On obstruction: “To be obstruction of justice, the lie has to be tied to impairing evidence in a particular proceeding.”
Attorney General William Barr testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee over the way he handled Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report.
We all know that the Democrats desperately wanted Mueller to find that President Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia and he obstructed justice. Mueller and his team found no collusion and punted on the obstruction charge.
On Tuesday night, The Washington Post wrote about a letter sent to Mueller to Barr, which the media instantly spun in a way to favor them. The media claimed it showed Mueller expressed disappointment on the way Barr characterized his report in the four-page summary.
After the special counsel’s report was delivered and Mr. Mueller objected to the attorney general’s four-page characterization of its findings, Mr. Barr said he called Mr. Mueller after receiving his March 27 letter and asked him “what’s the issue here?”
Mr. Mueller told him his characterization of the investigation’s findings was not inaccurate but he was frustrated that news reporting had failed to capture his team’s nuanced thinking, according to Mr. Barr.
“I asked him specifically what his concern was, and he said his concern focused on his explanation of why he did not reach a conclusion on obstruction and he wanted more put out on that issue,” Mr. Barr said. “He was very clear that he was not suggesting we had misrepresented his report. I told Bob I wasn’t interested in putting out summaries …. I wanted to put out the whole report.”
Attorney General Bill Barr says Mueller was “very clear with me that he was not suggesting that we had misrepresented his report” after his letter on Mueller’s findings was released pic.twitter.com/mA2zRV5GMD
— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) May 1, 2019
OK, I got that nonsense out of the way.
Democrat Hawaiian Sen. Mazie Hirono has a tendency to act holier than thou when it comes to hearings. Of course she did it here when she accused Barr of lying to Congress and he needs to resign.
She asked Barr questions, but interrupted him every chance she got. Barr hardly got in a word.
Graham slammed Hirono for slandering “this man from to bottom” in her seven minutes.
The questioning turned to Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), but emotions still ran high. She asked about the culture at the DOJ and FBI and if Barr considered the investigators top notch.
But at the end of her time, Barr said:
How did we get to the point here where the evidence is now that the president was falsely accused of colluding with the Russians, and accused of being treasonous, and accused of being a Russian agent, and the evidence now is that was without a basis, and two years of his administration have been dominated by allegations that have now been proven false? And, you know, to listen to some of the rhetoric, you would think that the Mueller report had found the opposite.
Obstruction of Justice
The Democrats have pounced on the fact that Mueller and his team “wouldn’t reach a determination on the question of obstruction.”
Here’s the deal. The report pointed out numerous times when Trump lashed out at the investigation, said he wanted to fire Mueller, made some suggestions that one could interpret as obstruction of justice.
Lindsey Graham Defends Trump
HOWEVER. Trump never once went forward with any of his threats. I admit that Trump suggested some stupid actions, but nothing ever happened or suggested that someone attempted Trump’s suggestions. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) made this important distinction:
Obstruction, said Mr. Graham, required proving a “specific intent” to impede an investigation. Without any evidence of collusion or conspiracy, Mr. Graham said he could not understand how Mr. Trump could have obstructed justice.
“Attempted obstruction of justice of a crime that never occurred seems to be the new standard around here, to me it doesn’t make any sense,” Mr. Graham said.
He added: “The president never did anything to stop Mueller from doing his job.”
The Wall Street Journal wrote that “obstruction doesn’t require a successful effort,” yet “a prosecutor does need to show that an action was taken to obstruct an investigation.”
AG Barr: “Generally speaking, an obstruction case typically has two aspects to it, one there is usually an underlying criminality.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham: “Let’s stop right there. Was there an underlying crime here?”
— The Hill (@thehill) May 1, 2019
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) insisted Mueller’s report has “substantial evidence of misconduct.” I guess to her we can’t vent our frustrations about anything anymore without possibly facing charges.
Anyway, Feinstein asked Barr why he decided no obstruction of justice occurred when Trump asked “his then-White House counsel Don McGahn, to change his story about whether the president had tried to get him to remove” Mueller:
Mr. Barr said he didn’t feel the government could show “corrupt intent beyond a reasonable doubt.”
There was enough gray area in the episode, Mr. Barr said, in which Mr. McGahn said Mr. Trump asked him to go to deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein and tell him Mr. Mueller had to go because of his purported conflicts of interest.
Mr. Trump later said he meant the conflicts of interest should be raised but the decision should be left with Mr. Rosenstein, while Mr. McGahn felt it was more of a direction to push Mr. Mueller out.
“There is something very different between firing someone outright, and having a special counsel removed for a conflict, which suggests you might have another special counsel,” Mr. Barr said.
Feinstein: [Trump] essentially tries to change [McGahn’s] account in order to prevent criticism of himself
Barr: That’s not a crime
F: You can..instruct someone to lie?
B: No. To be obstruction of justice, the lie has to be tied to impairing evidence in a particular proceeding pic.twitter.com/dN9s5Ekf0k
— POLITICO (@politico) May 1, 2019
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), a presidential candidate, also cannot believe that Trump’s words, not actions, did not obstruct justice.
She asked Barr about Trump trying to flip cooperating witnesses, which she thinks is obstruction. Barr set her straight:
As part of an exchange with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D, Minn.), Mr. Barr said that Mr. Trump’s statements about flipping “are quite clear” and did not rise to the level of obstruction.
Ms. Klobuchar read a series of passages from the special counsel report about Mr. Trump discouraging people from cooperating with the special counsel investigation, or criticizing those who did cooperate.
Mr. Trump has also made a number of public comments critical of his former associates who became cooperating witnesses, such as his former attorney Michael Cohen. Mr. Trump said that flipping “almost ought to be illegal.” He also implied those who testify against former associates are “rats.”
That’s not obstruction, Mr. Barr said.
“By flipping, he meant succumbing to pressure on unrelated cases to lie and compose in order to get lenient treatment on other cases,” Mr. Barr said. “Discouraging flipping in that sense is not obstruction.”
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) May 1, 2019
The Use of the Word “Spying”
It’s always a joy to watch Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) ask questions during a hearing. That was sarcastic, by the way.
He had a problem with Barr using the word “spying” when talking about the FBI’s action “against the Trump campaign.” He made the comments in April in front of the House Appropriations Committee. From The Daily Caller:
Whitehouse grilled Barr about his use of the term “spying” in relation to those efforts, suggesting that the term was not accurate because the activities of the DOJ were “authorized.”
“I’m not going to abjure the use of the word ‘spying,’” Barr said. “My first job was in CIA. I don’t think the word ‘spying’ has any pejorative connotation at all.”
Barr continued, “I think spying is a good English word that, in fact, doesn’t have synonyms because it is the broadest word incorporating really all forms of covert intelligence collection, so I’m not going to back off the word ‘spying.’”
To further defend his use of the word, Barr pointed out that many members of the media also used the term before they decided to attack him for doing the same.
“Frankly, we went back and looked at press usage and up until all the faux outrage a couple of weeks ago, it’s commonly used in the press to refer to authorized activities,” he explained.
“It’s not commonly used by the Department,” Whitehouse retorted.
Barr shot back, “It’s commonly used by me,” planting a smirk on his face.
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