Barr Defends Trump on Obstruction, Saying President Was ‘Frustrated and Angry’
Attorney General William Barr vigorously defended President Donald Trump ahead of Thursday’s public release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election, saying what some might see as obstruction on the part of the president must be viewed in the “context” of those actions.
“President Trump faced an unprecedented situation,” Barr said during an 18-minute press conference at the U.S. Justice Department Thursday morning.
“As he entered into office, and sought to perform his responsibilities as President, federal agents and prosecutors were scrutinizing his conduct before and after taking office and the conduct of some of his associates,” Barr said.
“At the same time, there was relentless speculation in the news media about the President’s personal culpability. Yet, as he said from the beginning, there was in fact no collusion,” the attorney general added.
While Mueller’s report recounts 10 instances involving the president that were investigated as potential acts of criminal obstruction of justice, Barr said the special council did not reach a “prosecutorial judgment” on the issue, and that he, the attorney general, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, concluded the evidence was not sufficient to establish the president committed an offense.
As an exceedingly uncomfortable Rosenstein looked on, Barr appeared to try to explain away Trump’s actions by saying the president was “frustrated and angry.”
Within minutes of the conclusion of Barr’s press conference, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., demanded that Mueller testify before the panel no later than May 23.
“It is clear Congress and the American people must hear from Special Counsel Robert Mueller in person to better understand his findings,” Nadler said via Twitter.
“I have no objection personally to Bob Mueller testifying,” Barr said during his press conference.
During that session, at which he answered but a smattering of questions, Barr focused primarily on what he said were the report’s central conclusions that there was no evidence of a conspiracy between Moscow and Trump or his campaign during the 2016 presidential election.
Barr provided a redacted copy of Mueller’s report to congressional leaders shortly before noon on Thursday, and said that he planned to allow them to view a version of the report with nothing redacted other than grand jury testimony.
Barr says three other categories of information also were redacted in the version of the report publicly released Thursday via the Justice Department’s website, including information pertaining to ongoing prosecutions and sensitive intelligence sources and methods.
The attorney general also said he hopes his upcoming testimony on Capitol Hill “will satisfy any need Congress has for information regarding the special counsel’s investigation.”
Barr also confirmed a report that appeared in The New York Times Wednesday night that said the attorney general’s office had consulted with the White House counsel about the report in recent days.
He said the White House counsel reviewed a redacted version of the report before Trump decided not to invoke executive privilege.
Barr said “no material has been redacted based on executive privilege.”
The attorney general said Trump’s personal attorneys also requested and were granted access to the report “earlier this week.”
But he added that the lawyers “were not permitted to make, and did not request, any redactions.”
A Monmouth University poll released Wednesday night said a majority of Americans — 60 percent — want the Justice Department to provide the full unredacted Mueller report to Congress.
However, a solid majority — 54 percent — also feel Congress should now move on to other issues. Only 39 percent of participants in the poll said they support further investigation into the matter.
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