as Dem front-runner | White House refuses Dem request on security clearances | Poll finds Trump approval at two-year high | Ben Stiller testifies on Syrian refugee crisis | Baby sea lion in police car goes viral



Talk Mueller to me:

"OK, so picture this. March 24, there we were..."


Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrProsecutors are mainly to blame for the criminal justice crisis The Hill's Morning Report - Trump hews to NRA on guns and eyes lower taxes 10 declassified Russia collusion revelations that could rock Washington this fall MORE testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee to discuss his handling of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerMueller report fades from political conversation Trump calls for probe of Obama book deal Democrats express private disappointment with Mueller testimony MORE's report about the Russia investigation.

Livestream of the hearing:

Live blog of hearing with updates:



Barr defended his handling of the Mueller report: Barr said he wanted to release a report summary quickly because the public was in a "high state of agitation." In Barr's words: "The body politic was in a high state of agitation. ... Former government officials were confidently predicting that the president or members of his family would be indicted. ... That's what we were trying to do -- notify the people of the bottom-line conclusions."


On former White House counsel Don McGahn testifying: Barr said he had objections to McGahn testifying. Barr also denied that Trump had waived executive privilege by allowing McGahn to speak to Mueller. "No, we haven't waived his privilege," Barr says.

On Trump's right to fire Mueller: "If the president is being falsely accused, which the evidence now suggests that the accusations against him were false, and he knew they were false, and he felt that this investigation was unfair, propelled by his political opponents and was hampering his ability to govern, that is not a corrupt motive for replacing an independent counsel," Barr said.

Barr doesn't think the word 'spying' is negative: Barr defended his use of the word "spying," saying the term encompasses all kinds of surveillance. In his words: "I don't think spying has any pejorative at all ... I'm not going to back off the word 'spying.' " 



Behind-the-scenes: Here are a few photos explaining how C-SPAN prepares for a big hearing like this:

Will Barr testify before the House tomorrow?: Barr threatened not to show up at tomorrow's House Judiciary Committee hearing, controlled by Democrats.

What's happening now: The committee has recessed and will continue the hearing at 12:50 p.m. EDT.


It's Wednesday. I'm Cate Martel with a quick recap of the morning and what's coming up. Send comments, story ideas and events for our radar to -- and follow along on Twitter @CateMartel and Facebook.

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Don't butcher my words:

The night before before Attorney General William Barr's first testimony, The Washington Post's Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky reported that a few days after Barr wrote a four-page summary of the special counsel's Russia investigation findings, special counsel Robert Mueller wrote a letter to the attorney general complaining that Barr's memo "did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance" of the 448-page Russia report.

What this means: "The letter and a subsequent phone call between the two men reveal the degree to which the longtime colleagues and friends disagreed as they handled the legally and politically fraught task of investigating the president. Democrats in Congress are likely to scrutinize Mueller's complaints to Barr as they contemplate the prospect of opening impeachment proceedings and mull how hard to press for Mueller himself to testify publicly."

What makes this messy: William Barr and Robert Mueller have been good friends for years. Their families are friends, as well. But the disagreement in the handling of the Mueller report may test their friendship. Their relationship over the years: 


New this morning -- here's the actual letter Mueller sent to Barr in late March:

Read the full letter:

What we now know: Special counsel Robert Mueller twice asked Attorney General William Barr to release Mueller's own summary of his findings.



Read William Barr's four-page memo to Congress from March 24:

Compared to the full 448-page Mueller report:

Who has seen the less-redacted Mueller report? -- Only two lawmakers: "Barr offered access to a less-redacted version of the report to just 12 members of Congress -- six Democrats and six Republicans. But as of Tuesday afternoon, only Rep. Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsThe United States broken patent system is getting worse Democratic Women's Caucus calls for investigation into Epstein plea deal Activist groups push House Judiciary leaders to end mass phone data collection MORE, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP group calls on Republican senators to stand up to McConnell on election security in new ads Cindy McCain says no one in Republican Party carries 'voice of reason' after husband's death Trump says he'll decide on foreign aid cuts within a week MORE, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, opted to view it. A third, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP group calls on Republican senators to stand up to McConnell on election security in new ads The Hill's Morning Report - Trump hews to NRA on guns and eyes lower taxes Hobbled NRA shows strength with Trump MORE said he planned to review the report later Tuesday." (Via Politico's Kyle Cheney and Marianne Levine):



President TrumpDonald John Trump Former US ambassador: 'Denmark is not a big fan of Donald Trump and his politics' Senate Democrats push for arms control language in defense policy bill Detroit county sheriff endorses Booker for president MORE had ~a morning~:

This morning, President Trump retweeted 58 messages (yes, 58 tweets!) from people expressing their support for the president after a firefighters union backed former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTop adviser on Sanders: 'He's always been underestimated' 'The Simpsons' pokes fun at Trump's feud with 'the squad' 'Forever war' slogans short-circuit the scrutiny required of national security choices MORE's 2020 run. 

This is an interesting post to retweet: The president retweeted one message that reads, "My husband a New York City firefighter for 15 years will be voting Trump 2020 all the way." And after the retweet: That Twitter account's display name changed to, "F--- Donald Trump." Screenshot of Trump's retweet:


Nope, can't have them!: 

This morning, the White House rejected a request from House Democrats as part of their probe into security clearances.

White House counsel Pat Cipollone sent a nine-page letter to the House Oversight and Reform Committee: The letter argued that the committee is "harassing and seeking to punish political opponents" and argued that lawmakers' request showed "a total disregard for individual privacy." Read the letter on CNN:



To vax or not to vax, that was their question:

BuzzFeed News's Claudia Koerner asked every 2020 candidate what they think about vaccines.

On the Democratic side: "Nine Democrats provided answers to BuzzFeed News, describing vaccines as necessary, but taking different approaches to exemptions. Others have supported vaccines but have not publicly spoken about who should be able to refuse immunity -- a topic that's prompted heated debate and protests in some communities as low vaccination rates have put more people at risk of infection."

For example: A spokesperson for South Bend, Ind., where Democratic presidential candidate Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegTop adviser on Sanders: 'He's always been underestimated' Biden, Sanders lead Trump in hypothetical match-ups: poll The Hill's Morning Report - Trump hews to NRA on guns and eyes lower taxes MORE is mayor, told Buzzfeed: "The law of the land for more than a century has been that states may enforce mandatory vaccination for public safety to prevent the spread of a dangerous disease. Pete does support some exceptions, except during a public health emergency to prevent an outbreak."

On the Republican side: "The White House pointed to recent comments made by President Trump supporting vaccination, though he's previously spread false claims about their danger." 

Read the full responses: 

On a two-year high:

According to a new CNN poll, President Trump's approval rating is at its highest number in two years. The numbers: 43 percent approve of Trump; 52 percent disapprove.


Hello, this is front-runner Joe Biden. How may I direct your call?: 

Via The Hill's Max Greenwood, "Less than a week into his 2020 presidential bid, Joe Biden is cementing his status as the Democratic front-runner."

How so: "The former vice president has been on the receiving end of attacks, not just from his primary opponents but from President Trump himself, a sign of the outsize political presence Biden commands." 



It's a sea lion! In the back! Of a police car!: 

Full size photos -- it looks like it's going to escape:


I hope the committee brought in Jack Byrnes to grill Greg Focker: 

Why actor Ben Stiller is at the Capitol: Stiller pleaded with Congress to help Syrian refugees.

Lol: "I watch you all on television all the time," Stiller told lawmakers. "You all look much taller in-person."

Video of Ben Stiller arriving on Capitol Hill:

Livestream of Ben Stiller's testimony:



The House and Senate. President Trump and Vice President Pence are in Washington, D.C.

11:45 a.m. EDT: The Senate voted on a confirmation. The Senate's full schedule today:

1:15 p.m. EDT: Vice President Pence speaks at the Hispanic American Police Command Officers Association Aguila Awards Luncheon.

1:30 p.m. EDT: First and last votes in the House. The House's full schedule today:

2 p.m. EDT: Vice President Pence receives a briefing from Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Baltimore field office.

2:15 p.m. EDT: President Trump meets with members of Congress.

6:05 p.m. EDT: Vice President Pence speaks at the National Day of Prayer Task Force Celebrating Dinner at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C.

6:30 p.m. EDT: President Trump and first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpEx-Melania Trump adviser raised concerns of excessive inauguration spending weeks before events: CNN The Hill's Morning Report - Trump moves green cards, citizenship away from poor, low-skilled White House seeks volunteers, musicians for Christmas celebrations MORE participate in the National Day of Prayer. Vice President Pence and second lady Karen PenceKaren Sue PencePence on battling critics: 'Spend more time on your knees than on the internet' The Hill's 12:30 Report: Acosta resigns amid controversy over Epstein plea deal The Hill's 12:30 Report: Pelosi looks to squash fight with progressives MORE also join.



This morning: Attorney General William Barr testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the Mueller Report. Livestream



Today is National Chocolate Parfait Day.


It's one of the most beautiful months of the year in D.C.:

Via Washingtonian, here are 17 things to do around the Washington, D.C., area in the month of May:


And to break up your Wednesday afternoon, here's a cat who is shocked to discover it has ears: