Pelosi, Schumer: Mueller report 'appears to undercut' Barr on obstruction

Democratic congressional leaders said Thursday that special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE's final report "appears to undercut" a conclusion from Attorney General William BarrBill BarrHarris faces pivotal moment with Supreme Court battle Hillicon Valley: DOJ proposes tech liability shield reform to Congress | Treasury sanctions individuals, groups tied to Russian malign influence activities | House Republican introduces bill to set standards for self-driving cars McCarthy threatens motion to oust Pelosi if she moves forward with impeachment MORE that President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden on Trump's refusal to commit to peaceful transfer of power: 'What country are we in?' Romney: 'Unthinkable and unacceptable' to not commit to peaceful transition of power Two Louisville police officers shot amid Breonna Taylor grand jury protests MORE didn't obstruct justice.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHoyer: House should vote on COVID-19 aid — with or without a bipartisan deal Ruth Bader Ginsburg lies in repose at Supreme Court McCarthy threatens motion to oust Pelosi if she moves forward with impeachment MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerCruz blocks amended resolution honoring Ginsburg over language about her dying wish Senate Democrats introduce legislation to probe politicization of pandemic response Schumer interrupted during live briefing by heckler: 'Stop lying to the people' MORE (D-N.Y.) argued in a joint statement that the "differences are stark" between Mueller's more than 400-page report and what Barr has said on obstruction.

"As we continue to review the report, one thing is clear: Attorney General Barr presented a conclusion that the president did not obstruct justice while Mueller's report appears to undercut that finding," they said.

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Democrats are likely to focus on the obstruction question as they plot their own investigations and prepare for Barr — and potentially Mueller — to come testify.

Mueller wrote in his report that Congress has the authority to conduct obstruction of justice investigations, stating that such probes provide a check if a president is corrupt.

The attorney general defended Trump during his press conference earlier Thursday and explained his rationale for finding that Trump didn't obstruct justice based on the findings from Mueller. 

Barr argued that it was important to consider the "context" of Trump's actions, arguing that he faced an "unprecedented situation” in the course of Mueller’s investigation as well as “relentless speculation” in the media surrounding Trump’s own possible culpability in Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

The attorney general added that Mueller's report shows that Trump was frustrated by a "sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents and fueled by illegal leaks."

Barr had previously told lawmakers in a four-page letter to Congress that Mueller didn't reach a conclusion on whether Trump obstructed justice.

Mueller said in his report that his team could not reach a definitive conclusion if Trump obstructed investigations into Russian collusion in the 2016 campaign. 

“[I]f we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment,” the report reads.

The Mueller probe focused on 10 "episodes" in its obstruction inquiry, including Trump’s firing of former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyDemocrats fear Russia interference could spoil bid to retake Senate Book: FBI sex crimes investigator helped trigger October 2016 public probe of Clinton emails Trump jabs at FBI director over testimony on Russia, antifa MORE and his pressuring of then-Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsGOP set to release controversial Biden report Trump's policies on refugees are as simple as ABCs Ocasio-Cortez, Velázquez call for convention to decide Puerto Rico status MORE to reverse his decision to recuse himself from overseeing the probe.

Barr said Thursday that he and Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinDOJ kept investigators from completing probe of Trump ties to Russia: report Five takeaways from final Senate Intel Russia report FBI officials hid copies of Russia probe documents fearing Trump interference: book MORE “disagreed” with some of Mueller’s “legal theories” surrounding obstruction and believed some of the episodes analyzed in the report did not constitute criminal obstruction, but he noted that they did “not rely solely on that in making our decision.”

— Tal Axelrod contributed