Lawmakers get first crack at Barr post-Mueller

Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrTrump blasts Mueller, decries 'witch hunt' at 2020 launch Trump blasts Mueller, decries 'witch hunt' at 2020 launch Cummings requests interview with Census official over new allegations on citizenship question MORE is set to testify publicly before the House and Senate on Tuesday and Wednesday, giving Democrats an opportunity to raise the pressure on him to release special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerKamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump MORE’s report.

Barr is expected to face questions about his handling of the Mueller investigation and report when he testifies on the Trump administration’s fiscal 2020 budget request.

First, Barr will face a small group of lawmakers on the House Appropriations subcommittee with oversight of the Justice Department, a panel chaired by Rep. José Serrano (D-N.Y.) that boasts seven Democrats and four Republicans.

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The lawmakers are set to hit Barr hard over the Mueller report. In excerpts of her statement issued Monday night, Rep. Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyCongressional leaders, White House officials to meet Wednesday on spending Congressional leaders, White House officials to meet Wednesday on spending House panel wraps up final 2020 spending bill as Senate lags MORE (D-N.Y.), the chairwoman of the larger Appropriations Committee, criticized Barr for his "unacceptable handling" of the report.

"All we have is your four-page summary letter, which seems to cherry pick from the report to draw the most favorable conclusion possible for the President," Lowey's remarks stated. She said it was "extraordinary" that Barr would evaluate hundreds of pages in findings and "make definitive legal conclusions in less than 48 hours."

"Even for someone who has done this job before, I would argue it is more suspicious than impressive," the remarks state. 

Barr may face an even more challenging hearing may come a day later when Barr testifies before a subpanel of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Several lawmakers from the Senate Judiciary Committee sit on that subcommittee, including its chairman, Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamOvernight Defense: Shanahan exit shocks Washington | Pentagon left rudderless | Lawmakers want answers on Mideast troop deployment | Senate could vote on Saudi arms deal this week | Pompeo says Trump doesn't want war with Iran Shanahan drama shocks Capitol Hill, leaving Pentagon rudderless Shanahan drama shocks Capitol Hill, leaving Pentagon rudderless MORE (R-S.C.), and ranking member, Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinDemocrats detail new strategy to pressure McConnell on election security bills Democrats detail new strategy to pressure McConnell on election security bills Hillicon Valley: GOP senator wants one agency to run tech probes | Huawei expects to lose B in sales from US ban | Self-driving car bill faces tough road ahead | Elon Musk tweets that he 'deleted' his Twitter account MORE (D-Calif.).

Sens. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyTrump planning Air Force One flyover during July 4 celebration at Mall: report Senators reach .5B deal on Trump's emergency border request Senators reach .5B deal on Trump's emergency border request MORE (D-Vt.), Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsSenators revive effort to create McCain human rights commission Senate Dem to reintroduce bill with new name after 'My Little Pony' confusion Senate Dem to reintroduce bill with new name after 'My Little Pony' confusion MORE (D-Del.) and John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.) also are on the subpanel. A Leahy aide said Monday that the senator plans to ask about the report and how the Justice Department is reviewing it, making redactions and preparing for its release.

Democrats have been loudly clamoring for the full release of the report and its underlying evidence to Congress since Barr unveiled a four-page summary of Mueller’s core findings two weeks ago that effectively cleared President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP senator introduces bill to hold online platforms liable for political bias Rubio responds to journalist who called it 'strange' to see him at Trump rally Rubio responds to journalist who called it 'strange' to see him at Trump rally MORE of allegations of criminal collusion and obstruction.

The Mueller report isn’t the only controversy Barr is likely to get asked about either.

Members are also poised to ask about other big-ticket items, such as the Justice Department’s legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act. Barr reportedly argued against the administration’s call for ObamaCare’s total dismantling in the administration’s internal talks.

Barr’s nine-page written House testimony released Monday afternoon unsurprisingly contains no explicit mention of Mueller’s probe. Asked whether Barr would answer questions about the Mueller report or investigation, a Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment.

Barr could also face questions about a pair of reports last week suggesting that some of Mueller’s investigators were unhappy with the way the attorney general characterized their conclusions in his March 24 letter. According to the reports, Mueller’s team prepared their own summaries of the report that could have been publicly released but were not.

In his four-page letter, Barr summarized what he described as Mueller’s core findings, revealing that the special counsel did not “establish” that associates or members of the Trump campaign coordinated or conspired with the Russian government. Barr also revealed that Mueller declined to make a judgment on whether Trump obstructed justice and that he and Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinTrump blasts Mueller, decries 'witch hunt' at 2020 launch Trump blasts Mueller, decries 'witch hunt' at 2020 launch Trump: I didn't fire Mueller since firings 'didn't work out too well' for Nixon MORE reviewed and judged the evidence to be insufficient to accuse the president of obstructing the probe.

Barr’s two days of testimony will punctuate burgeoning calls from congressional Democrats for the immediate release of Mueller’s full report without any redactions.

Barr has said he expects to have a version of Mueller’s report ready to release publicly and to Congress by mid-April, but that it will be redacted to conceal grand jury material, details about ongoing investigations, classified information and material that could impact “peripheral third parties.”

Democrats have accused Barr of trying to withhold information from Congress in order to protect Trump. The House Judiciary Committee in a party-line vote last week authorized its chairman, Rep. Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerWant the truth? Put your money on Bill Barr, not Jerry Nadler From abortion to obstruction, politicians' hypocrisy is showing Watergate figure John Dean earns laughter for responses to GOP lawmakers MORE (D-N.Y.), to subpoena for the full report and underlying evidence if Barr does not meet Democrats’ demands.

“He’s a biased defender of the administration. And he’s entitled to be defending the administration, but he is not entitled to withhold the evidence from Congress,” Nadler said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday, asserting that Congress is “entitled” to see Mueller’s report in its entirety.

House Republicans have accused their colleagues of trying to undermine Trump after the conclusion of Mueller’s 22-month probe left them disappointed.

While there is bipartisan support for the release of Mueller’s report, Republicans have accused Nadler and others of recklessly pushing for Barr to hand over grand jury material.

In a letter to Nadler on Monday, committee ranking member Rep. Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsDemocrats banking on Hicks testimony to advance Trump probes Democrats banking on Hicks testimony to advance Trump probes Tensions between Democrats, Justice cool for a day MORE (R-Ga.) encouraged him to ask Mueller to testify in lieu of Barr and argued Nadler would need to launch an impeachment inquiry in order to legally get ahold of the grand jury material in Mueller’s report.

“Perhaps you are loath to begin an impeachment hearing when the facts do not support one,” Collins wrote.

Trump, meanwhile, lashed out at Democrats on Monday, writing in a tweet that they will “never be satisfied, no matter what they get, how much they get, or how many pages they get.”

The central question looming over Washington is whether Barr will release Mueller’s report sometime this week. Lawmakers are set to embark on a 2½week recess beginning Wednesday, meaning the document could very well be released after they leave town.

Regardless, Barr is likely to face renewed congressional scrutiny when members return to D.C. He has already committed to testifying before the House and Senate judiciary committees in early May regarding the Mueller investigation.