April 10, 2019

Van Hollen Presses Attorney General Barr on Findings of Mueller Report

“You put your conclusion out there, and now you refuse to talk about any basis of your conclusion.”

Today U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) questioned Attorney General William Barr on his recent summary of the Mueller report and the need for full transparency. A transcript of their exchange is below, and video of the hearing is available here:

SENATOR CHRIS VAN HOLLEN, D-MD: Let me ask you with regard to the Mueller report in your March 24th letter. You say that Mueller set out evidence on both sides of the question that leaves unresolved what the Special Counsel views as “difficult issues” of law and fact concerning whether the President’s actions and intent could be viewed as obstruction. Do you agree with the assessment of Bob Mueller that the evidence, is in fact, presenting difficult issues of law and fact on those matters?

BARR: I’m not going to comment on it until the report is out and everyone has, is seeing from the same–

VAN HOLLEN: I’m not asking for what’s in the report. You sent a letter to the United States Congress that included something – which was the principal conclusion which was not a conclusion reached by the Mueller report. You indicated that they did not exonerate the President. You did. And so I’m asking you, whether you agree with Mueller that there were difficult issues of law and fact in making that assessment?

BARR: That’s not a question I really can answer until I think–

VAN HOLLEN: But you looked at the report, right? And you looked at the evidence in the report and you made a decision. And you said that the President’s not guilty of criminal obstruction of justice. I’m asking you in your review of the report, did you agree with Mueller that there were difficult issues of law and fact?

BARR: I’m going to give my reaction and comments about the report, after the report–

VAN HOLLEN: You put your view of the report out there on this issue of obstruction of justice, right? Nobody asked you to do that.

BARR: I didn’t put my view of the report–

VAN HOLLEN: You made a conclusion on the question of obstruction of justice that was not contained in the Mueller report. And I’m simply asking you, when you looked at the evidence, did you agree with Mueller and his team that there were difficult issues of law and fact?

BARR: As I say, I am going to explain my decision to the extent that requires any assessment of the Mueller report.

VAN HOLLEN: Did your decision require you to look into the intent of the President of the United States with respect to obstruction of justice?

BARR: I am not going to discuss my decision. I will lay it out after the report is out.

VAN HOLLEN: Mr. Attorney General, the thing is you put this out there. I mean the President went out and tweeted the next day that he was exonerated. That wasn’t based on anything in the Mueller report, with respect to obstruction of justice. That was based on your assessment. That was on March 24th. And now you won’t elaborate – at all, as to how you reached that conclusion. Because I’m not asking you what is in the Mueller report, I’m asking you about your conclusion. Let me ask you this–

BARR: It was the conclusion of a number of people, including me and I obviously am the Attorney General. It was also the conclusion of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

VAN HOLLEN: I understand. I’ve read your letters–

BARR: And I will discuss that decision after the report is out–

VAN HOLLEN: Did Bob Mueller support your conclusion?

BARR: I don’t know whether Bob Mueller supported my conclusion.

VAN HOLLEN: So in your June 2018 memo, you indicated that the President can commit obstruction of justice in the classic sense––of sabotaging of proceeding’s truth-finding functions. Did you see any evidence in this report about whether or not President Trump committed what you call a classic sense of obstruction of justice?

BARR: I’m not going to characterize or discuss the contents of the report. The report will be made public, hopefully next week, and I will come up and testify at that point about it.

VAN HOLLEN: But the thing about it is, Mr. Attorney General, you put your conclusion out there, and now you refuse to talk about any basis of your conclusion. I’m not asking you what’s in the report, I’m asking you how you reached your conclusion. Last question, can you assure us that the key factual evidence, relevant to charges of obstruction of justice, will be included in the public report?

BARR: Can you say that again?

VAN HOLLEN: Can you assure us that the key factual evidence in the Mueller report, related to charges of obstruction of justice, will be available in the public report?

BARR: I believe it will. And that’s one of the reasons why I want to review it after – when the redaction team is done – the redactions to make sure that there’s nothing in there that would prevent that. And by the way, you know, redactions can cut both ways.

VAN HOLLEN: My last question relates to the redaction process. My understanding from your House testimony was you’re allowing the Mueller team to make the redactions in three of the four areas you mentioned––all of them except for intelligence. Is that a correct understanding of your testimony yesterday? In other words, you’re leaving the discretion to them on three of the four criteria that you mapped out.

BARR: I stated what the categories are and the people implementing it are the Justice lawyers with the Special Counsels’ lawyers. They’re implementing those categories.

VAN HOLLEN: And you’re not going to overrule this Special Counsel’s judgment with respect to any of those categories, right?

BARR: I haven’t.

VAN HOLLEN: Can you tell us you will not?

BARR: Well, if an issue comes up, I don’t want to prejudge it, but it’s not my intention. My intention is to allow the team to make the redactions and the people in the Department are making those redactions.