National Security

Live coverage: Barr faces House panel amid questions over Mueller report

Attorney General William Barr on Tuesday is set to testify before a House subcommittee on the Justice Department’s (DOJ) fiscal 2020 budget proposal amid growing calls for him to release special counsel Robert Mueller’s full report to Congress. 

{mosads}According to his prepared opening testimony, Barr will highlight the $29.2 billion Justice Department budget proposed by the Trump administration, but he is likely to face questions about the Mueller probe and the release of the report.

His appearance on Capitol Hill comes two weeks after he summarized Mueller’s findings in a four-page letter, revealing that the special counsel did not find sufficient evidence to charge members of the Trump campaign with conspiring with Russia and saying evidence was insufficient to accuse the president of obstructing justice.

Barr has said he plans to release a public version of Mueller’s report by mid-April, meaning it could come within days. 

Barr’s testimony before the House Appropriations subcommittee is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m.

Hearing adjourns

11:58 a.m.

Rep. José Serrano (D-N.Y.) gaveled out shortly before noon, bringing the hearing to a close after roughly 2 1/2 hours.

He thanked Barr for his testimony.

— Morgan Chalfant

Barr: ‘Congress doesn’t get 6(e)’

11:52 a.m. 

Barr signaled he was open to engaging with Congress on releasing more information, such as classified material, from Mueller’s redacted report to Congress, but he insisted he would not release grand jury material covered by Rule 6(e) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.

Barr was asked by Rep. Ed Case (D-Hawaii) whether he could envision any scenario in which he releases Mueller’s full report to Congress, which House Democrats have demanded.

“I did say that once that report is ready for release, I would not only give it to the chairmen of the Judiciary committees, but I would talk to them and engage with them about what additional information they require and whether there may be a way of accommodating that,” Barr said.

The attorney general said he could see a circumstance where “under appropriate” safeguards he sends classified national security details to Congress. 

“I am willing to work with the Judiciary committees on that,” Barr said.

But, Barr added, “In case someone shows me a provision in 6(e) that permits its release, Congress doesn’t get 6(e).”

Barr said earlier he would not go to court to seek permission from a judge to release grand jury material to Congress, saying that would be up to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.). 

— Morgan Chalfant 

Barr pushes back against GOP claims of Mueller office leaks

11:45 a.m. 

Barr pushed back against a recent Republican talking point that investigators on Mueller’s team leaked to The New York Times.

The newspaper reported last week that some of the investigators were frustrated that the summaries prepared by the special counsel were not included in the four-page letter Barr sent to Congress in which he laid out Mueller’s principal findings. 

“Have you heard from any of the disgruntled Mueller investigators?” Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ga.) asked Barr.

“I think the article says something like ‘associates’ — ‘a source to associates to some of the people who worked on the Mueller report,’ I’m not sure,” Barr replied, suggesting the comments may not have come directly from Mueller’s office. 

Barr, who said most of the investigators likely held security clearances, denied that whoever leaked may have violated their security clearances by sharing such information with the outlet.

“So it is possible that some of this information that is being leaked — or potentially is going to be leaked — is in violation of security clearances as well?” Graves asked.  

“Only if it were classified information. I haven’t seen any classified information leaked that I would attribute to the special counsel’s office,” Barr replied.

— Olivia Beavers 

GOP member takes aim at Dems who pointed to evidence of collusion 

11:40 a.m.

Graves took aim at House Democrats, including 2020 presidential hopeful Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), for describing what they viewed as “strong evidence” of collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow. 

According to Barr’s four-page Mueller report summary, the special counsel did not find sufficient evidence to accuse members of the Trump campaign of coordinating or conspiring with the Russians to meddle in the 2016 election. 

“Did they have access to any evidence that the investigators did not have access to?” Graves asked Barr.

“Not to my knowledge,” Barr answered. He offered the same response when asked whether lawmakers were withholding information from the American public.

— Morgan Chalfant 

Barr refuses to discuss internal deliberations over ACA repeal support

11:25 am

When asked about reports that he and Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar had pushed back against the Trump administration’s decision to back a district court ruling that found the Affordable Care Act (ACA) unconstitutional, Barr refused to answer.

“I’m not going to get into internal deliberations,” Barr explained.

“I had ample opportunity to present my views,” he continued. “I believe the final decision reached is a legally defensible … position.”

Politico reported last month that Azar and Barr had both expressed concerns about potentially invalidating former President Obama’s signature health care initiative but were overruled by acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.

Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.) pressed Barr on the potential of millions of Americans losing coverage if the lawsuit against the ACA is successful and an alternative is not provided, citing the reports that Barr may not been in favor of the repeal.

“Are you citing executive privilege by declining to tell me about the discussions you, Mr. Azar and Mr. Mulvaney?” Cartwright asked.

“Call it what you wish, I’m not discussing,” Barr responded.

— Chris Mills Rodrigo

Barr clarifies White House counsel was ‘advised’ before Mueller letters were sent to Congress

11:10 a.m. 

During the second round of questioning, Barr clarified that the Justice Department did alert the White House counsel’s office that the letters about Mueller’s probe would soon be sent to Congress. 

Barr said the White House did not ask and was not allowed to make changes to the letters, and he said White House officials did not see them in advance.

But he said he thought the letters “may have been read” to the White House before they were released. 

“We did advise the White House counsel’s office that the letters would be sent,” Barr said. “We notified before them before they were issued.”

“I think it may have been read to them, they did not get to see the letter,” Barr said. 

— Morgan Chalfant 

Barr points to Starr report as precedent for releasing information from special counsel report

11:04 a.m. 

Barr pointed to the special counsel investigation led by Kenneth Starr during President Clinton’s administration when asked about Democrats’ calls to release sensitive information from the Mueller report. 

Starr, who was initially investigating the circumstances around a past Clinton real estate deal, eventually unearthed Clinton’s affair with a White House intern, Monica Lewinsky. 

“It is interesting because this whole mechanism for the special counsel, as I said, was established during the Clinton administration in the wake of Ken Starr’s report,” Barr said to Graves.

“And that is why the current rule says the report should be kept confidential because there was a lot of reaction against the publication of Ken Starr’s report,” he added.

Barr also appeared to make a thinly veiled jab at Nadler, stating that some of the individuals who want the full report including underlying evidence released previously pushed back against making the Ken Starr report public. 

“Many of the people who are right now calling for the release of this report were basically castigating Ken Starr and others for releasing the Starr report. I have already said that the situation here requires me here to exercise my discretion to get as much information out as I can,” Barr told Graves.

— Olivia Beavers 

Barr says he didn’t want to put out ‘summaries’ of the report

10:45 a.m. 

Barr said he was not interested in putting out “summaries” of Mueller’s report when questioned by Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.) about reports that members of the special counsel’s team were unsatisfied with the four-page letter he released laying out Mueller’s core findings.

“I suspect that they probably wanted more put out, but my view — I was not interested in trying to put out summaries,” Barr said. The attorney general said that summaries would have run the risk of “being under inclusive or over inclusive” or trigger analysis without the full report first being released.

“I was not interested in a summary of the report,” Barr said. “I felt that I should state the bottom-line conclusions.”

The New York Times and Washington Post reported last week that Mueller’s team had prepared their own summaries within the report that could have been publicly released. But Barr said Tuesday that all of Mueller’s closing documentation was marked as potentially containing grand jury information, meaning he could not legally release it. 

Barr also declined to expand on why Mueller’s report does not “exonerate” President Trump on obstruction of justice allegations.

“I think that’s the language from the report. That’s a statement made by the special counsel,” Barr said. “I’m not in a position to discuss that further until the report is out.”

— Morgan Chalfant 

Barr says he doesn’t have the ‘latitude’ to release grand jury material

10:35 a.m. 

Barr said he does not have the “latitude” to release grand jury material, pointing to a recent D.C. appeals court ruling that judges cannot create exceptions to federal secrecy rules to allow the release of grand jury material.

House Democrats have demanded Barr release the full Mueller report, including grand jury material, to Congress.

“I don’t have the latitude to release 6(e) [grand jury] material,” Barr said. “I want to accommodate and satisfy their interests but at the same time uphold the law.”

“6(e) material is not releasable,” Barr said.

— Morgan Chalfant 

Barr says White House wasn’t alerted before release of March 24 Mueller letter

10:25 a.m.

Barr told Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) that the White House was not alerted in advance of his March 24 letter summarizing Mueller’s core findings.

“I don’t believe so,” Barr said.

When Meng pressed him further, Barr again repeated his answer but said he would not further discuss his decisions with respect to the investigation or the process of releasing information about it until he releases the public version of Mueller’s report. Barr has said he will testify before Congress in early May about the report. 

“Once the report is out, I will be testifying and I will be glad to discuss all aspects of the process and the decisions I made.” 

“But I’m not going to discuss this further until the actual report his out,” Barr said later.

— Morgan Chalfant 

Cartwright grills Barr over ACA repeal

10:20 a.m.

Cartwright grilled Barr over the Department of Justice’s decision to side with a district court ruling that found the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional. 

“I have understood that there are those in this country whose favorite pastime is attacking health care,” Cartwright said at the beginning of his questioning.

He then called throwing the weight of DOJ behind invalidating ACA “breathtaking” and “unbelievable” because of its wide-ranging scope, “recklessness” and lack of legal backing.

Cartwright said that a successful repeal of former President Obama’s signature health care policy would leave millions of Americans without health care and cause premiums to skyrocket.

He then said that the “DOJ’s refusal seems to be driven by political considerations” before asking Barr a series of questions about the litigation process.

The Pennsylvania lawmaker pressed Barr on whether the DOJ had done an analysis of the potential effect on cost and coverage if the lawsuit succeeds, to which Barr said they were basing their “answer on the law.”

Barr defended President Trump’s promise that he would introduce a new health care bill if the ACA is defeated that would maintain pre-existing conditions. 

Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said Sunday that Trump’s replacement plan would coming “fairly shortly.”

— Chris Mills Rodrigo 

Barr noncommittal on releasing unredacted Mueller report to Congress

10:15 a.m.

Barr, when asked, did not commit to releasing an unredacted version of the Mueller report to Congress.

“The first pass at this is going to produce a report that makes these redactions based off these four categories and that is something I am hoping will be available to the public,” Barr told House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), who asked if Congress will have the “complete report.”

The attorney general, however, signaled he would try to work with the heads of the House and Senate Judiciary panels. 

“Like I said, I’m glad to talk to Chairman Nadler and [Senate Judiciary Committee] Chairman [Lindsey] Graham as to whether they feel they need more information and see if there is a way we can accommodate that,” he noted.

“I do hope you can accommodate members of Congress who feel it is our responsibility to see the full report,” Lowey replied at the end of her questioning.

— Olivia Beavers

Barr confirms DOJ watchdog is investigating use of surveillance warrants in 2016 Russia probe

10:05 a.m.

Barr confirmed that a DOJ watchdog has a pending investigation into federal authorities’ use of surveillance warrants during the counterintelligence probe into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election. 

Barr’s remark came after Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) asked whether the agency is looking into how the DOJ “used a salacious and unverified dossier as a predicate” for obtaining a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) order on a U.S. citizen.

“The Office of the Inspector General has a pending investigation of the FISA process in the Russia investigation and I expect that will be complete in probably May or June, I am told,” Barr replied.

“So, hopefully, we will have some answers from Inspector General Horowitz on the answer of the FISA warrants. More generally, I am reviewing the conduct of the investigation and trying to get my arms around all the aspects of the counterintelligence investigation that was conducted during the summer of 2016,” Barr added.

When asked by Aderholt whether he is also examining who was behind the leak that revealed the existence of former Trump campaign aide Carter Page’s FISA warrant, Barr said he is still looking into it.

— Olivia Beavers

Barr says Mueller report will be released ‘within a week’

10 a.m. 

Barr said he will release a public version of Mueller’s report “within a week.” 

Barr also said that the redactions made to the report would be color-coded and footnoted so that the public knows why the Justice Department decided to redact those portions.

“This process is going along very well,” Barr said during questioning from Serrano. “My original timetable of being able to release this by mid-April stands.” 

“Within a week, I will be in a position to release the report to the public and then I will engage with the chairman of the judiciary committees” on its release, Barr continued. 

Barr has said that the public version report will be redacted to conceal grand jury information, classified national security details that could reveal sources and methods, details that could compromise ongoing investigations, and information that could impact the privacy and reputational interests of “peripheral third parties.”

Barr on Tuesday reiterated his pledge to release as much from the report as he can in the confines of the law, noting that the regulations governing Mueller’s appointment do not include guidelines for the public release of a report and that he is working at his own “discretion.”

 “I do think it’s important that the public have an opportunity to review the results of the special counsel’s work,” Barr said.

Barr also said that Mueller’s team did not play a role in drafting his March 24 letter laying out the special counsel’s core findings, “though we offered them the offer to review it.” 

— Morgan Chalfant

Barr does not mention Mueller report in opening statement

9:51 a.m. 

Barr did not mention the Mueller investigation during his brief opening remarks.

Barr focused his opening remarks on the Trump administration’s fiscal 2020 budget request for the Justice Department.

Barr zeroed in on President Trump’s efforts to combat violent crime and the opioid epidemic, crack down on illegal immigration, protect the U.S. from national security threats — all of which he said the $29.2 billion budget proposal would help achieve.

— Morgan Chalfant 

Lowey blasts Barr for unacceptable handling of Mueller report

9:45 a.m.

Lowey immediately dug into the matter of Mueller’s report, bashing Barr’s handling of the matter as “unacceptable.” 

“It has been reported that the report is 300 to 400 pages and I use the term reported because we have no idea how long it actually is,” Lowey said in her opening statement. 

“All we have is your four-page summary, which seems to cherry pick from the report to draw the most favorable conclusion possible for the president. And in many ways, your letter raises more questions than it answers,” she continued.

Lowey also went after Barr for “suspicious” behavior, stating that he sorted through the full Mueller report and its underlying evidence and made “definitive conclusions” in less than 48 hours.

“The American people deserve the fact,” she stated.

— Olivia Beavers

Subcommittee chair says questions to come about Mueller report

9:38 a.m. 

Rep. José Serrano (D-N.Y.) in his opening remarks said that lawmakers would question Barr about a range of issues, including what he described as the “elephant in the room” — special counsel Mueller’s investigation.

Barr signaled lawmakers would ask about reports last week that some members of Mueller’s team were unsatisfied with the four-page summary Barr released laying out the special counsel’s “core findings.”

He also said lawmakers have questions about the “uncertainty” surrounding Barr’s plan to release a public version of Mueller’s closing documentation, reiterating Democrats’ demands for the full report — absent of redactions — to be released to Congress.

“The American people have been left with many unanswered questions,” Serrano said. “We believe the American people deserve to see the full report.”

Serrano also mentioned that the House voted 420-0 to pass a nonbinding resolution calling on the Justice Department to release the report to Congress and to the public, with appropriate redactions to stay within the confines of the law.

“This Congress voted unanimously to see that report,” Serrano said. “The American people want to see that report. I think it would strike a serious blow to our system, and yes our democracy, if that report is not seen.”

— Morgan Chalfant

Barr arrives

9:29 a.m.  

Barr arrived at the hearing shortly before 9:30 a.m. A smattering of photographers snapped his photo as he sat down. Barr’s appearance represents his first on Capitol Hill since the end of the Mueller investigation.

Barr is also joined by Assistant Attorney General for Administration Lee Lofthus.

— Morgan Chalfant

Tags Attorney general Charlie Crist Department of Justice Donald Trump Ed Case Eric Swalwell Grace Meng House Appropriations Jerrold Nadler Live coverage Matt Cartwright Mick Mulvaney Mueller report Nita Lowey Robert Aderholt Robert Mueller Tom Graves William Barr

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