Lawmakers get first crack at Barr post-Mueller

Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrThorny part of obstruction of justice is proving intent, that's a job for Congress Mueller report unveils American democracy under Russian attack Kellyanne Conway: Mueller didn't need to use the word 'exoneration' in report 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 Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe 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.


The lawmakers are set to hit Barr hard over the Mueller report. In excerpts of her statement issued Monday night, Rep. Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyTrolling of Bill Barr shows how language is twisted to politics Barr says Mueller report will be released 'within a week' Live coverage: Barr faces House panel amid questions over Mueller report 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 GrahamHillicon Valley: House Dems subpoena full Mueller report | DOJ pushes back at 'premature' subpoena | Dems reject offer to view report with fewer redactions | Trump camp runs Facebook ads about Mueller report | Uber gets B for self-driving cars DOJ: Dem subpoena for Mueller report is 'premature and unnecessary' Dems reject Barr's offer to view Mueller report with fewer redactions MORE (R-S.C.), and ranking member, Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinDems reject Barr's offer to view Mueller report with fewer redactions Five takeaways from Mueller's report Only four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates MORE (D-Calif.).

Sens. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyDurbin calls Mueller report findings on Trump team 'troubling' 20 Dems demand no more money for ICE agents, Trump wall The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump, Dems prep for Mueller report's release MORE (D-Vt.), Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsMenendez, Rubio lead Senate effort to regulate Venezuelan sanctions Dem report questions State Dept. decision to revoke award to Trump critic Senate Dem calls on Trump to apologize for attacks on McCain 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 TrumpThorny part of obstruction of justice is proving intent, that's a job for Congress Obama condemns attacks in Sri Lanka as 'an attack on humanity' Schiff rips Conway's 'display of alternative facts' on Russian election interference 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 Jay RosensteinKellyanne Conway: Mueller didn't need to use the word 'exoneration' in report Impeachment? Not so fast without missing element of criminal intent Collins: Mueller report includes 'an unflattering portrayal' of Trump 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 NadlerTim Ryan doesn't back impeachment proceedings against Trump 4/20: Will Congress advance marijuana legislation in 2019? Trump accuses 'fake news media' of 'doing everything possible to stir up anger' after Mueller report 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 renew attacks on Trump attorney general Judiciary chairman issues subpoena for full Mueller report Judiciary Republican: Nadler 'only person trying to spin' Mueller report 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.