Lawmakers get first crack at Barr post-Mueller

Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrDems plan marathon prep for Senate trial, wary of Trump trying to 'game' the process Pentagon to place new restrictions, monitoring on foreign military students Parnas: Environment around Trump 'like a cult' 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 MuellerSchiff: Trump acquittal in Senate trial would not signal a 'failure' Jeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House Judiciary to vote on impeachment after surprise delay 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

The lawmakers are set to hit Barr hard over the Mueller report. In excerpts of her statement issued Monday night, Rep. Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyOn The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — Senate approves Trump trade deal with Canada, Mexico | Senate Dems launch probe into Trump tax law regulations | Trump announces Fed nominees House Democrats unveil .35B Puerto Rico aid bill Appropriators fume over reports of Trump plan to reprogram .2 billion for wall 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 GrahamLawmakers push back at Pentagon's possible Africa drawdown George Conway group drops ad seeking to remind GOP senators of their 'sworn oaths' ahead of impeachment trial House Democrats may call new impeachment witnesses if Senate doesn't MORE (R-S.C.), and ranking member, Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinSenate opens Trump impeachment trial Democrats ask if US citizens were detained at border checkpoints due to Iranian national origin Pelosi set to send impeachment articles to the Senate next week MORE (D-Calif.).

Sens. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyOvernight Defense: Book says Trump called military leaders 'dopes and babies' | House reinvites Pompeo for Iran hearing | Dems urge Esper to reject border wall funding request Senate Dems urge Esper to oppose shifting Pentagon money to border wall Senate opens Trump impeachment trial MORE (D-Vt.), Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsLawmakers push back at Pentagon's possible Africa drawdown Democrats scramble to rein in Trump's Iran war powers Administration officials defend Trump claims, Soleimani intelligence as senators push back on briefing 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 TrumpTrump rails against impeachment in speech to Texas farmers Trump administration planning to crack down on 'birth tourism': report George Conway on Trump adding Dershowitz, Starr to legal team: 'Hard to see how either could help' 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 RosensteinRosenstein says he authorized release of Strzok-Page texts Journalist alleging Obama administration spied on her seeks to reopen case Rosenstein on his time in Trump administration: 'We got all the big issues right' 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 NadlerMcConnell locks in schedule for start of impeachment trial Pelosi: Trump's impeachment 'cannot be erased' House to vote Wednesday on sending articles of impeachment to Senate 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 CollinsMedia's selective outrage exposed in McSally-Raju kerfuffle The five dumbest things said about impeachment so far Pelosi accepts Collins's apology for saying Democrats are 'in love with terrorists' 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.