Attorney General William Barr on Wednesday defended his handling of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, saying that once the report was done, “it was my baby.”
“Bob Mueller is the equivalent of a U.S. attorney,” Barr said in his testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee. “He was exercising the powers of the attorney general subject to the supervision of the attorney general. He’s part of the Department of Justice. His work concluded when he sent his report to the attorney general. At that point, it was my baby.”
Barr noted that it was his decision to make a redacted version of the Mueller report public to “lean as far forward as I could.”
“It was my decision how and when to make it public,” he said, “not Bob Mueller’s.’”
Barr’s testimony comes a day after reports surfaced that Mueller sent a letter to the attorney general complaining about Barr’s four-page summary of the 448-page report released within two days of the report’s completion.
President Trump claimed vindication on the basis of Barr’s summary, and Democrats have objected that the favorable impression it created had become fixed in the public mind by the time the report itself, which was much more critical of Trump's actions, was released.
In the March 27 letter, which was submitted to Congress and made public Wednesday, Mueller said Barr’s summary “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this office’s work and conclusions.”
It’s not the first time Barr has exercised unilateral authority over the special counsel investigation, in his capacity as the nation’s top law enforcement officer. On April 18, before delivering a redacted version of the Mueller report to Congress, Barr presided over a news conference in which he was asked why the special counsel was not present.
“Was he invited to join you up on the podium? Why is he not here? This is his report obviously that you’re talking about today,” a reporter asked.
“No, it’s not. It’s a report he did for me, as the attorney general,” Barr replied.
In his opening statement Wednesday, Barr said that given the “high state of agitation” in the “body politic,” he felt he needed to deliver a “verdict” on the investigation’s conclusions in his summary.
“We had to put out some information about the bottom line,” he told the Senate Judiciary Committee. “I decided to simply state what the bottom-line conclusions were.”
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