US Democrats criticise William Barr over Mueller report release

As Democrats lash out at Barr over handling of Mueller report, Republicans applaud the attorney general.

    US Attorney General William Barr prepares to speak at a news conference to discuss Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential race [Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]
    US Attorney General William Barr prepares to speak at a news conference to discuss Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential race [Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]

    US Democrats have criticised Attorney General William Barr over his handling of the long-awaited Mueller report, while Republicans and President Donald Trump's legal team have celebrated Barr.

    On Thursday, Barr released a redacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's long-awaited report into Russia's role in the 2016 US presidential elections.

    The report, which is more than 440 pages long, has multiple redactions, including information that has been classified, information that relates to ongoing probes and grand jury information, which includes witness interviews and other records.

    According to the report, Mueller did not make a conclusion on whether President Trump had committed obstruction of justice, but did not exonerate him either.

    Barr subsequently concluded that Trump had not broken the law, but told a news conference that Mueller had detailed "10 episodes involving the president and discusses potential legal theories for connecting these actions to elements of an obstruction offence".

    As for the question of whether the Trump campaign had colluded with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign, Mueller wrote, "While the investigation identified numerous links between individuals with ties to the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump Campaign, the evidence was not sufficient to support criminal charges." 

    190417201052723

    'Political spin'

    Democrats, who are demanding the release of the unredacted report, scolded Barr over his handling of the report.

    "It's clear AG Barr is acting as Trump's personal attorney, not America's," Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote on Twitter, adding, "Our country demands and deserves full transparency. That's why we must hear directly from Mueller. #MuellerReport."

    Jerrold Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, requested that Mueller testify to panel "no later than May 23".

    Adam Schiff, the Democratic House Intelligence Committee chairman, said Mueller has been invited to testify in front of the committee. "After a two-year investigation, the public deserves the facts, not Attorney General Barr's political spin," he said.

    Kamala Harris, a US Senator and Democratic presidential hopeful, urged Barr to provide Congress with a full, non-redacted version of the Mueller report "with all the underlying investigative materials".

    Trump's legal team, however, claimed the results of the investigation constituted "a total victory for the president".

    "The report underscores what we have argued from the very beginning - there was no collusion - there was no obstruction," his legal team said.

    'Relentless speculation'

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, said that the US is "fortunate to have an experienced leader like Bill Barr" and claimed the attorney general had acted with "maximum possible transparency".

    Republican Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, while noting that the committee's review of the report is ongoing, applauded Barr "for his commitment to transparency and keeping the American people informed".

    in advance of the report's release on Thursday, Barr defended Trump.

    Barr, the top US law enforcement official and Trump appointee, gave a news conference at the Justice Department as he sought to shape the narrative on a watershed day in Trump's tumultuous presidency.

    "President Trump faced an unprecedented situation. As he entered into office and sought to perform his responsibilities as president, federal agents and prosecutors were scrutinising his conduct before and after taking office and the conduct of some of his associates," he said.

    "At the same time, there was relentless speculation in the news media about the president's personal culpability. Yet, as he said from the beginning, there was in fact no collusion," added Barr, one of the handful of people to have seen the report.

    Attorney General William Barr speaks alongside Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, right, and Deputy Attorney General Ed O'Callaghan, left, about the release of a redacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report during a news conference [Patrick Semansky/AP]

    Barr also said that a version of Mueller's report with fewer redactions will be made available to a small group of politicians. 

    In a letter to Congress later on Thursday, Barr said the second version of the report would be given to the "Gang of Eight", the top-ranking House and Senate politicians from both parties who can view sensitive classified information. The chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate judiciary committees will also receive it.

    Barr said all redactions would be removed from that version of the report except those relating to grand-jury information.

    The attorney general said, "I do not believe that I have discretion to disclose grand-jury information to Congress. Nevertheless, this accommodation will allow you to review the bulk of the redacted material for yourselves."

    Trump took to Twitter to post a meme that read, "No collusion - no obstruction. For the haters and the radical left Democrats - GAME OVER."

    Trump, Russia and the Mueller report: Is it really case closed?

    UpFront

    Trump, Russia and the Mueller report: Is it really case closed?

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies