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tv   William Barr Testifies on Mueller Report Before Senate Judiciary Committee  CSPAN  May 1, 2019 10:45am-11:56am EDT

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so i'll end my statement there, mr. chairman and glad to take questions. senator graham: thank you very much. as to the actual report itself, was there ever an occasion where you wanted to -- something was redacted from the report that mr. mueller objected to? atty. gen. barr: i wouldn't say objected to. my understanding is the categories were defined by me and the deputy. i don't think -- i have no -- i don't -- senator graham: did you work with him to redact the report? atty. gen. barr: those categories were executed by d.o.j. lawyers working with his lawyers. i think there were maybe a few judgment calls, very few as to something as a prudential matter that should be treated as a reputational interest so
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there may be occasions of that. senator graham: i understand you did not want to hurt somebody's reputation unless it really affected the outcome, is that correct? atty. gen. barr: right. senator graham: was there any disagreements about 6-e material? atty. gen. barr: not that i am aware of. senator graham: any disagreement about classified information? atty. gen. barr: not that i am aware of. senator graham: so the conclusions in your four-page summary, you think, accurately reflect his bottom line on collusion, is that correct? atty. gen. barr: yes. senator graham: and you can read it for yourself. if you have any doubt. s to obstruction of justice, were you surprised he was going to let you decide? atty. gen. barr: yes, i was surprised. he investigative and prosecutorial function -- senator graham: how many people did he actually indict, do you know? atty. gen. barr: i can't remember off the top of my
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head. graham it was a lot. so he has the ability to indict if he wants to. he used that power during the investigation, is that correct? atty. gen. barr: that's correct. and the other thing that was confusing to me is that the investigation carried on for a while, as additional episodes were looked into, episodes involving the president and so my question is or was, why were those investigated if at the end of the day you aren't going to reach a decision on them? senator graham: so did you consult deputy attorney rosenstein about the obstruction matter? atty. gen. barr: constantly. senator graham: so was he in agreement with your decision not to proceed forward? atty. gen. barr: yes. sorry. the agreement what? fwram graham not to -- senator graham: not to proceed forward with obstruction? atty. gen. barr: right. senator graham: give us your reasoning why you think it would be inappropriate to proceed forward on obstruction of justice in this case? ty. gen. barr: well,
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generally speaking, an obstruction case typically has two aspects to it. one, there's usually an underlying criminalality. senator graham: let's stop there. was there an underlying crime here? atty. gen. barr: no. senator graham: usually there is. tty. gen. barr: usually. there is normally an underlying crime and the person implicated or people concerned about that criminalality being discovered, taken inherently malignant act, s the supreme court said, to obstruct that investigation. senator graham: people were worried he fired comey to stop the russia investigation, that's one of the concerns people had. let me tell you a little bit about comey. i do not have confidence in him, comey, any longer.
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that was chuck shumer, november 2, 2016 -- chuck schumer, november , 2016. i think comey should take a hard look what he's done and i don't think it would be a bad thing for the american people if he did step down, bernie sanders, january 15, 2017. the president ought to fire comey immediately, and he ought to initiate an investigation. that is congressman nadler, november 14, 2016. did you have a problem of the way comey handled the clinton email investigation? atty. gen. barr: yes. i said so at the time. senator graham: ok. so given the fact that a lot of people comey should be fired, did you find that to be a persuasive act of obstructing justice? atty. gen. barr: no. i think even the report, at the end of the day, came to the conclusion, if you read the analysis, that a reason that
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loomed large there for his termination was his refusal to tell the public what he was privately telling the president which was that the president was not under investigation. senator graham: as to where we go forward -- as to how we go forward, would you recommend this committee and every other committee of congress do our best to harden our infrastructure against future russian attacks? atty. gen. barr: absolutely, yes. senator graham: do you think rush c.i.a. still up to it? atty. gen. barr: yes. senator graham: do you think other countries may get involved in our elections in 2020? atty. gen. barr: yes. senator graham: so you would support an effort by congress to harden our electoral infrastructure? atty. gen. barr: yes. senator graham: is that one of the takeaways of the mueller report? atty. gen. barr: yes. senator graham: do you share my concerns about the fisa warrant process? atty. gen. barr: yes. senator graham: do you share my concerns about the counterintelligence investigation, how it was opened and why it was opened? atty. gen. barr: yes. senator graham: do you share my concerns that the professional
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-- lack of professionalism in the clinton email investigation is something we should all look at? atty. gen. barr: yes. senator graham: do you expect to change your mind about the bottom line conclusions of the mueller report? atty. gen. barr: no. senator graham: do you know bob mueller? atty. gen. barr: yes. senator graham: do you trust him? atty. gen. barr: yes. senator graham: how long have you known him? atty. gen. barr: 30 years roughly. senator graham: do you think he had the time he needed? atty. gen. barr: yes. senator graham: do you think he had the money he needed? atty. gen. barr: yes. senator graham: do you think he had the resources he needed? atty. gen. barr: yes. senator graham: do you think he did a thorough job? atty. gen. barr: yes. i think he had -- did a thorough job. senator graham: do you think the president's campaign in 2016 was insureoly looked at in terms of whether or not they colluded with the russians? atty. gen. barr: yes. senator graham: and the answer is, no, according to bob mueller. atty. gen. barr: that's right. senator graham: he couldn't decide about obstruction. you did, is that correct? atty. gen. barr: that's right. senator graham: do you feel good about your decision?
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atty. gen. barr: absolutely. senator graham: thank you very much. >> mr. attorney general, the special counsel's report describes how the president directed white house counsel n mcgann to fire counsel mueller and to write letter for our records stating the president had not ordered him to fire mueller. senator feinstein: the report also recounts how the president made repeated efforts to get mcgann to change his story. knowing that mcgann believed the president's version of events was false, the special counsel found, and i quote, substantial evidence, end quote, that the president tried to change mcgann's account in order to prevent further scrutiny of the president towards the investigation. special counsel also found that mcgann is a credible witness
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with no motive to lie or exaggerate given the position he held in the white house. here's the question. does existing law prohibit efforts to get a witness to lie to say something the witness believes is false? atty. gen. barr: yes. lie to the government, yes. senator feinstein: and what law is that? atty. gen. barr: obstruction statutes. senator feinstein: the obstructions statute. and you don't have i guess before you? atty. gen. barr: i'm not sure which one they were referring to here. it was probably 1512-c-2. senator feinstein: so these things in effect constitute obstruction? atty. gen. barr: well, you're talking in general terms. you're not talking -- senator feinstein: i'm talking about specifically, yes, you're correct in a sense that substantial -- the special counsel in his report, found
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substantial evidence that the president tried to change mcgann's account in order to prevent -- and this is a quote -- further scrutiny of the president toward the investigation, end quote. special counsel also found mcgann as a credible witness with no motives to lie or exaggerate. so what i'm asking you, then, is that a credible charge under the obstruction statute? atty. gen. barr: we felt -- we felt that that episode the government would not be able to establish obstruction. the -- if you go back and if ou look at the episode where mc-- the president gave mcgann an instruction, mcgann's version of that is quite clear in each time he gave it which is the instruction said, go to
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rosenstein, raise the issue of conflict of interest, and mueller has to go because of this conflict of interest. so there's no question that that -- that the -- whatever instruction was given to mcgann had to deal with mueller's conflict of interest. now, the president later said that what he meant was that the conflict of interest should be raised with rosenstein but the decision should be left with rosenstein. on the other end of the spectrum, it appears that mcgann felt it was more directive and that the president was essentially say push rosenstein to invoke a conflict of interest to push mueller out. wherever it fell on that spectrum of interest, "the new york times" story was very different. "the new york times" said flat out that the president directed
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the firing of mueller. he told mcgann, fire mueller. now, that -- there's something very different between firing a special counsel outright, which suggests ending the investigation, and having a special counsel removed for conflict, which suggests that you're going to have another special counsel. so the fact is that even under mcgann's -- and then, as the report says and recognizes, there is evidence the president truly felt that the "times" article was inaccurate and he wanted mcgann to correct it. so we believe it is impossible for the government to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the president understood that he was instructing mcgann to say something false because it wasn't necessarily false. moreover, mcgann had weeks before already given testimony to the -- to this special
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counsel and the president was aware of that. and as the report indicates, it could also have been the case that he was primarily concerned about press reports and making it clear he never outright irected the firing of mueller. so in terms of the request to k mcgann to memorialize that fact, we do not think in this case that the government could show corrupt intent beyond a reasonable doubt. senator feinstein: just to finish this. but you still have a situation where a president essentially tries to change the lawyer's account in order to prevent further criticism of himself. atty. gen. barr: well, that's not a crime. senator feinstein: so you can,
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in this situation, instruct someone to lie? atty. gen. barr: no. it has to be -- well, to be obstruction of justice, the lie has to be tied to combaring the evidence in a particular proceeding. mcgahn had already given his evidence, and i think -- i think it would be plausible that the purpose of mcgahn memorializing what the president was asking was to make the record that the president never directed him to fire, and there is a distinction between someone say, go fire him, go fire mueller, and say, have him removed based on conflict. they have different results. senator feinstein: what would that conflict be? atty. gen. barr: well, the difference between them, if you remove someone with a conflict for interest, there would be presumably another person appointed. senator feinstein: yeah. wouldn't you have to have it in this kind of situation, an
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identifiable conflict that made sense or else doesn't it just become a fabrication? atty. gen. barr: well, this -- now, we're going to shift from the issue of writing the memo or somehow putting out a release later on and the issue of the actual direction to mcgahn. so the question on the direction to mcgahn has a number of different levels to it. and, first, as a matter of law, i think the department's position would be that the president can direct the termination or the replacement of a special counsel. as a matter of law, the obstruction statute does not reach that conduct. putting that aside, the next question would be, even if it reached the conduct, could you here establish corrupt intent beyond a reasonable doubt.
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what makes this case very interesting is that when you take away the fact that no underlying criminal conduct and you take away the fact that there is no inherently malign obstructive act, that is the president was carrying out his constitutional duties, the question is, what is the impact of taking away the underlying crime? .
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that is not a corrupt mowive for replacing an independent counsel. that's another reason that we would say that the government would have difficulty proving his beyond a reasonable doubt. >> senator johnson and i wrote you about text messages between peter strzok and lisa page that appeared to show the f.b.i. may have tried to use counterintelligence briefings for the trump transition team as intelligence gathering operations. i hope you'll commit to answering the letter in writing, but also providing committees the requested briefing. that's my question. atty. gen. barr: yes, senator. senator grassley: have you already tasked any staff to look into whether spying by the f.b.i. and other agencies on
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the trump campaign was properly predicated and can can congress expect a formal report on your findings? atty. gen. barr: yes, i do have people in the department helping me review the activities over the summer of 2016. senator grassley: i suppose it depends on what conclusions you come to, but is there any reason why couldn't wouldn't be briefed on your conclusions? atty. gen. barr: it's early for me to commit completely, but i envision some kind of reporting at the end of this. senator grassley: the clinton campaign and the democrat national committee hired fusion g.p.s. to do opposition research against candidate trump. fusion g.p.s. then hired christopher steel, former british intelligence officer, to compile what we all know is
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the steel dossier. that reportedly used russian government sources for information. the steel dossier was central to the now debunked collusion narrative. here's the irony. the mueller report spent millions investigating and found no collusion between trump campaign and russia, but the democrats paid for a document created by a foreign national with reported foreign government sources. not trump, but the democrats. that's the definition of collusion. despite the central status of the steel dossier to the collusion narrative, the mueller report failed to analyze whether the dossier was filled with disinformation to mislead u.s. intelligence agencies and the f.b.i. my question, mueller spent over
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two years, $30 million investigating russian interference in the election. in order for a full can accounting of russian interference attempts, shouldn't the special counsel have considered on whether the steel dossier was part of a russian disinformation and interference campaign? atty. gen. barr: i don't -- special counsel mueller has put out his report and i have not yet had anyone go through the full scope of his investigation to determine whether he did address or look at all into those issues. one of the things i'm doing in my review is try to assemble all the existing information out there about it. not only from hill investigations and the o.i.g., but also to he see what the special counsel looked into. i really couldn't say what he actually looked into.
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senator grassley: but you think -- in other words, if you looked at all that information right now, you're telling me you could have said yes or no to my question? atty. gen. barr: if i looked at it. senator grassley: you are going to attempt to find some of this information if it's available. atty. gen. barr: yes. senator grassley: similarly, shouldn't the special counsel have looked into the origins of the f.b.i.'s investigation into alleged collusion between the trump campaign and russia? atty. gen. barr: the origins of that narrative? senator grassley: yes. atty. gen. barr: i don't know if he viewed his charter that broadly. i don't know whether he did or not. that's something that i am reviewing. again will look at whatever the special counsel has developed on that. senator grassley: in volume two of the report, the special counsel declined to make a traditional prosecutorial decision. instead the special counsel laid out 200 or so pages
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relating to a potential obstruction analysis and then dumped that on your desk. in your press conference you said that you asked the special counsel whether he would have made a charging decision or recommend charges on obstruction, but for the office of legal counsel's opinion on charging sitting presidents and that the special counsel made clear that was not the case. so, mr. barr, is that an accurate description of your conversation with the special counsel? atty. gen. barr: yes. he reiterated several times in a group meeting that he was not saying that put for the olc opinion he would have found obstruction. senator grassley: if the special counsel found facts sufficient to constitute obstruction of justice, would he have stated that finding? atty. gen. barr: if had he found that, then i think he he would state it, yes. senator grassley: was it
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special counsel mueller's responsibility to make a charging recommendation? atty. gen. barr: i think the deputy attorney general and i thought it was. but not just charging but to determine whether or not onduct was criminal. the president could not be charged as long as he was in office. senator grassley: do you agree with the reasons that he offered for not making a decision in volume two of his report, and why or why not? atty. gen. barr: i'm not really sure of his reasoning. i really could not recapitulate his analysis, which is one of the reasons in my march 24 letter i simply stated the fact that he did not reach a conclusion, didn't try to put words in his mouth. i think that if he felt that he
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shouldn't go down the path of decision, ditional then you shouldn't have investigated. that was the time to pull up. senator grassley: there have been a number of leaks coming out of the justice department, f.b.i. during high profile investigations. the inspector general found during the department's investigation of hillary clinton for mishandling highly classified information there was a culture of unauthorized media contacts. during the russian investigation, the leaks continued. leaks undermine the ability of investigators to investigate. further leaks to the papers while congress' questions to he department go unanswered is unacceptable. why? what are you doing to investigate unauthorized media contacts by the department and f.b.i. officials during the russian investigation? atty. gen. barr: we have
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multiple criminal leak nvestigations under way. chairman graham: senator leahy. senator leahy: thank you, attorney general. i'm somewhat troubled by your testimony here and in the other body. you appeared before the house appropriations on april 9. you were asked about media reports a trained special counsel's team is frustrated that your march 24 letter didn't adequately portray the report's findings. congressman kris asked if you knew what those numbers of the special counsel's team were concerned about, you testified in response, no, i don't. you then said you merely suspected. you would have preferred more information was released with the letter. now we know that contrary to what you said april 9, that on
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march 27 robert mueller wrote to you expressing very specific concerns that your march 24 letter, remember your testimony on april 9, that your march 24 letter failed to capture the to quote mr. mueller, the context, nature, and substance, close quote, of his report. and what really struck me, mr. mueller wrote that your letter threatened to undermine a central purpose for which the department appointed the special counsel. a full public confidence in the outcome of the investigation. why did you testify on april 9 that you didn't know the concerns being expressed by mueller's team when you heard those concerns directly from mr. mueller two weeks before? atty. gen. barr: well, as i said, i talked directly to bob mueller about his letter to me
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and specifically asked him what exactly are your concerns? are you saying that the march 24 letter was misleading or inaccurate? or what? he indicated that it was not. he was not saying that. and that what he was concerned about -- senator leahy: that wasn't my question. atty. gen. barr: the question from crist was reports have meerged recently, press reports, that members of the special counsel's team are frustrated at some level with the limited information included in your march 24 letter in that they don't adequately or accurately portray the report's findings. i don't know what members he's talking about. i certainly am not aware of any challenge to the accuracy of the findings. senator leahy: mr. barr, you
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seem to know the filibuster rules even more than senators do. my question was why did you say were you not aware of concerns when weeks before your testimony mr. mueller had expressed concerns to you? it's a fairly simple -- atty. gen. barr: i answered the question. the question was relating to unidentified members who were expressing frustration over the accuracy relating to findings. i don't know what that refers to at all. i talked directly to mob bob mueller. not members of his team. and even though i did not know what was being referred to, and mueller had never told me that the expression of the findings was inaccurate, you but i did then volunteer that i thought they were talking about the desire to have more information put out. but it wasn't my purpose to put out more information. senator leahy: i feel your answer was purposely
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misleading. and i think others do, too. et me ask you another one. you said the president has fully cooperated with the investigation, but his attorney had told a dependent he would be taken care of if he didn't cooperate with the investigation. is there a conflict in that? atty. gen. barr: could you just repeat that. senator leahy: both mr. manafort and mr. cohen were told they would be taken good care of if they did not cooperate. you said that the president was fully cooperating. is there a a conflict there? yes or no? atty. gen. barr: no. senator leahy: you think it's fully cooperating to instruct the former aide to tell the attorney general to unrecuse himself, shut down the investigation, a and declare the president did nothing wrong? atty. gen. barr: i don't think -- obviously since i didn't
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find it was obstruction, i felt that the evidence could not support -- senator leahy: i'm asking about cooperating. not asking you about obstruction. is that fully cooperating? atty. gen. barr: he fully cooperate canned. senator leahy: by instructing the former aide to tell the attorney general to unrecuse himself, shut down the investigation, and the president did nothing wrong, that's fully cooperating? atty. gen. barr: where is that in the report? senator leahy: volume two, page five. n june 19, 2017, the president had a message for lewandowski, the special -- notwithstanding his recusal from the russian investigation. the investigation period prior to the president. the president had done nothing wrong. is that cooperating? atty. gen. barr: firstly, asking sessions to unrecuse himself, we do not think is object ostrucks. senator leahy: it's object strucks. is he cooperating?
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atty. gen. barr: don't know that declares the president did nothing wrong although the president in terms of collusion did nothing wrong. isn't that correct? senator leahy: it's the obstructing. is that fully cooperating to say that? atty. gen. barr: well, i don't see any conflict between that and fully cooperating with the investigation. senator leahy: the president declared many times publicly in tweets and campaign rallies that he would testify. but he never did testify, is that correct? atty. gen. barr: as far as i know. senator leahy: i think you know whether he testified. atty. gen. barr: as far as i know he didn't testify. senator leahy: mr. mueller found written answers to be inadequate, is that correct? atty. gen. barr: i think he wanted additional. ut he never sought it. he never pushed it. senator leahy: the president
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never testified. does the fact that mr. muellerer found the trump campaign was receptive to some of the offers of assistance from russia or the fact that the trump campaign never reported any of this to the f.b.i., does that trouble you? atty. gen. barr: what would they report to the f.b.i.? senator leahy: they were receptive to offers of assistance from rarba. atty. gen. barr: what do you mean by receptive? i think the report says -- obviously they were expecting to benefit from whatever the russians -- senator leahy: in sum the investigation multiple links between trump campaign officials and individuals tied to the russian government. those links included russian assistance to the campaign, some instances the campaign was receptive to the offer. others they were not. does that bother you at all?
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atty. gen. barr: i have to understand what that refers to. what commune you cases that referred to. senator leahy: you have the report. i just gave you the page from the report. i know my time is up. chairman graham: very well done. senator cornyn. senator cornyn: general barr, the chairman has pointed out after the hillary clinton email investigation there were a number -- mr. comey's press conference, i think it was july 5, roughly 2016, there were a number of prominent democratic members of the senate who said that comey should be -- should resign. or be fired. i believe you said that you have concluded as a matter of law that the president is the head of the executive branch of government has the right to fire executive branch employees, is that correct? atty. gen. barr: that's right. senator cornyn: in this case the president relying in part
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on the recommendation by the deputy attorney general, rod roseinestein, arising out of his critique of mr. comey's conduct in holding that press conference, releasing derogatory information about secretary clinton, but then announcing that no reasonable prosecutor would bring charges against her. is that right? atty. gen. barr: that's right. you started n: your career, i believe, in the intelligence community and then moved on to the department of justice. thank you for agreeing to serve again as attorney general and help restore the department's reputation as an impartial arbiter of the law and not as a political arm of any administration. i think that's very, very important that you and director wray continue your efforts in that regard, and i'm grateful to you for that. but i do believe that we need
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to ask the question, why didn't the obama administration do more as early as 2014 in investigating russian efforts o prepare to undermine and sow descension in the 2016 election? mr. mueller a's report does document that the russian government through the the intelligence agencies and their internet research, began as early as 2014, began their efforts to do so. we know they met with some success. is it any surprise to you, based on your experience, that the russians would try to do everything they can to sow dissension in american political life, including in our elections? atty. gen. barr: not at all. i think the internet creates a
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t more opportunities to have a -- that kind of covert effect on american body politics. it's getting more and more dangerous. the russians have been at this for a long time in various different ways, but the point you made about bob mueller a's efforts on i.r.a., it's one of the things that struck me about the report. i think it's very impressive work that they did in moving quickly to get into the i.r.a. and also the g.r.u. folks. and i was thinking to myself, if that had been done in -- starting in the beginning of 2016, we would have been a lot further along. senator cornyn: for example, we have heard a lot about the steel dossier, mr. steel is a former british intelligence officer hired by -- to do opposition research by the hillary clinton campaign on her
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political adversaries, including president trump or candidate trump at that time. how do we know that the steel dossier is not itself evidence of russian disinformation campaign knowing what we know now that basically the allegations made therein were secondhand hearsay or unverified? can you state with confidence 245 the steel dossier was not part of the russian disinformation campaign? atty. gen. barr: i can't state with confidence and that's one of the areas i'm reviewing. i'm concerned about it. i don't think it's entirely speculative. senator cornyn: we know from published reports that the head of the c.i.a., mr. brennan, went to president obama and brought his concerns about initial indications of russian involvement in the campaign as
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early as late july, 2016. instead of doing more during the obama administration to look into that and disrupt and deter russian activities that threatened the va lidity and integrity of our campaign in 2016, it appears to me that the obama administration justice department and f.b.i. decided to place their bets on hillary clinton and focus their efforts on investigating the trump campaign. as you have pointed out thanks to the special counsel we now have confidence that no americans colluded with the russians in their effort to undermine the american people. we now need to know, and i'm glad to hear what you are telling us about your inquiries and your research and your investigation, we now need to know what steps the obama f.b.i., department of justice,
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and intelligence community, what steps they took to undermine the political process and put a thumb on the scale in favor of one political candidate over the other. and that would be before and after the 2016 election. a defensive briefing in a counterintelligence investigation. atty. gen. barr: you can can can have different kinds of defensive briefings. if you learn that somebody is being targeted by a hostile intelligence service, then one form of defensive briefing is to go and alert that person to the risks. senator cornyn: i think attorney general lynch said it is routine in counterintelligence investigations. would you agree? atty. gen. barr: yes. senator cornyn: do you know whether a defensive briefing was ever given to the trump campaign by the f.b.i. based on their counterintelligence investigation? did they ever tell the
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president before he was -- january, 2017, what the russians were trying to do and advise him to tell people affiliated with his campaign to be on their guard and be vigilant about russian efforts to undermine public confidence in the election? atty. gen. barr: my understanding is that didn't happen. senator cornyn: that failure to provide a defensive briefing to the trump campaign, that would be an extraordinary or notable failure, would you agree? atty. gen. barr: i think under these circumstances one of the things i can't fathom why did-t did not happen if you are concerned about interference in e election, and you have substanchings people involved in the campaign reor former u.s. attorneys, you had three former u.s. attorneys there in the campaign, don't understand why the bureau would not have gone and given a defensive briefing. senator cornyn: thank you.
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chairman graham: senator durbin. senator dushyib: thanks, general barr. i have i have been listening carefully to my republican colleagues and it appears they are going to work together and coordinate the lock her up defense. this is not supposed to be the mueller investigation, the russian involvement in the election, the trump campaign and so forth, it is really about hillary clinton's emails. finally we get down to the bottom line. hillary clinton's emails and questions that have to be asked about benghazi along the way, travelgate, whitewater, there is a lot of material we should be going through today according to their response to this. that is totally unresponsive to the reality of what the american people want to know. they paid a lot of money, $25 million for this report. i respect mr. mueller and believe he came up with a sound report though don't agree with all of if. but i find, general barr, some of the things you have engaged in really leave me wondering what you believe your role as attorney general is when it comes to something like this.
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since it's put in the record, let me read it. listen to what you received in a letter on march 27 from bob mueller. the summary letter the department sent to congress released to the public late in the afternoon, march 24, did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of the office's work and conclusions. we communicated that concern to the department on the morning of march 25. there is now public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation. this threatens to undermine the central purpose for which the department appointed the special counsel, to assure full public confidence in the outcome of the investigation. i cannot imagine you received that letter on march 24 and could not answer congressman crist directly when he asked you whether there were concerns about representations being made on these findings by the people working for bob mueller. you said no. i don't know. after receiving this letter. what am i missing? atty. gen. barr: as i explained to senator leahy, i
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talked directly to bob and bob told me that he did not have objections to the accuracy -- senator durbin: attorneys don't put things in writing unless they are serious about them a good politician doesn't write a letter and doesn't throw one away. so i got to ask you, if he puts it in writing of his concerns can, your representations on a march 24, you couldn't recall that when congressman crist asked you that question a few days later? tty. gen. barr: i'm saying -- the march 24 letterer stated that bob mueller did not reach a conclusion on obstruction. and it had the language in there about not exoriginal rating the president. -- exonerating the president. view of events was there was a loft criticism of the special counsel for the -- lot of criticism of the special counsel for the ensuing few days and on thursday i got this letter.
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when i talked to the special unsel about the letter, my understanding was his concern was not the accuracy of the statement of the findings in my letter, but that he wanted more out there to provide additional context to explain his reasoning on why he didn't reach a decision on obstruction. senator durbin: i'll just say this, mr. barr, if you received a letter from bob mueller afew days after your march 24 letter, it was clear he had genuine concerns about what you had said and done to that point. we'll move to another topic. atty. gen. barr: i would analogize it to this. after months' long trial if i wanted to get out to the public what the verdict was, pending preparation of the full transcript, then i'm out there saying here's the verdict, and the prosecutor comes up and taps me on the shoulder and
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says, well, the verdict doesn't fully capture all my work. how about that great cross-examination i did, or how about that third day of trial where i did that, this doesn't capture everything. my answer to that is i'm not trying to capture everything. i'm trying to state the verdict. senator durbin: you used the word summarize in the letter. atty. gen. barr: summarized the principal conclusions. senator durbin: the office 6 legal counsel's decision as to whether or not you can prosecute a sitting president, you had pretting strong feelings and they were reflected in your volunteered memo to the trump defense team, your 19-page memo. atty. gen. barr: did i discuss that? senator durbin: you discussed whether or not a president should cooperate with an investigation. you said at one point in summarizing the findings of mueller that the white house fully cooperated. we know for a fact, you stated already, the president never submitted himself to what was characterized as a vital interview, an actual sit-down
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interview under oath, not once. and his questions that were answered, some 30 times his memory failed him. to say the white house fully cooperated i think is a generous conclusion. on this office of legal counsel, i would refer you to this volume two of the mueller report. on page 1 he he talked about the whole issue of -- on page 1, he talked about the whole issue whether he was restricted of what he could conclude because of the outstanding office of legal counsel opinion on the liability of the sitting president. you dismissed that in your opening statement said we asked him two or three times. you said that had nothing to do with it. how do you explain on the first page of volume two it had a lot to do with with it. it's the reason he couldn't reach a conclusion on obstruction of justice. atty. gen. barr: it was a prudential reason. one of the backdrop factors that he cited as influencing his prudential judgment that he
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should not reach a decision. which is different than citing the o.l.c., that but for the o.l.c. opinion i would indict. senator durbin: i'm going to stand by what he's written. the last point i want to make is about don mcgann, if you read the section here, 113 to 120 on done mcgahn's experience, the president wanted him to state publicly that the "new york times" article was untrue. he had not asked mcgahn to fire the special counsel. he refused. there is speculation as to whether he risked being dismissed or even resigning over this issue. for you to suggest that this was some sort of a kabuki dance, i think the president's intent was clear. he wanted this to end. told e lester health -- lester holt, the reason to get rid of comey is because of the russian investigation. over and over again this president was very explicit.
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certainly is very exposstory in his style. i don't -- let me ask you this conclusion, my time is up. do you have any objections, can you think of an objection of why don mcgahn should not testify before this committee about his experience? atty. gen. barr: yes, i mean i think that he's a close advisor to the president. senator durbin: never exerted executive privilege. may have already -- atty. gen. barr: we haven't waived executive privilege. senator durbin: what about bob mueller? should he be allowed to testify? atty. gen. barr: i already said publicly i have no objection to him. senator durbin: don mcgahn should he be allowed to testify? atty. gen. barr: that's a call for the president. senator durbin: he's a prife citizen. atty. gen. barr: i assume he would be testifying about privileged matters. senator durbin: i would hope we could get to the bolom of this after we take another close look at hillary clinton's emails. thank you. chairman graham: we might do that.
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senator lee. senator lee: it is-n his classicdy accident? morrison v. olson, justice scalia remarked that nothing is so politically effective as the ability to charge that one's opponent and his associates are the not merely wrong-headed, naive, and in effective, but in all probability crooks. and nothing so effectively gives an appearance of va lidity to such charges -- validity of such charges as a justice department investigation. that observation has been borne out time and time again over the past two years. time and time again the president's political adversaries have exploited the mueller probe. ts mere exisence to -- existence to spread baseless inwould youened i would to undermine the 2016 election. for example on january 25, 2019, speaker nancy pelosi asked, what does putin have on
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the president politically? personally? or financially? mr. attorney general, is there any evidence to suggestion that vladimir putin quote-unquote, has something on president trump? atty. gen. barr: none that i am aware of. senator lee: on february 20, 2019, former f.b.i. deputy director andrew mccabe said on national television to the entire nation that he thinks it's possible that donald trump is a russian agent. mr. attorney general, is there any evidence that you are aware of that suggests even remotely that president trump is a russian agent? atty. gen. barr: none that i am aware of. senator lee: representative eric swalwell has preetedly claimed donald trump acts on russia's behalf. attorney general barr, is there anything you are aware of to back that up by way of evidence? the president acts on russia's behalf? atty. gen. barr: none that i am aware. senator lee: we have heard over and over again on national tv,
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committee hearings, on the house and senate floor, and in the media we have heard about the president's alleged collusion with russia. t what we have heard is as baseless as any conspiracy theory that we have seen in politics. any that i can can think of. the only difference here is the purveyors of this conspiracy were. in many cases, prominent members of the opposition party. that's concerning. from the beginning, there were some indications that the russia investigation was, perhaps, not always conducted with the absolute impartialality that the american people should expect and have come to hope to find in existence within the department of justice. expressly given the track record of excellence that the u.s. department of justice has shown. according to the mueller report itself, the investigation into
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the trump campaign began on july 31, 2016. after a foreign government contacted the f.b.i. about comments made by george papadopoulos. is that accurate or were there other precipitating events that helped lead to this? atty. gen. barr: that is the account that has been given in the past as to how it got going. senator lee: you previously said you think it's possible that the federal bureau of investigation improperly spied on the trump campaign. i assume that's a reference to the fisa warrant for carter page. is that what you have in mind? are there other circumstances you have in mind? atty. gen. barr: one of the things i want to look -- there are people, many people seem to assume that the only intelligence collection that ccurred was a single confidential informant, and a fisa warrant.
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i'd like to find out whether that is true. it strikes me as a fairly anemic effort if that was the counterintelligence effort designed to stop the threat as it's being represented. senator lee: was carter page unsurveillance during his time working during the trump campaign january, 2016 torques september, 2016? atty. gen. barr: don't know. senator lee: was any other trump campaign official during surveillance -- under surveillance duringer that time period? atty. gen. barr: these are things i have to look at. as i said before the extent there was any overreach i believe it was a few people in the upper echelons of the bureau and perhaps the department. but those people are no longer there. i'm working closely with chris, who i think has done a a suburb job at the bureau. we are working together on trying to reconstruct exactly
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what went down. one thing people should know is that the bureau itself has been a little bit handicapped in looking back because of the pending mueller investigation and the o.i.g. investigation. senator lee: as we know the fisa warrant for carter page was based largely on the so-called steel dossier. and in particular on two specific facts about page's trip to moscow to deliver a speech in july, 2016. first according to the warrant page had a secret meeting with igor session, does the mueller report confirm that page met with him? atty. gen. barr: met with who? senator lee: with mr. igor -- atty. gen. barr: i can't recall that. don't remember that. let me just say i want to stay away from getting too deeply into the fisa issue because that's currently under nvestigation by the o.i.g.
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senator lee: understood. the warrant also says that page met with igor in order to discuss what is referred to as come pramat against hillary clinton. does the mueller report confirm that page met with him? atty. gen. barr: don't think so. senator lee: does it confirm that page discussed that on hisry clinton with anyone? atty. gen. barr: not that i recall. senator lee: since the main evidentiary report for the warrant has been discussed by the mueller report, which is the gold standard of what we are discussing here, i'm glad that you are looking into t. i would encourage to look into why the f.b.i. relied on this false information. and i hope you will ashare the results. the public obviously has a right to know what happened here. the u.s. department of justice, the federal bureau of investigation, had a long history, and a long history of
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success that has been based on respect. they deserve to understand that there is not so much power that's been concentrated in that one agency that the outcome of an investigation can can depend on the whims of who might be assigned to it. they have a right not to believe a particular's investigation might be struck, might not be influenced by an improper consideration politically or otherwise. thank you, mr. attorney general. chairman graham: senator whitehouse, i'm told we are going to have two votes beginning at 11:45. we'll do senator whitehouse and just come can back an hour later. we'll break for an hour. and do the votes and have lunch. senator whitehouse: attorney general, you had a conversation with chairman graham earlier this morning which you described the importance of, to use his words, hardening our
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electoral infrastructure against foreign election interference. i ask you is anonymous election funding an avenue for possible foreign election influence? and interference? atty. gen. barr: yes. senator whitehouse wlon let's your honor -- senator whitehouse: let's turn to the march 27 letter, march 28, mueller letter, correct? atty. gen. barr: yes. senator whitehouse: when did you have the conversation with bob mule ber that letterer? atty. gen. barr: on the 28th. senator whitehouse: same day you read it? when did you first learn of the "new york times" and "washington post" stories that would make the exis ens of this letter public, the one that is came out last night? atty. gen. barr: i think it could have been yesterday but i'm not sure. senator white did the house: when they contacted you for any comment? atty. gen. barr: didn't contact me. senator whitehouse: contact d.o.j. for comment? atty. gen. barr: i can't
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remember how it came up, but someone mentioned it. senator whitehouse: at some point you knew the mueller letter was going to become public and that was probably yesterday? atty. gen. barr: i think so. senator whitehouse: when did you decide to make that letter available to us in congress? atty. gen. barr: this morning. senator whitehouse: would you concede you had an opportunity to make this letter public on april 4 when representative krist asked you a very related question? atty. gen. barr: i don't know what you mean by related question. it seems to me it would be a different question. senator white did the house: i can't follow that down the road. that's a matterful hair splitting. -- masterful hair splitting. the letter references enclosed documents and enclosed materials, right? are those the same things as what you call the executive summaries that mueller provided
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you? atty. gen. barr: with this letter? senator white did the house: yes. atty. gen. barr: yes. senator whitehouse: you talk about the executive summaries that mueller provided you, they are the documents that were the enclosed documents with that letter which we have not been provided? atty. gen. barr: i think they were. senator white did the house: -- senator whitehouse: the -- atty. gen. barr: you have been provided them. they are in the report. the summary's in the report. senator white did the house: there is nothing else that he provided you? atty. gen. barr: i that i that's what he provided. senator whitehouse: if there is anything else would you provide it to us if there is different in any form? it's odd to be given a letter to the attachments to it. atty. gen. barr: i think there were redacted versions -- summaries embeded in the report. senator white did the house: can we get that to be sure? atty. gen. barr: sure. senator white did the house: do you agree that none of that material was either grand jury 6-a or presented a risk to intelligence sources or would
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interfere or compromise ongoing investigation or affected my executive privileges. atty. gen. barr: there were redactions made in the executive summaries. as i said, i wasn't interested in putting out summaries, period. frankly -- senator whitehouse: bob mueller described your letter as a summary. can you say it wasn't but mueller said it was. atty. gen. barr: i wasn't interested in summarizing the whole report. as i say i was stating that the bottom line conclusions of the report. senator whitehouse: your letterer says -- quote your words, describe the report. atty. gen. barr: meaning volume one. senatorwhitehouse: i don't know -- atty. gen. barr: i state in the letter i'm stating the principle conclusions. let me also say bob mueller is the equivalent of a u.s. attorney. he was exercising the powers of
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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. and i was making a decision as to whether or not to make it public. i effectively overroad the regulations used discretion to lean as far forward as i could to make that public. it was my decision how and when to make it public not bob mueller's. senator white did the house: with respect to the o.l.c. opinion that informed bob mueller a's decision as he describes in the report, do you agree that that is merely an executive opinion and under our constitution the decision has to what the law is is made by the judicial branch of the united states government? atty. gen. barr: i'm sorry. senator white did the house: with respect to the o.l.c. opinion that informed mueller's decision not to make a recommendation on obstruction,
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as he said in his report, do you concede that that is an executive opinion and that under our constitutional system what the law is gets decided by the judicial branch of government? atty. gen. barr: yes. senator whitehouse: is there any way for the o.l.c.'s decision to be tested by the judicial branch of the government to see if it's correct. o atty. gen. barr: done nonthat comes to mind. senator whitehouse: it could be wrong? atty. gen. barr: hypothetically it could be wrong. senator whitehouse: or legal minds that disagree? there are many respected legal commentators and professors and lawyers who disagree with it, zphrect atty. gen. barr: it's very hard to find lawyers that agree to anything. senator whitehouse: the interesting thing to me it goes on to say because of the o.l.c. opinion we have to give the president an extra benefit of the doubt because he has denied his day in court where he could exonerate himself. that seems like fallacy to me
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because if you are the president of the united states, you can either waive or readily override the o.l.c. opinion and say, i'm ready to go to trial. i want to exonerate myself, let as go. could you not? atty. gen. barr: how is this relevant to my decisions? senator whitehouse: it's relevant -- atty. gen. barr: i assumed there was no o.l.c. opinion. senator whitehouse: we have a report in front of us that says this influenced the outcome. and in particular it says it influenced the outcome because it deprived the president of his ability to have his day in court and my point to you is that the president could easily have his day in court by simply waiving or overriding this o.l.c. opinion that has no judicial basis. correct? atty. gen. barr: well, i don't think that there was anything to have a day in court on. i think that the government did not have a prosecutable case. senator whitehouse: mueller
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didn't agree because he left that up to you. he said that he could neither confirm nor deny that there was a prosecutable case here. he left that to you. when he did, he said, and you apparently have agreed, that this o.l.c. opinion bears on it and it would be unfair to the president to put him to the burden of being indicted and not having the ability to be charged. atty. gen. barr: i don't want to characterize bob east thought process. senator whitehouse: it's in his report. he he put it in writing. atty. gen. barr: aim not sure what he means by that in the report. senator white did the house: with respect to the word, can can i have a a minute, i want to nail down, you used the word spying about authorized d.o.j. investigative activities. atty. gen. barr: talking about my testimony before the house appropriations? senator whitehouse: yes. in the entirety of your previous career in the detcht justice, including as attorney general, have you ever referred to authorized department
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investigative activities officially or publicly as spying? not asking for private conversations. atty. gen. barr: i'm not going to abcure the use of the word spying. my first job was in c.i.a. don't think the word spying has any pejorative connotation at all. the question is always whether or not it's authorized and adequately predicated spying. i think spying is a good english word that doesn't have synonyms because it is the broadest incorporating all forms of covert intelligence vex. i'm not going to back off the word spying. i will say -- i use it frequently. senator white did the house: when did you decide to do it? was it off the cuff or did you go into that hearing -- blood pressure it was off the cuff to tell you the truth. en senator -- the senator -- the congressman from hawaii.
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senator whitehouse: go ahead. atty. gen. barr: when he challenged mean said you want to change your language i was thinking, like, what's the issue? i don't consider it a pejorative. frankly, we went back and looked at press usage and up until all the flaw outrage a couple weeks ago, it's commonly used in the press to refers to authorized activity -- senator white did the house: it's not commonly used by the department. my time is up. atty. gen. barr: commonly used by me. chairman graham: thank you very much. we'll come back at 10 till 1:00. thank you. [captioning made possible by the national captioning institute, inc., in cooperation with the united states house of representatives. any use of the closed-captioned coverage of the house proceedings for political or commercial purposes is expressly prohibited by the u.s. house of representatives.] 12312k3w4r [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2019] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for
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its caption content and accuracy. isit ncicap.org]
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a break in the testimony of attorney general william barr on the mueller report. the senate judiciary committee taking a recess now to attend votes in the senate. live coverage of the hearing will continue when they return. the break expected to last about an hour. and you'll be able to watch it when it continues on a companion network, c-span3. you can can weigh in with your thoughts on c-span3 as we have been hearing from members of the judiciary committee and taking your comments on attorney general barr's testimony so far on the mueller report hearing. again, that is on c-span3. the u.s. house will be gaveling in for legislative work at noon eastern. members will start debate on a bill requiring the u.s. to stay in the paris agreement on climate change. president trump announcing in 2017 that the us us will pull
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