Democrats renew attacks on Trump attorney general

Democrats ripped into Attorney General William BarrBill BarrTrump commutes Roger Stone's sentence EU condemns U.S. for resuming federal executions Trump on possible Roger Stone pardon: 'His prayer may be answered' MORE on Friday, signaling he'll be a focal point of their attacks on the Trump administration in the post-Mueller report world.

The Democrats say Barr bungled the handling of 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 report and that he has repeatedly sought to protect President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrats blast Trump for commuting Roger Stone: 'The most corrupt president in history' Trump confirms 2018 US cyberattack on Russian troll farm Trump tweets his support for Goya Foods amid boycott MORE, contrasting his comments about what the report said with the actual text that was released on Thursday.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerNadler: Barr dealings with Berman came 'awfully close to bribery' Nadler wins Democratic primary Voters must strongly reject the president's abuses by voting him out this November MORE (D-N.Y.) issued a subpoena on Friday to win the release of the full report, while other Democrats have called for Barr's resignation.

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The report is also fueling new talk of impeachment.

“We can't blame Republicans for the lack of an impeachment effort. We control the House,” Rep. Al GreenAlexander (Al) N. GreenThe Memo: Trump's race tactics fall flat Trump administration ending support for 7 Texas testing sites as coronavirus cases spike The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Miami mayor worries about suicide and domestic violence rise; Trump-governor debate intensifies MORE (D-Texas), a longtime advocate for impeaching Trump, said Thursday. “It is up to us to act.”

The attacks on Barr do, to a certain extent, shift the target from Trump, which could help party leaders who would rather avoid that issue.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Justices rule Manhattan prosecutor, but not Congress, can have Trump tax records Supreme Court rulings reignite Trump oversight wars in Congress Pelosi on Baltimore's Columbus statue: 'If the community doesn't want the statue, the statue shouldn't be there' MORE (D-Calif.), who has repeatedly set a high bar for impeachment, helped lead the Barr charge with her own terse statement about the Mueller report, issued jointly with Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerDemocrats blast Trump for commuting Roger Stone: 'The most corrupt president in history' A renewed emphasis on research and development funding is needed from the government Data shows seven Senate Democrats have majority non-white staffs MORE (D-N.Y.).

“Special Counsel Mueller’s report paints a disturbing picture of a president who has been weaving a web of deceit, lies and improper behavior and acting as if the law doesn’t apply to him,” Pelosi and Schumer wrote in a joint statement.

“But if you hadn’t read the report and listened only to Mr. Barr, you wouldn’t have known any of that because Mr. Barr has been so misleading,” they continued, alleging that he “deliberately distorted significant portions” of the report.

Their letter did not mention impeachment or investigations by Democrats.

House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerMexico's president uses US visit to tout ties with Trump Amy Kennedy wins NJ primary to face GOP's Van Drew House Democrat calls for 'real adult discussion' on lawmaker pay MORE (D-Md.) on Thursday downplayed impeachment, saying Democrats were focused on the election.

And while Trump is likely to cast Democrats as focused on impeachment instead of the country, Democrats are planning to use Mueller’s report as evidence against reelecting Trump in 2020.

Rep. Debbie DingellDeborah (Debbie) Ann DingellDingell pushes provision to curtail drunk driving in House infrastructure package 18 states fight conservative think tank effort to freeze fuel efficiency standards Pelosi: George Floyd death is 'a crime' MORE (D-Mich.) told CNN on Friday that the report is a “road map” to the next campaign cycle because it lays bare Trump’s behavior for all voters to see.

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And the party is set to portray Barr as part of the problem with Trump’s Washington: He and his administration are intent on protecting each other rather than doing what is best for the American people.

Democratic strategist Basil Smikle, who served as the executive director of the New York State Democratic Party, said the strategy is good politics for his party “as long as they can strengthen that narrative, not just from the outcome of the Mueller report but also the subpoenas and calling people before Congress to have this broader discussion about all the inconsistencies with what White House officials say.”

“That has the effect of running out this longer, broader, more impactful depiction of a president who is more clownish than competent, which gives 2020 candidates on the Democratic side an opportunity to articulate why they can be better at governing and promoting specific policies to help Americans,” he added.

Other strategists emphasize that the ultimate target is Trump, even if some of today’s attacks are on Barr.

“Barr laid out a dishonest spin campaign against the findings of the Mueller report to argue Trump’s innocence. So of course Democrats should go after Barr. But they also shouldn’t lose sight of the bigger targets,” said Democratic strategist Christy Setzer.

“Bill Barr is not the ultimate problem. The ultimate problem is the man sitting at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.,” said Zac Petkanas, a former campaign adviser to Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump confirms 2018 US cyberattack on Russian troll farm Hillicon Valley: Facebook considers political ad ban | Senators raise concerns over civil rights audit | Amazon reverses on telling workers to delete TikTok Biden campaign hires top cybersecurity officials to defend against threats MORE.

Petkanas said Democrats should be worried about Barr seeking to protect the president because he has oversight over offshoots of the Mueller probe, including the Southern District of New York (SDNY). It implicated Trump in an investigation examining the payments former Trump lawyer Michael CohenMichael Dean CohenNadler: Barr dealings with Berman came 'awfully close to bribery' Michael Cohen taken back into police custody Supreme Court upholds NY prosecutors' access to Trump's tax returns, rebuffs Congress MORE made to two women alleging affairs with the president before the election.

“Any effort to hold Barr accountable needs to be done through context of protecting the other investigations that have spun off from the Mueller report and to highlight the fact that the report was much more damaging than Bill Barr initially made it seem,” Petkanas added.

Democrats are particularly angry with Barr’s decision that the obstruction of justice evidence laid out by Mueller did not reach the threshold to charge Trump.

And they say that while Mueller cleared the president of conspiring with Russia, there still was an unprecedented level of contact between Moscow and the Trump campaign.

“Any Republican who thinks that this debate is over with the release of this report needs to get their head examined. There is an awful lot of bread crumbs that the Hill can use to continue to investigate, and I believe they will, as they should,” Democratic strategist Jim Manley said.

Democrats will be able to press Barr on these matters next month when he testifies before the Judiciary Committee on May 2 one day after the deadline for Nadler’s subpoena.

“It is obviously no coincidence that the May 1 deadline comes a day before Bill Barr is testifying. He now faces the choice of complying with this request or being pummeled at an oversight hearing the next day,” said Petkanas.

The Justice Department and other Republicans, however, have slammed the subpoena as being premature.

The top Republican on the Judiciary Committee blasted Nadler for issuing the order shortly after receiving the 400-plus-page report.

“Yesterday, Chairman Nadler held a press conference to admit he had only skimmed the report. Now — less than 24 hours after its release with minimal redactions — he's rushing to subpoena material that he hasn't even asked the department to provide yet and that, by law, can't be shared outside the Justice Department,” Rep. Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsThe Hill's Campaign Report: Is Georgia reaching a tipping point? Democrats hope for tidal moment in Georgia with two Senate seats in play Loeffler doubles down against BLM, calls movement 'anti-Semitic' amid continued WNBA blowback MORE (R-Ga.) said in a statement.

Republicans have celebrated the findings of the report as a win for the president while praising Barr for his handling of the report.

Even before the report’s release, Republicans had predicted that Democrats would seize on it regardless of its content to attack Trump and Barr.

“The White House knows there is nothing they can say or do that will satisfy the Democratic or media beast when it comes to the Mueller report. They already noticed this because the Democrats have moved from a Trump-Russia conspiracy to a Trump-Barr conspiracy,” GOP strategist Ford O’Connell told The Hill.