Democrats renew attacks on Trump attorney general

Democrats ripped into Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrGOP signals unease with Barr's gun plan NRA says Trump administration memo a 'non-starter' Sinema touts bipartisan record as Arizona Democrats plan censure vote 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) Swan MuellerLewandowski says Mueller report was 'very clear' in proving 'there was no obstruction,' despite having 'never' read it Fox's Cavuto roasts Trump over criticism of network Mueller report fades from political conversation MORE's report and that he has repeatedly sought to protect President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump conversation with foreign leader part of complaint that led to standoff between intel chief, Congress: report Pelosi: Lewandowski should have been held in contempt 'right then and there' Trump to withdraw FEMA chief nominee: report 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 NadlerPelosi: Lewandowski should have been held in contempt 'right then and there' Nadler's House committee holds a faux hearing in search of a false crime Lewandowski says he's under no obligation to speak truthfully to the media 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. GreenTen notable Democrats who do not favor impeachment Methane emissions continue to drop Two coal miners demand McGrath stop using their images in McConnell attack ad 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 PelosiPelosi: Lewandowski should have been held in contempt 'right then and there' Democrats bicker over strategy on impeachment Overnight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Pelosi set to unveil drug price plan | Abortion rate in US hits lowest level since Roe v. Wade | Dems threaten to subpoena Juul 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 SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSchumer, Pelosi push Trump to back universal background check bill Sinema says she would back Kennedy in race against Markey Democrats threaten to withhold defense votes over wall 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 HoyerOvernight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Pelosi set to unveil drug price plan | Abortion rate in US hits lowest level since Roe v. Wade | Dems threaten to subpoena Juul Dem leader says party can include abortion opponents Hoyer calls on GOP leader to denounce 'despicable' ad attacking Ocasio-Cortez 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 DingellOvernight Energy: Trump to revoke California's tailpipe waiver | Democrats propose bill to revoke Trump endangered species rollback | Trump officials finalize rule allowing fewer inspectors at pork plants Democrats propose bill to revoke Trump endangered species rollback Polling director: Young voters swayed by health care, economy, gun control 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 ClintonQueer Marine veteran launches House bid after incumbent California Rep. Susan Davis announces retirement Poll: Trump neck and neck with top 2020 Democrats in Florida Former immigration judge fined, temporarily banned from federal service for promoting Clinton policies 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 CohenSenior HUD official reprimanded for making political statements on the job New York attorneys subpoena eight years of Trump tax returns: report Eric Holder says Trump is subject to prosecution after leaving office 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 CollinsGOP signals unease with Barr's gun plan Lewandowski, Democrats tangle at testy hearing Justice OIG completes probe on FBI surveillance of ex-Trump campaign aide 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.