A former Watergate prosecutor has spoken out about Attorney General William Barr’s handling of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, calling his analysis of the comprehensive document a ‘mischaracterisation of the conclusions.’
Richard Ben-Veniste said Tuesday that Donald Trump’s attorney general was likely “banking on” the “suspicion that most Americans will be too lazy to read the report” when he released a four-page analysis of the document and later held a press conference before releasing the report to lawmakers and the public.
“What he gave them was a mischaracterisation of the conclusions of that report," the former prosecutor told Hill.TV.
Mr Ben-Veniste also denounced Mr Trump’s actions described in the report Tuesday, saying he did not appear to cooperate with the Special Counsel’s office during its sprawling investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
“It certainly doesn't show that the president was entirely cooperative. It shows that the president refused to testify under oath, [and] refused to sit down for an interview,” he said.
“How is that cooperative?” he asked.
Democratic lawmakers have also slammed the attorney general’s handling of the report after Mr Mueller concluded his investigation, demanding Mr Barr and the special counsel both testify before Congress.
On a conference call earlier this week, meanwhile, Democrats in the US House of Representatives discussed the possibility of impeaching the president, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged lawmakers to instead focus on continuing their committee probes into Russian meddling and Mr Trump’s financial dealings.
The House has also issued subpoenas for the full report and all underlying material, likely setting the stage for a major battle between the Department of Justice and Congress that could end up in the courts.
In Mr Trump’s orbit, administration officials and allies have largely sought to denounce the report and undermine its findings.
White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner shot down the investigation as a “distraction” with a “much harsher impact” on the US public than Russian election interference.
“You look at what Russia did, you know, buying some Facebook ads to try sow dissent and do it, and it's a terrible thing,” he said at the TIME 100 summit in New York. “But I think the investigations and all the speculation that's happened for the last two years has had a much harsher impact on our democracy than a couple of Facebook ads ... If you look at the magnitude of what they did and what they accomplished, I think the ensuing investigations have been way more harmful to our country."