On Wednesday, May 1st, Attorney General Willliam Barr testified before Congress following the release of a March 27 letter written by Robert Mueller to Barr that raised several concerns about Barr’s four-page summary of the Mueller report.
Tensions often ran high during the hearing, and the event’s atmosphere was predictably partisan. Attorney General Barr stood his ground defiantly all day, refusing to cede any territory to his political enemies.
During the proceedings, several Senate Democrats sharply criticized Barr. Hawaii senator Mazie Hirono said this to the Barr during the time allotted to her, “You lied. And now we know. Being attorney general of the United States is a sacred trust. You have betrayed that trust. America deserves better. You should resign."
Representative David Cicilline, a Rhode Island Democrat who sits on the Judiciary Committee, tweeted on May 1st, “Bill Barr needs to resign. He has demonstrated that he is more interested in serving as the President’s personal counsel than as the chief law enforcement officer of the United States. He lied under oath to Congress. That cannot be tolerated. He has to go.”
During his testimony, Barr defended the four-page summary that he made public on March 24th, saying, “"I didn't feel that it was in the public interest to allow this to go on for several weeks without saying anything, and so I decided to simply state what the bottom line conclusions were, which is what the department normally does, make a binary determination: Is there a crime or isn't there a crime?"
While Democrats spent the majority of their time constructing a narrative of collusion between the Attorney General and the President, Republicans mainly spent their time criticizing the FBI’s Russian investigation in general.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman and South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham was Barr’s primary defender, as he declared early on that to him, the Mueller investigation is over. He also promised in his opening statement to investigate the events surrounding the genesis of the Russian collusion investigation.
In his testimony, Attorney General Barr described Mueller’s letter as being “a little snitty,” and said it was likely written by a member of Mueller’s staff. Barr was then asked about how his first response to the letter, and he claimed that he called Mueller and asked him if his summary was inaccurate. According to Barr, Mueller said that the letter was not inaccurate, but that the media’s reporting of the letter was.
One of the most interesting exchanges of the day occurred during California Democrat and presidential hopeful Kamala Harris’ allotted time. Harris asked Barr if anyone at the White House asked or suggested that he open an investigation into anyone.
Barr struggled to find an answer to this question and paused for a few moments before saying “I’m trying to grapple with the word ‘suggest.’” This moment was seen by many Democrats as an example of President Trump’s interference into the investigation. The question that still remains is whether that supposed interference can be proved obstruction of justice.
While many saw the Department of Justice’s decision to release the entire Mueller report as a fine ending to the Mueller saga, it appears that there is still much that must be sorted out before all parties involved are satisfied.