Did Attorney General Bill Barr Lie to Congress?

One of the most serious discussions encircling the U.S. federal government these days is the accusation leveled by many Democrats (including the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi) that Attorney General Bill Barr has lied to Congress. Here are the details.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller finished his twenty-two-month long investigation of alleged Russian interference in our 2016 presidential elections and turned in his report to the Attorney General Bill Barr back in mid-March. Although the Attorney General could (should?) have published Mueller’s own summary of the Report for public consumption, Barr chose to release his own four-page summary letter on March 24.  In that letter, Barr summarized the Mueller Report in that there was “no collusion”. That was not quite what the Report said. It only stated that the evidence of conspiracy or cooperation between the Russian government and the Trump political campaign did not rise to the level of criminality.

What is more serious is that Barr distorted the Mueller Report regarding Trump’s alleged obstruction of justice. Barr, together with the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, concluded that Trump did not commit obstruction of justice.[1] Trump immediately and repeatedly claimed “No obstruction! Full exoneration!” Nothing could be further from the truth, because the Mueller Report was very clear on this point, “If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. We are unable to reach such a judgment. While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” The Report did not exonerate the President, nor did it affirm that Trump did not commit obstruction of justice. To the contrary, it laid out the evidence of ten episodes in favor and against obstruction and affirmed that Congress had the responsibility to evaluate the evidence and decide whether it rose to the impeachment criteria of “high crimes and misdemeanors”.

Robert Mueller disagreed so strongly with the Barr summary, that he wrote two letters to Barr in the following days, in which he urged Barr to make public Mueller’s summaries that he had prepared precisely to be presented to the public and to protect confidential information. He also claimed that the Barr summary failed to capture the “context, nature and substance” of the Report and that Barr’s summary caused “public confusion about critical aspects” of the investigation.

The big lie to Congress came two weeks later. On April 9, Barr appeared before the House Appropriations Committee. Rep. Charlie Crist asked Barr if he knew the basis of reports that members of Mueller’s team were frustrated with his decision to release his four-page summary instead of the summaries that Mueller had prepared. Barr answered, “No, I don’t.” That was a lie, because he had already received Mueller’s two follow up letters. Barr’s later alibi was extremely weak because he claimed that he did not know which members of Mueller’s team were being referred to.

I believe that Barr’s integrity and independence have been seriously compromised. For the good of the country, Barr should step down from his position. On a related issue, Mueller should appear before both Senate and House committees to clarify any lingering questions and doubts about his Report. Originally Barr stated that he had no objections to Mueller’s testifying to Congress. But over the weekend, President Trump has stated he doesn’t want Mueller to testify. The citizens of our country deserve to hear Mueller’s candid comments about Russian interference in our elections and the truth about the accusations of obstruction of justice. The truth shall set us free.

PS – Yesterday a letter was published that was signed by over 450 ex Federal Prosecutors who had served in both Republican and Democrat administrations. The letter affirms that “Each of us believes that the conduct of President Trump described in the Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Report would, in the case of any other person not covered by the Office of Legal Counsel policy against indicting a sitting President, result in multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice.” Far from being exonerated as Trump repeatedly proclaims, a fair reading of the Mueller Report demonstrates several examples of obstruction of justice.


[1] This was misleading because Barr had written a 19-page article several months earlier where he claimed that no sitting president could even be guilty of obstruction of justice. Therefore, Barr’s “conclusion” that there was no obstruction was based upon his belief that a sitting president could not be guilty, not because the evidence wasn’t convincing.

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