May 2, 2019
The attorney general of the United States is a liar and he should resign. So said the Chairman Adam Schiff (D-California) of the House Intelligence Committee on May 1, following the release to The Washington Post of a March 25 letter written by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
In that correspondence, the Russia investigator voiced grave concerns about the nature of the four-page summary of his team’s report written by AG William Barr and released the day before.
“The summary letter the Department sent to Congress and released to the public late in the afternoon of March 24 did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this Office’s work and conclusions,” Mueller wrote in the letter, which he also saved to his files for posterity.
“We communicated that concern to the Department on the morning of March 25,” Mueller continued, noting, “There is now 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.”
The special counsel went on to urge the attorney general to distribute the executive summaries of the report prepared in advance by his team. “Release at this time would alleviate the misunderstandings that have arisen and would anser congressional and public questions about the nature and outcome of our investigation,” he said.
Mueller also followed up his correspondence with a call to Barr, during which he expressed similar concerns.
However, not only did Barr refuse to release the executive summaries in a “piecemeal” fashion, but, according to a May 1 report by the Post, “he disclaimed knowledge of the thinking of Special Counsel Robert Mueller” during two separate, back-to-back hearings on April 9 and April 10.
“No, I don’t,” Barr said, when asked by Representative Charlie Crist (D-Florida) whether he knew what was behind reports that members of Mueller’s team were frustrated by the attorney general’s summary of their top-level conclusions.
“I don’t know,” he said the next day, when asked by Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) whether Mueller supported his finding that there was not sufficient evidence to conclude that President Trump had obstructed justice.
Now, Schiff has a case against AG Barr: “I think his statement is deliberately false and misleading, and yes, most people would consider that to be a lie,” Schiff said on CBS This Morning, as reported by The Hill.
“Look, there’s no sugar- coating this, I think he should step down,” Schiff said. “It’s hard, I think, for the country to have confidence in the top law enforcement official in the country if he’s asked a direct question as he was and he gives a directly false answer, so this is serious business.”
“After two years and work and investigation implicating the president of the United States, for the attorney general to mislead the public for an entire month before releasing that report is inexcusable.”
Schiff is the highest-ranking Democrat on Capitol Hill so far to call for Barr to step down. He follows Sen. Chris Van Hollen’s call for Barr to resign.
Tuesday’s revelation upped the ante for Barr’s appearance Wednesday morning in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee and led to a cavalcade of criticism from House and Senate Democrats, The Hill reported.
“The Special Counsel’s concerns reflect our own. The Attorney General should not have taken it upon himself to describe the Special Counsel’s findings in a light more favorable to the President. It was only a matter of time before the facts caught up to him,” Representative Jerry Nadler (D-New York), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said in a statement Tuesday, demanding that Barr hand over Mueller’s letter to Congress by 10 a.m. on Wednesday.
“It’s worse when it comes from the attorney general of the United States because it means the public cannot have confidence in what he says,” Schiff said. “It means that we cannot have confidence in how he administers justice.”
And in a separate tweet, Schiff wrote, “No one can place any reliance on what Barr says. We need to hear from Mueller himself.”
Research contact: @RepAdamSchiff