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

Democratic congressional leaders said Thursday that special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerWhy a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel CNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump MORE's final report "appears to undercut" a conclusion from Attorney General William BarrBill BarrPolitics in the Department of Justice can be a good thing Majority of Republicans say 2020 election was invalid: poll Biden administration withdraws from Connecticut transgender athlete case MORE that President TrumpDonald TrumpUS, South Korea reach agreement on cost-sharing for troops Graham: Trump can make GOP bigger, stronger, or he 'could destroy it' Biden nominates female generals whose promotions were reportedly delayed under Trump MORE didn't obstruct justice.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump White House associate tied to Proud Boys before riot via cell phone data Greene sounds off on GOP after Hill story 'Bloody Sunday' to be commemorated for first time without John Lewis MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerManchin firm on support for filibuster, mulls making it 'a little bit more painful' to use Biden takes victory lap after Senate passes coronavirus relief package Lawmakers demand changes after National Guard troops at Capitol sickened from tainted food 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 ComeyWray says FBI not systemically racist John Durham's endgame: Don't expect criminal charges Trump DOJ officials sought to block search of Giuliani records: report MORE and his pressuring of then-Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsTanden withdraws nomination as Biden budget chief Manchin flexes muscle in 50-50 Senate Udalls: Haaland criticism motivated 'by something other than her record' MORE to reverse his decision to recuse himself from overseeing the probe.

Barr said Thursday that he and Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinRosenstein: Zero tolerance immigration policy 'never should have been proposed or implemented' Comey argues Trump shouldn't be prosecuted after leaving Oval Office Trump turns his ire toward Cabinet members 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