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tv   William Barr Senate Hearing  CNN  May 1, 2019 8:00am-9:00am PDT

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beyond a reasonable doubt? 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 was no inherently maligned instructive act, that is that the president was carrying out his constitutional duties, what is the impact of taking away the underlying crime? and it's not as -- the report suggests one impact is that we have to find some other reason why the president would obstruct the investigation. but there's another impact, which is if the president is being falsely accused, which the evidence now suggests that the accusations against him were false, and he knew they were false, and he felt that this investigation was unfair, propelled by his political
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opponents and was hampering his ability to govern, that is not a corrupt motive for replacing an independent counsel. so that's another reason that we would say that the government would have difficulty proving this beyond a reasonable doubt. >> senator grassley? >> senator johnson and i wrote you about text messages between peter strzok and lisa paige, that appear to show the fbi may have tried to use counterintelligence briefings as intelligence gathering operations. i hope you will commit to answering the letter in writing but also providing committees the requested briefing. that's my question. >> yes, senator.
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>> have you already tasked any staff to look into spying by any agency on the trump campaign was properly predicated and can congress expect a former report on your findings? yes, i do have people in the department helping me review the activities over the summer of 2016. >> okay. i suppose it depends on what conclusions you come to but is there any reason why couldn't wouldn't be briefed on your conclusion conclusions? >> it's early for me to commit fully but i expect some sort of reporting at the end of this. >> democratic committee hired fusion gps to do opposition research against candidate trump. fusion gps then hired christopher steele, former
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british intelligence officer to compile what we know as the steele dossier that used government sources for information. the steele dosier was central to the now debungt 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 steele dossier to the collusion narrative, the mueller report failed to analyze whether the dossier was filled with misinformation to mislead
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intelligence agencyies and the fbi. mueller spent over two years, millions of dollars of investigating russian interference in the election. in order for a full accounting of russian interference attempts, shouldn't the special counsel have considered whether the steel dossier was part of the russian dossier information and interference campaign? >> i've not had anyone go through the full scope of his investigation to determine whether he did address or look at all into those issues one thing i'm doing in my review is to try to assemble all the information out there about it to see what the special counsel looked into. i really couldn't say what he
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actually looked into. >> but you think -- in other words, if you had looked at all that information right now, you're telling me you could have said yes or no to my question? >> if i had looked at that time. >> yeah. and you're going to? >> yes. >> attempt to find some of this information available? >> yes. similarly into allege conclusion between the trump campaign and russia? >> the origins of that narrative? >> yes. >> 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 and again will look at whatever the special counsel has developed on that. >> in volume two of the report, special counsel declined to make
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a traditional conclusion, instead laid out 200 pages relating to potential obstruction analysis and dumped that in your desk. you said you asked the special counsel whether you would have made a charging decision or recommended 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? >> yes. he reiterated several times in a group meeting that he was not saying that but for the olc opinion he would have found obstruction. >> if the special counsel found facts sufficient to constitution obstruction of justice, would he have stated that finding? >> if he had found that, i think
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he would state it, yes. >> was it special counsel mueller's responsibility to make a charging recommendation? >> i think the deputy attorney general and i thought it was. but -- but not just charging, but to determine whether or not conduct was criminal. the president would be charged -- could not be charged as long as he was in office. >> 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? >> i'm not really sure of his reasoning. i really could not recapitulate his analysis, which is one of the reasons in my march 24th letter i simply stated the fact that he did not reach a conclusion and didn't try to put words in his mouth.
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i think that if he felt that he shouldn't go down the path of making a traditional prosecutive decision, he shouldn't have investigated it. that was the time to pull up. >> there have been a number of leaks on high-profile investigations. inspector general found during the department's investigation of hillary clinton for mishandling highly classified information, there was a culture of unauthorized media context. leaks undermine the ability of investigators to investigate. further leaks to the papers while congress' questions to the department go unanswered is unacceptable. why? what are you doing to investigate unauthorized media context by the department and fbi officials during the russian
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investigation? >> we have multiple criminal leak investigations under way. >> thank you. >> senator leahy? >> thank you. attorney general, i'm somewhat troubled by your testimony here and in the other body. you appeared before the house appropriation appropriations on april 9th. you were asked about media reports and the special counsel's team is frustrated that your march 24th letter didn't adequately portray the report's findings. i believe it was congressman crisp asked if you knew what those members of the special counsel's chamber is concerned about, you testified in response, no, i don't. you then said you merely suspected they would have preferred more information was released with the letter. now we know, contrary to what
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you said april 9th that on march 27th, robert mueller wrote to you, expressing very specific concerns that your march 24th lett letter, testimony on april 9th, that your march 24th letter failed to capture, to quote mr. mueller, the context, nature and substance of his report. what really struck me was that mr. mueller wrote that your letter threatened to undermine a central purpose to why the special counsel was appointed to, ensure full public confidence in the outcome of the investigation. why did you testify april 9th that you didn't know the concerns being expressed by mueller's team when, in fact, you heard those concerns directly from mr. mueller two weeks before? >> well, as i said, i talked directly to bob mueller about
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his letter to me and specifically asked him what exactly are your concerns? are you saying that the march 24th 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 -- >> that wasn't my question. >> i'm getting to the question which is the question from crist was reports have emerged recently, press reports, that members of the special counsel's team are frustrated at some level with the limited information included in your march 24th letter, in that they don't adequately or accurately portray the report's findings. i don't know what members he's talking about. and i certainly am not aware of any challenge to the accuracy of the findings.
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>> mr. barr, you seem to have learned the filibuster rules even better than senators do. my question was, why did you say you were not aware of concerns when weeks before your testimony, mr. mueller had expressed concerns to you? that's a fairly simple -- >> i answered a 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 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, 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. >> mr. barr, i feel your answer
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was purposely misleading, and i think others do, too. let me ask you another one. you said the president has fully cooperated with the investigation, but his attorney had told a defendant of if he d cooperate with the investigation. that?re a conflict in that? >> both mr. manafort and mr. cohen were told by trump's personal attorney they would be taken care of if they did not cooperate. you said that the president was fully cooperating. is there a conflict there? yes or no? >> no. >> you think that's fully cooperating, to instruct a former aide to tell the attorney general to unrecuse himself, shut down the investigation and declare the president did nothing wrong?
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>> i don't think -- well, obviously, since i didn't find it was obstruction, i felt that the evidence could not support obstruction. >> i'm asking you if that's fully cooperating. i'm not asking you if that's obstruction. is that fully cooperating? >> he fully cooperated. >> by instructing a former aide to tell the attorney general to unrecuse himself and shut down the investigation and declare the president did nothing wrong, that's fully cooperating? >> where is that in the report? >> that is on volume two, page five, on june 19, 2017, the president dictated a message to lewandowski that jeff sessions should publicly announce he was not recusing himself from the russian investigation, that it's very unfair to the president as the president has done nothing wrong. is that cooperating? >> firstly, asking sessions to unrecuse himself, we do not think, is obstruction. >> i'm not asking you if it's
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obstruction. is it fully cooperating? >> i don't know if that declares the president did nothing wrong. although the president, in terms of collusion, did nothing wrong. isn't that correct? >> collusion is not a crime. it's the obstructing. is that fully cooperating, to say that? >> well, i don't see any conflict between that and fully cooperating with the investigation. >> the president, of course, declared many times publicly in tweets and at campaign rallies that he would testify. but he never did testify. is that correct? >> as far as i know. >> i think you know whether he testified or not. >> as far as i know, he didn't testify. >> and mr. mueller found the written answers to be inadequate. is that correct? >> i think he wanted additional, but he never sought it. >> and the president never testified? >> he never pushed it.
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>> the president never testified? does the fact that mr. mueller 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 fbi, does that trouble you? >> what would they report to the fbi? >> that they were receptive to offers of assistance from russia. >> what do you mean by receptive? i think the report says -- again, obviously, they were expecting to benefit from whatever the russians -- >> page 173, volume one report says in some investigations found multiple links between trump campaign officials and individual ties to the russian government, those links included assistance to the campaign. in some instances, the campaign was receptive to the offer and
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others were not. does that bother you at all is this. >> i need to understand what that refers to, what communications that refers to. >> you have the report. i just gave you the page from the report. my time is up. i'm making the chairman nervous. >> no. just very well done. senator cornyn. >> general barr, the chairman has pointed out that after the hillary clinton email investigation, there were a number -- and mr. comey's press conference, i think it was july 5th, roughly, 2016, there were a number of prominent democratic members of the senate who said that comey should resign. or be fired. i believe you said that you've concluded as a matter of law that the president, as the head of the executive branch of government, has the right to fire executive branch employees. is that correct? >> that's right. >> in this case, the president
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was relying, at least in part, on a recommendation by the deputy attorney general, rod rosenstein, arising out of rod rosenstein's 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? >> that's right. >> you started your career, i believe, in the intelligence community and then moved on, of course, to the department of justice. and 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
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wray continue your efforts in that regard and i'm grateful to you for that. >> thank you. >> i do believe that we need to ask the question, why didn't the obama administration do more as early as 2014 in investigating russian efforts to prepare to undermine and sow dissension in the 2016 election? mr. mueller's report does document that the russian government through their intelligence agencies and internet research or ira, i think it's called, began as early as 2014, began their efforts to do so. and 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? >> not at all. i mean, i think the internet
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creates a lot more opportunities to have that kind of covert effect on american body politics. so it's getting more and more dangerous, but the russians have been at this for a long time in various different ways. but the point you made about bob mueller's efforts on ira, 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 ira and also the gru 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. >> for example, we've heard a lot about the steele dossier. mr. steele, of course, is a former british intelligence officer hired to do opposition
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research by the hillary clinton campaign on her political adversaries, including president trump or candidate trump at that time. how do we know that the steele dossier itself is not evidence of russian disinformation campaign, knowing what we know now, that basically the allegations made therein were secondhand, hearsay or unverified? can we state with confidence that the steele dossier was not part of the russian disinformation campaign? >> no, i can't state that with confidence. that is one of the areas that i am reviewing. i'm concerned about it. and i don't think it's entirely speculative. >> we know that from published reports that the head of the cia, mr. brennan, went to president obama and brought his concerns about initial indications of russian
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involvement in the campaign as early as late july 2016, and instead of doing more during the obama administration to look into that and deter russian activities that threatened the validity and integrity of our campaign in 2016, it appears to me that the obama administration justice department and fbi decided to place their bets on hillary clinton and investigate the trump campaign. thanks to the special counsel, as you point out, we now have confidence that no americans colluded with the russians in an effort to undermine the american people. we now need to know, and i'm glad to hear what you're telling us about your inquiries, research and your investigation. we now need to know what steps the obama, fbi, department of
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justice 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. what's a defensive briefing in a counterintelligence investigation? >> you can have different kinds of 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. >> i think attorney general lynch has said it is routine in counter intelligence investigations. would you agree with her? >> yes. >> do you know whether a defensive briefing ever given to the trump campaign by the fbi based on their
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counterintelligence investigation, did they ever tell the 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? >> failure to provide defensive briefing to the trump campaign, that would be an extraordinary or notable failure. would you agree? >> under these circumstances it's not fathomable why it didn't happen if you're concerned about interference in the election and have substantial people involved in the campaign with three former u.s. attorneys there in the campaign. i don't understand why the bureau would not have gone and given a defensive briefing.
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>> thank you. senator durbin? >> thank you, chairman, attorney general barr. i've been listening to my colleagues on the other side and it sounds like they're going to go after the locker up defense. that it's not about trump and russia, that it's really about hillary clinton's emails. finally we get down to the bottom line, hillary clinton's emails, questions asked about benghazi, travel gate, whitewater. there's 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 i don't agree with all of it. i find, general barr, some of the things that 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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listen to what -- put into record, let me read it. listen to what you received in a letter on march 27th from bob mueller. the summary letter the department sent to congress and reached public late afternoon march 24th 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 march 25th there. is now public confusion about the critical aspects of the results of our investigation. this threatens to undermine a central purpose for which the department appointed the special counsel, to ensure full public confidence in the outcome of the investigations. i cannot imagine that you seefbed that letter on march 24th 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 you received this letter. what am i missing? >> as i explained to senator
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leahy, i talked directly to bob and bob told me that he did not have objections to the accuracy -- >> attorneys don't put things in writing unless they're pretty serious about them. there's an old rule in politics, a good politician doesn't write a letter and doesn't throw one away. i've got to ask you, if he puts it in writing, his concerns of your representations on march 24th, you couldn't recall that when congressman crist asked you that question a few days later? >> no, i'm saying that this -- the -- the march 24th letter stated that bob mueller did not reach a conclusion on obstruction, and it had the language in there about not exonerating the president. my view of events was that there was a lot of criticism of the special counsel for the ensuing few days and on thursday i got
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this letter. and when i talked to the special counsel 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. >> i'll just say this, mr. barr. if you received a letter from bob mueller a few days after your march 24th letter, it was clear he had genuine concerns about what you had said and done to that point. can we move to another topic? >> his concerns was he wanted more added. i would add this. after a month's long trial if i wanted to go out and get out to the public what the verdict was pending preparation of the full transcript, and i'm out there saying here is the verdict, and the prosecutor comes up and taps
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me on the shoulder and says, well, the verdict doesn't really fully capture all my work. how about that great cross examination i did or third day of trial? i'm not trying to capture everything. i'm just trying to state the verdict. >> no. you absolutely used the word summarized in your letter. >> summarized the principle conclusions. >> principle conclusions, which most people would view as a summary. let me move to another topic if i can, for a minute. the office of legal counsel's decision as to whether or not you can prosecute a sitting president, you had strong feelings of that. they were reflected in your volunteered memo to the trump defense team, your 19-page memo. >> did i discuss that? >> certainly 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 and you stated already, the president never submitted himself to what was characterized as a vital
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interview, an actual sit-down interview under oath, not once, and that 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. and on page one, he talks about the whole issue of whether or not he was, in any way, restricted arestrict ed in what he can conclude because of the outstanding on a sitting president. you said that had nothing to do with it. how do you explain first page of volume two that it had a lot to do with it? it's a reason he couldn't reach a binary conclusion on obstruction of justice. >> it's a potential reason, backdrop factors he cited as influencing his prudential
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judgment that he should not reach a decision, which is different than citing the olc, saying that but for the olc opinion, i would indict. >> i'm going to stand by what he has written. i ask others to read it as well. the last point i want to make is about don mcgahn. if you read the section here, 113 to 120 on don mcgahn's experience, the president wanted him to state publicly that the "new york times" article was untrue, that he had not asked mcgahn to fire the special counsel. mcgahn refused and there's speculation as to whether he risked being dismissed or even resigning over this issue. and for you to suggest that this was some sort of a dance with rod rosenstein, i think the president's intent here was very clear. he wanted this to end. he told lester holt, going back to the issue that was raised by the chairman earlier here, the reason to get rid of comey is
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because of the russian investigation. over and over again, the president was very explicit and certainly was very expository in his style. let me ask you this conclusion. my time is up. do you have any objections? can you think of an objection about why don mcgahn shouldn't come before this committee and testify about his experience? >> yes. i think he is a close adviser to the president. >> never exerted executive privilege. >> excuse me? >> may have already waived executive privilege. >> no, we haven't. >> at this point, do you believe -- you're saying -- what about bob mueller, should he be allowed to testify? >> i already said publicly, i have no objection. >> don mcgahn, should he be allowed to testify? >> that's a call for the president to make. >> he's a private citizen at this point. >> i assume he would be testifying about privileged matters. >> i would hope we could get to the bottom of this with actual testimony of witnesses after we take another close look at hillary clinton's emails. thank you. >> we might do that.
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senator lee? >> in his classic dissent in morrison v.olson, justice scalia remarked nothing is so politically effective at the ability to charge at one's opponent and his associates are not wrong-headed, naive and ineffective but in all probability crooks. and nothing so effectively gives an appearance of validity to such charges as a justice department investigation. that observation has, i think, been born out time and time again over the past two years. time and time again, the president's political adversaries have exploited the mueller probe, its mere existence, to spread baseless inewi inuendo to undermine the legitimacy of the 2016 election and effectiveness of this administration. for example january 25th, 2019,
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speaker nancy pelosi asked what does putin have on the president politically, personally or financially? mr. attorney general, is there any evidence to suggest that vladimir putin, quote, unquote, has something on president trump? >> none that i'm aware of. >> february 20th, 2019, former fbi 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're aware of that suggests, even remotely, that president trump is a russian agent? >> none that i'm aware of. >> representative eric swalwell has repeatedly claimed that donald trump, quote, acts on russia's behalf. is there anything you're aware of to back that up by way of evidence? that the president acts on russia's behalf. >> none that i'm aware of.
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>> basically we heard over and over again on national tv, committee hearings, house and senate floor and in the media, we have heard about the president's alleged collusion with russia. but what we have heard is as baseless as any conspiracy theory that we have seen in politics, any that i can think of. the only difference here is that the purveyors of this conspiracy were prominent members of the opposition party. that's concerning. now from the beginning, there were some indications that the russia investigation was, perhaps, not always conducted with the absolute impartiality that the american people should expect and have come to hope, to find in existence within the department of justice, especially given that the track record of excellence that the u.s. department of justice has shown. according to the mueller report
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itself, the investigation into the trump campaign began on july 31st, 2016, after a foreign government contacted the fbi about comments made by george papadopoulos. is that accurate or were there other precipitating events that helped to lead to this? >> that is the account that has been given in the past, as to how it got going. >> 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 there? >> one of the things i want to look -- there are people -- many people seem to assume that the only intelligence collection that occurred was a single confidential informant and a
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fisa warrant. i would like to find out whether that is, in fact, 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. >> cass carter page under surveillance during his time working for the trump campaign, roughly january 2016 to september 2016? >> i don't know. >> was any other trump campaign official under surveillance during that time period, to your knowledge? >> well, these are the things that i need to look at. and i have to say that as i've said before, you know, the extent that there was any overreach, i believe it was some -- a few people in the upper echelons of the bureau and perhaps the department, but those people are no longer there, and i'm working closely with chris wray, who i think has dn a superb job at the bureau.
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we're working together on trying to reconstruct exactly 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 oig investigation. >> as we note, the fisa warrant for carter page was based largely on the so-called steele dossier, in particular on two specific facts about page's trip to moscow to deliver a speech in 2016. first, according to the warrant, page had a secret meeting with igor session, the president of is there any indication that he met with igor session. >> i can't recall that. i don't remember that. let me just say that i want to stay away from getting too deeply into the fisa issue,
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because that's current under investigation by the oig. >> understood. second and more importantly, the warrant also says that page met with igor defiaken against hillary clinton. does the mueller report indicate that page met with him? >> i don't think so. >> is it confirmed that page discu discussed that with anyone? >> not that i recall. >> been discussed by the mueller report, the gold standard of whatware discussing here. i'm glad that you're looking into it. i would encourage you to look into why the fbi relied on this false information and i hope you'll share the results. the public obviously has a right to know what happened here. the u.s. department of justice, the federal bureau of investigation have 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 depend on the whims of who might be assigned to it. they have a right not to believe that a particular investigation might be strzok and painled, might not be tarmaced or influenced by a political obstruction. >> two votes at 11:45. we'll do senator whitehouse and then come back an hour later? we'll break for an hour and do the votes and have lunch. senator whitehouse? >> thank you, chairman. attorney general, you had a conversation with chairman graham earlier this morning, which you described the importance of to use chairman graham's words, hardening our
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ele electoral infrastructure against foreign election interference. i ask you, is anonymous election funding an avenue for possible foreign election influence and interference? >> yes. >> let's turn to the march 27th letter, which you received and read march 28th, the mueller letter. >> uh-huh. >> correct? >> yes. >> when did you have the conversation with bob mueller you referenced? >> on the 28th i think. >> the same day you read it? when did you first learn of "the new york times" and "washington post" stories that would make the existence of this letter public, the ones that came out last night? >> i think it could have been yesterday but i'm not sure. >> when they contacted you to ask for any comment?
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>> they didn't contact me. >> contacted doj to ask for comment? >> i can't remember how it came up but someone mentioned it. >> you knew that the mueller letter was going to become public and that was probably yesterday? >> i think so. >> okay. when did you decide to make that letter available to us in congress? >> this morning. >> would you concede you had an opportunity to make this letter public on april 4th when representative crist asked you a very related question? >> i don't know what you mean by related question. to me it seemed to be a very different question. >> i can't even follow that down the road. that's masterful hair splitting. the letter references enclosed documents and enclosed materials, right? are those the same things that
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you call the documents that mueller provided you? >> yes. >> it's all the same document? >> i'm sorry. >> when you talk about the summaries that mueller provided you, it is the enclosed documents with that letter, which we have not been provided? >> i think they were. they have been provided. they're in the report. >> it's the language of the report in the report? nothing else he provided you then? >> i think that's what he provided. >> okay. if there is anything else, would you provide it to us if it's different in any form? it's odd to be given a letter without the attachment to it. >> i think there were redacted vergs of the -- >> can we get that? >> summaries embedded in the report. >> can we get that, just to be sure? >> sure. >> great, thank you. you agree that none of that material was either grand jury 6e or presented a risk to
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intelligence sources and methods or would interfere or compromise ongoing information or were affected by executive privilege? >> there were redactions made in the executive summaries. but as i said, i wasn't interested in putting out summaries, period. >> well, you know, we can -- >> frankly -- >> this is another hair split ing exercise. you can say it wasn't a summary but mueller said it was a summary. >> i wasn't interested in summarizing the whole report. as i say, i was stating the bottom-line conclusions of the report. >> your letter also says it's intended to describe -- i quote this. >> describe the report, volume one. >> and it's a 400-page report, i don't know why you're -- >> because i state in the letter that i'm stating that the principle conclusions. >> let me also say that, you know, bob mueller is the equivalent of a u.s. attorney.
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he was exercises the powers of the attorney general. is he 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 make it public. i effectively overrode the regulations used discretion to lean as far forward as i could to make that public and it was my decision how and when to make it public, not bob mueller's. >> with respect to the olc opinion that informed bob mueller's zig as he describes in the report, do you agree that that is merely an executive opinion and under our constitution the decision as to what the law is, is made by the judicial branch of the united states government? >> i'm sorry? could you -- >> with respect to the olc opinion that informed mueller's decision not to make a
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recommendation on obstruction, as he said in his report, do you conceive that's an executive opinion and under our constitutional system what the law is gets decided by the judicial branch of government? >> yes. >> is there any way for the olc's opinion to be tested by the judicial branch of government to see if it's correct or not? >> none that comes to mind. >> it could be wrong, could it not? >> i guess hypothetically, it could be wrong. >> and certainly there are respected legal minds that ag e disagree with that. >> excuse me? >> many respected commentators, lawyers that agree with that. >> it's hard to find lawyers that agree on anything. >> the interesting thing to me is that it goes on to say that because of the olc opinion that we have to give the president an extra benefit of the doubt because he is denied his day in court where he could exonerate himself. that seems like fallacy to me.
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if you are the president of the united states, you can either waive or readily override the olc opinion and say i'm ready to go to trial. i want to exonerate myself. let's go. could you not? >> how is this relevant to my decisions? >> it's relevant -- >> because i assume that there was no olc opinion. >> we have a report in front of us that says that 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 waving or overriding this olc opinion that has no judicial basis. correct? >> i don't think there was anything to have a day in court on. the government did not have a
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prosecutable case. >> mueller obviously didn't agree because he left that up to you. >> well -- >> he said that he couldn't either confirm nor deny that there was a prosecutable case here. he left that to you. and when he did, he said, and you apparently have agreed, that this olc opinion bears on it and it would be unfair to the president to put him through the burden of being indicted and not have the ability to be charged. >> i don't want to characterize bob's thought process on this. >> i'm not asking you to characterize it. he has put it in the report. >> i'm not sure what he means to that in the report. >> with respect to -- can i have a minute? i want to nail down, you used the word spying about authorize ed doj investigative activities. >> are you talking about my testimony before the house committee of appropriations? >> yes. during your career at the department of justice and as
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attorney general, have you ever authorized to investigate activities as spying? >> i'm not going to adure the use of the word "spying." my first job was in cia. i don't think it has a prejorative con notation at all. whether it's authorized and predicated spying. spying is a good english word that, in fact, doesn't have cinnamons, because it is the broadest word, incorporating all forms of convert intelligence collection. i'm not going to back off the word spying except i will say i'm not suggesting any prejorative and i use it freakily, as do media. >> was it off the cuff in the hearing that day or did you go in that hearing intending -- >> it was off the cuff, to tell you the truth, when the senator -- i mean the --
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>> congressman probably. >> from shatz from hawaii. >> whoever it was, go ahead. >> when he challenged me and said you want to change your language i was thinking like what's the issue? i don't consider it a used in the press. >> by department. it is not commonly used by the department. my time -- >> it's commonly used by me. >> thank you very much. we'll come back at ten until 1:00. thank you. >> so there is the part one of this hearing. eight senators so far have asked questions, eight out of 22. plenty more to go. they are take ag one-hour break to allow the senators to vote on
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legislation. and as certainly predicted, the democratic senators have one line of questioning. the republican senators have a completely different line of questioning. this is expected, but you do hear bill barr, the attorney general of the united states strongly defending himself in the face of this pretty serious criticism he is getting in this letter that was released this morning from the special counsel robert mueller. >> pundits can debate and will discuss whether or not democratic senators are laying glove ons him. the criticism of barr was that he serves more as a defense attorney for president trump in bringing out the best possible spin, the facts that he wants to from this almost 500-page report. whereas, instead of serving as attorney general for the country and enum rating the details. i don't think that that criticism will fall away, for
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those of us who have read the mueller report tlmpt are things that he is leaving out. for instance, when he talks about don mcgahn and whether or not the president directed him to fire the special counsel. there are events that attorney general barr did not mention and put a gloss on to make it sound as though it was more favorable for president trump than the record. we were talking about this at length. one of the things that mueller writes about in length is not just did he say get rid of special counsel mueller or have rod rosen stein get rid of him, but all the things that happened afterwards that a lot of people don't know about. >> so for example it's not just the president's direction to don mcgahn to tell rod rosenstein to
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dismiss robert mueller. it's the conversations afterward in which the president is pressuring dawn mcgahn, but to create a record. the attorney general in his testimony referred to well there are mixed reasons. maybe it was an obstructive act. maybe he was trying to refute press stories. the mueller report ezit might have been partially motivated by that. but certainly not attempting to get him to create a false record for internal document purposes ten days later. that is an act that seems calculated to essentially be able to impeach don mcgahn's testimony. it's an extent to which the attorney general is cherry picking things in ways that are fundamentally deceptive about what is in the report. >> under the heading obstructive act, the president's repeated efforts to get mcgahn to repeat
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a record denying would qualify as an obstructive act if it had tendencies to deny from testifying truthfully. that is something attorney general barr didn't mention. >> i kept feeling like i was back in criminal trials. i will give you another example. very early on, attorney general barr was asked about obstruction. how did you come to the conclusion that all 11 potentially obstructive acts were not enough. all he had was there was no underlying crime. we know as a matter of law it doesn't matter if there is an underlying crime. it doesn't matter. you can still charge obstruction. martha stewart, scooter libby, roger stone is charged with perjury. bill clinton was impeached and mueller refutes that in the
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report. he said there are plenty of good reasons why people obstruct. maybe it is in the gray areas. maybe they want toavoid personal embarrassment. that was incredibly weak from william barr. >> and who was the u.s. attorney that brought the case against martha stewart? >> that would have been james comby. >> the house judiciary committee voted to allow staff counselors to question bill barr early tomorrow morning. the vote was 21-14. the democrats are in the majority on that committee. let's see if that hearing goes far. >> he says he will not appear if lawyers as opposed to just members of congress are allowed to question him. >> let's see if he changes his mind. >> i predict he will not. this response that we heard just now from barr to this letter from the special counsel
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robert mueller expressing his deep concern in the initial way he summarized the principle conclusions of the mueller report. and there is point after point after point. how do you think barr did in rebutting the criticism he is getting which is very intense from democrats? >> he continued to do what he did to get the criticism which is to say things that are not supported by what is in here. this is the mueller report. the attorney general continued to say things that are not supported by what is in here because he looked at the first summary letter. you get this on the facts. what bob mueller says here and the attorney general just said there and in his prior testimony and initial press conference, a lot of it is not supported by what is in here which are the words of people who work for donald trump, not 12 angry
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democrats, not even attorneys, don mcgahn, hope hicks, so on and so forth. you get the impression that barr is almost offended that mueller is given this great stature. mueller was the fbi director on 9/11, carried over into the obama administration, had his term extended and then led this investigation. not only is what the attorney general saying not supported by what is laid out in great detail here, he is an u.s. attorney under the law and i'm the attorney general. once he is done with his work, that's my baby. that's the attorney general's words. that's my baby essentially trying to say i'm the boss. stop talking about this low guy. >> ipthis letter he makes it clear that the morning after the four-page initial document was september to capitol hill by barr, we communicated that concern to the department on the morning of march 25 even before this march 27th letter putting
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it in all writing his deep concern. >> i think we now have a much better sense of what was animating, what the concern was from the special counsel's team. they talk about context, substance, nuance of it. what was the real nitty-gritty? we understand from barr that he was ticked off because barr did not adequately explain his decision not to reach a conclusion on obstruction of justice. for days, the media coverage was why did mueller punt? what was he thinking? the report explains at length what was going on there. barr did not. barr gave a very cursory overview of it and did not explain the overarching issue about not indicting a sitting president. he wants to say that mueller kept saying it wasn't but for the olc decision that we would have reached a conclusion on obstruction of justice. mueller makes it clear on page one i will not reach a decision
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on obstruction because you can't indict a standing president and because of fairness it wouldn't be proper for me to lay out all this derogatory information about the president if he can't defend himself in court. >> barr defends himself by saying i did not intend my four page letter to be a summary. i wanted it to be basically a verdict, not guilty. and mueller's letter of march 27th says i wrote two executive summaries for you to release. that's what i wanted you to release. barr didn't want to do that. >> you notice those aren't redacted. the idea that it was full of things that would have been law enforcement material, his defense is we needed to scrub it. you look at it, it's pretty clean right now. >> by the way, the idea that mueller didn't want to weigh in, when we heard it, i asked mueller if he wanted to review.
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he declined leaving the impression that he was wringing his hand. you died grand attorney general as opposed to me. in reality, he was saying to him i already invented a wheel. you want me to see if your square peg will guy up the hill. that's not what is going to happen. i wrote the executive summaries and you should have that. notice what barr did today was in demoting robert mueller, elevated the press as a problem by saying there could be no corrupt intept. he was trying to correct the record of the "new york times." and as a matter of law or executive authority he wasn't going to be able to violate that statute. he called mueller's decision prudential about the opinion meaning it was always the elephant in the room. it wasn't the idea of i never considered it. i was dismissive of it t. was the elep


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