US Attorney-General William Barr appeared in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee to answer questions on Robert Mueller's report.
Barr was also scheduled to testify on Thursday but House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler announced that he has now cancelled that appearance. Democrats have vowed to subpoena him if he fails to front the hearing on 2 May.
His responses to the hearing on Wednesday only intensified calls for Mueller himself to answer questions on his investigation.
Democrats sought to focus attention on a letter written by Mueller that charged Barr with failing to convey “the context, nature and substance” of his report. They were also frustrated with his failure to mention the letter when he testified to congress last month.
Attorney General Barr declines to testify before House panel Thursday, says Judiciary Committee aide https://t.co/aC7msPMqiU
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) May 1, 2019
Calls for Barr to resign after he vowed to skip Thursday hearing
On 24 March, Barr made public his four-page summary of Mueller’s report which was headlined by the statement that the Special Counsel had not found any evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Democrat Elizabeth Warren said the Attorney-General was a “disgrace” and should resign. “His alarming efforts to suppress the Mueller report show that he’s not a credible head of federal law enforcement,” she wrote on Twitter. She also said that “Congress should begin impeachment proceedings against the President”, a step many Democrats have been reluctant to take.
Kamala Harris was also outraged by what she saw as Barr’s obfuscation and demanded he resign. “What I just saw from the Attorney General is unacceptable,” she tweeted.
During the hearing, Democrats focused on whether Trump’s actions amounted to obstruction of justice. Mueller had left this question open in his report, pointedly saying that he did not exonerate the President. Barr said he and outgoing Deputy Attorney-General Rod Rosenstein did not find any evidence of criminality.
Numerous Senators cited examples of Trump offering pardons to those Mueller spoke to, attempting to have Mueller removed from his role and instructing officials to lie. Barr rejected the assertion that any of this constituted obstruction of justice.
What I just saw from the Attorney General is unacceptable. Barr must resign now.
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) May 1, 2019
Mueller was completely unsatisfied with Barr’s summary of his report
Mueller’s letter had expressed his frustration with how Barr summarised and discussed his findings. He said Barr’s presentation of it led to “public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation.”
“This threatens to undermine a central purpose for which the department appointed the special counsel: to assure full public confidence in the outcome of the investigations,” Mueller wrote.
Barr was unmoved by the criticisms outlined in Muller’s letter. “The letter’s a bit snitty,” he told the hearing. “I think it was probably written by one of his staff people.”
Republicans insisted that the Attorney-General had done nothing wrong through the whole episode.
“I appreciate very much what Mr. Mueller did for the country. I have read most of the report,” Trump ally Lindsey Graham said. He rejected the suggestion that Mueller should also testify: “For me, it is over.”