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

Democratic congressional leaders said Thursday that special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerTrump says he'll release financial records before election, knocks Dems' efforts House impeachment hearings: The witch hunt continues Speier says impeachment inquiry shows 'very strong case of bribery' by Trump MORE's final report "appears to undercut" a conclusion from Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrBarr criticizes FBI, says it's possible agents acted in 'bad faith' in Trump probe Barr: 'I haven't looked into' whether Ukraine meddled in 2016 election Facebook tells Trump administration it will not create messaging 'backdoor' for law enforcement MORE that President TrumpDonald John TrumpSanders urges impeachment trial 'quickly' in the Senate US sending 20,000 troops to Europe for largest exercises since Cold War Barr criticizes FBI, says it's possible agents acted in 'bad faith' in Trump probe MORE didn't obstruct justice.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiSanders urges impeachment trial 'quickly' in the Senate Tech legal shield included in USMCA despite late Pelosi push GOP senator warns quick vote on new NAFTA would be 'huge mistake' MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerKrystal Ball: Is this how Bernie Sanders will break the establishment? TikTok chief cancels Capitol Hill meetings, inflaming tensions Overnight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — Deal on surprise medical bills faces obstacles | House GOP unveils rival drug pricing measure ahead of Pelosi vote | Justices to hear case over billions in ObamaCare payments 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 ComeyMisfired 'Hurricane': Comey's team abused Carter Page and the FBI Trump rebukes FBI chief Wray over inspector general's Russia inquiry The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - Democrats to release articles of impeachment today MORE and his pressuring of then-Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsSessions leads GOP Senate primary field in Alabama, internal poll shows Trump rebukes FBI chief Wray over inspector general's Russia inquiry Senate Democrats demand Trump fire Stephen Miller MORE to reverse his decision to recuse himself from overseeing the probe.

Barr said Thursday that he and Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinRosenstein, Sessions discussed firing Comey in late 2016 or early 2017: FBI notes Justice Dept releases another round of summaries from Mueller probe Judge rules former WH counsel McGahn must testify under subpoena 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