tv William Barr Senate Hearing CNN May 1, 2019 9:00am-10:00am PDT
mueller if he wanted to review. 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 elephant in the room here is that i can't do anything about
this. >> let me get your thoughts on how the first couple of hours has been going. >> well, barr sure did establish that he told the truth when he answered the question about whether mueller objected to anything he said. i have to say, i found his answers total gobbledy gook about that. mueller wrote a letter of protest. he wrote a letter saying this was not an accurate rendition of the facts when barr announced his summary or his summary of conclusions. and barr was asked about that. he was asked twice about it under oath. he said mueller had no problems. that's just not true. and it's still not true after the explanations he gave. lehy asked him about it. i am fluent in english. i don't understand what his
answer is on that. >> the specific letter three days after the initial four-page document was sent to capitol hill said your march 24th letter did not fully capture the context, nature and substance of this office's work and conclusions. we communicated that concern to the department on the morning of march 25th. there is now public confusion about critical assets of the result of our investigation. >> and when he is confrbted with his response to congressman crist, he says well i talked to bob mueller and he had no problem. but he obviously did have a problem when he put it in writing. >> let me ask you a question. attorney general barr said that he took this letter to mean an attorney coming after the case after the verdict. he said his four-page summary
letter was not a summary but was just underlying the verdict. he said it would be like an a attorney saying you didn't get in my cross examination on day three. does that pass the smell test? is that what mueller was objecting to? >> no. the whole point of this investigation, as mueller pointed out in his letter, is to tell the public what happened. the whole idea behind a special counsel investigation as opposed to one under the auspices of the attorney general directly, is so the public can have confidence in the conclusions so that there is a measure of independence, not total independence, but a measure of independence. so this isn't about the wonderful cross-examination that bob mueller did three weeks ago. this is about the fundamental conclusion. look, this is also about politics. that letter, the four-page
letter stood out there for a month shaping all the public discourse about the mueller report, convincing much of the country that there is nothing here. and that's why mueller was so upset about it because it was a misleading summary. for barr to tell congress that mueller had no objections is just not true. >> i want to bring in jim sciutto. the letter, the complaint letter three days after the original barr letter was released, his big problem was all of this, the way you described it in your initial letter to congress 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. >> from the beginning of the story, the hope had been that there would be some nonpartisan
referee, arbiter of whether crimes were committed here and what should happen next. that confidence was invested in bob mueller, again by democrats and republicans. bob mueller produced this 400-page report that is with facts and so on. the politics have clearly squelched it. you saw that in the questioning. republicans are from mars, democrats are from venus. republican questions barely raised bob mueller's clear objections to the way barr summarized the report. democrats were asking the key questions. mueller realized that this was going to be a political decision and makes clear he wants congress to decide. ultimately, it is a political decision by congress and will end up in political hands here. even the facts of barr's report, you have barr contradicting stuff that we can read for ourselves here. the d.o.j. guidelines factors
into his decision newt indict because he said it repeatedly. barr made a claim that mueller never pushed it on getting the president to testify. they were pushing and negotiating for months to do that. the president refused. even the facts are in question here. ultimately, it is a political decision riven with politics. >> think back to the very beginning of this. what you have here is proof of the success of the president's political attacks on the special counsel, political attacks on anybody who criticizes him. if you go back to the very beginning there were a lot of republicans still skeptical about donald trump. if he took over the republican party he was sort of the accidental president in the mind of many republicans. they weren't sure what to make of this. now you had the chairman of the committee at the very beginning bob mueller is the gold standard. let him do his job. now you have the chairman of the committee. how much is the president's
attacks worth? lindsey graham said he hadn't read it all. the chairman of the committee with the attorney general in the chair about what to make of the mueller report, the chairman of the senate judiciary committee said i have only read most of it. that's a disgrace whether democrat or republican. >> he said that and for me it is over. >> there was no conspiracy. there was a lot of cooperation between the trump campaign and the russians. why not have a hearing? what should be right, wrong, over the line? do we need new laws? the senate republicans are not going to do that whether it is donald trump, trump tower meeting, then you move to the second part and these are people who work for the president saying these things. you have smart legal minds but the republicans don't want to talk about it. they have the power to call hillary clinton here like they did when they controlled the house. they like to talk about it. they don't do anything about it with their power once the ball
has moved on. >> your point is why he got out ahead of this. barr figured in that most people including apparently lindsey graham were not going to comb through 400 or so pages. the idea of the principle conclusions leading in with a four-page summation, having a press conference 90 minutes before you provided the entire thing, he was banking on the fact that most people would look at his interpretation of it and go with it. for them, like lindsey graham it would be done. the problem is we have a comprehensive system. congress's role and what mueller's is. legislatively they had to do something more. as barr said, russia still poses a threat. no one is going to read the report. it is not that they are mischaracterizing about why bob mueller did what he did. the attorney general today disputed the idea that the
president had told don mcgahn to fire rosenstein. it said the president says call rod and tell him mueller has conflicts. the president said to mcgahn, mueller has to go. he doesn't use the word fire but anybody who reads that passage can understand the president's direction. >> not only that, the report makes it very clear that they believe don mcgahn. they call him credible. they say he has no reason to lie and repeatedly it says things along the lines of challenging president trump's view on page 90 volume 2 for the two percent that read the report, there is evidence that the president knew that he should not have made those calls. >> to pick up on that point, robert mueller describes the effort as a quote effort to remuchb him, meaning robert mueller. they are scared to death of don mcgahn. he is the number one guy they do not want taking the witness
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the attorney general of the united states on capitol hill today being grilled by members of the senate judiciary hearing. they are taking a break right now to allow the senators to go and vote on the senate floor. >> attorney general barr today defending his decisions including his take on obstruction of justice and how there is not enough to prosecute. at one point barr said he was surprised of special counsel bob mueller who didn't make a
specific determination on obstruction. >> we did not understand exactly why the special counsel was not reaching a decision. and when we pressed him on it, he said that his team was still formulating the explanation. once we heard that the special counsel was not reaching a conclusion on obstruction, the deputy and i discussed and agreed that the department had to reach a decision. >> so it was barr and deputy attorney general rosenstein alone who ultimately determined that obstruction could not be prov proven. >> at this point, barr tried to explain the incident dealing with don mcgahn. barr argued that the president never actually used the specific word fire and that the president must have believed that if mueller were removed, another special counsel would take his place. barr also said that if the president felt he was being up
fairly accused, that removing the special counsel would not have amounted to obstruction. >> during the previous testimony during which mueller said he had no issues, this is what barr originally said. >> did bob mueller support your conclusion? >> i don't know. >> reports have emerged recently that members of the special counsel's team are frustrated at some level with the limited information included in your march 24th letter that it does not adequately or accurately necessarily portray the reports' findings. do you know what they are referencing with that? >> no, i don't. >> today during a moment democratic of vermont complained that bill barr's past testimony about the mueller report was misleading. >> why did you say you were not
aware of concerns when weeks before your testimony mr. mueller had expressed concerns? >> answered a question. and 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. >> i feel your answer was purposefully misleading. >> let me bring in jeff toobin. we know that robert mueller
wanted not only a more contexted nuance brought into the public discussion of what the mueller report revealed, but also that he and his team had written two executive summaries written with no redactions to be released immediately to the public and that william barr did not think that that was something he wanted to do. >> and mueller said that what barr had distributed on the 24th, the four-page letter was misleading. even if he didn't put out the summaries that mueller wanted, the fact that he misled the country with that four-page summary, that was what the question is about. that was what the question from senator van hallen. the question was, both questions were the same version of the --
different versions of the same question. are you aware that the mueller staff that mueller is upset about what you did? he said no and that's not true. and it's still not true not withstanding the bizarre and convoluted explanation that barr gave just then. >> i don't want to defend what lawyers do, but do lawyers not hair split? is that not the point? he said i was asked about the unnamed individuals being upset about conclusions and i didn't know anything about that. i did know that robert mueller was not completely happy with my letter which is a separate issue. he could certainly have been more revealing to the nation about what he knew. but i guess what i'm saying is what he not being so specific? i know this is what people dislike about lawyers. was he not being so specific about technically what he was saying is accurate. >> lawyers split hairs when
hairs can be split. but i don't think that is a hair that can be split. that congressman and that senator were asking about descent from mueller. there is no mistaking what they were asking about. there had been a "new york times" story just before barr testified. and for barr to answer, in effect, and in so many words, i am unaware of any complaints from mueller is simply untrue. that's not hair splitting. that's false. >> it's interesting because i went to laura jared. a lot of democrats you are hearing it this morning are coming out including adam schiff saying bill barr must go should resign or he might be impeached. >> democrats are angry about this and you can understand why.
the attorney general i do not predict is going to go quietly or willingly. the standard for perjury is quite high. i cannot foresee a situation in which that's going to happen here. the president, ochf course, has been very happy with his performance not only with the four-page letter but clearly with his use and invocation of spying which we saw republicans hammer today while democrats are all over the issue of the report and mueller's concerns, republicans are on a different planet with spying. that is something that makes the president very happy. >> it's interesting because in the testimony today the republicans had one line of questioning, attacking hillary clinton, going after the obama administration for not doing enough when there were indications that russia was trying to interfere in the election. the steele dossier, he suggested in his response to a question, maybe that was part of a specific russian disinformation
plot to sew descent. >> the attorney general says he is looking into this. when the republicans do this they say paid for by the clinton campaign and don't acknowledge tat it was paid for by republican interests. and then it was handed off later on. in bill barr, donald trump has what he always wanted jeff sessions to be which is an attorney general who says tuesday is monday and the sun is the moon and views his job as protecting the president and not being america's lawyer. there is no question about that. the partisans out there will go nuts on the internet saying how dare you. just match up what he is saying and what is in his letter with what is in here. they are not in the same universe. they are alternative facts. that is what the attorney general of the united states is saying compared to bob mueller. back to the republican point, i will say this again. there may be something in the
clinton e-mail investigation. if there is corruption they should have a hearing and expose it. that's not what today is supposed to be about. they don't want to talk about this. >> the other point he was defending his use of the word spying that was going on against the trump campaign by either obama administration officials or so-called deep state operatives inside the fbi or justice department or the intelligence community. >> that's right. he said basically that would have been an anemic effort. i find it hard to believe that bill barr said the word spying not knowing the kind of reaction it would spark. he tried to defend his use of the word today saying his first job was in the cia and there sy he has been in washington for a long time. he should know that using a word like that and indicating that that might have happened on the
trump campaign basically echoing the sentiment that we have heard from president trump, he should know the kind of reaction that that's going to spark no matter how he views the word spying. >> and barr's testimony resumes in moments. several 2020 democratic candidates are on tap to question the attorney general. ♪ pardon the interruption but this is big! now at t-mobile buy any samsung galaxy s10
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moments from now senators will continue their questioning of the attorney general bill barr on the mueller report and his handling of it. here is barr explaining bhwhy m felt it was necessary to give a summer of the mueller report findings. >> the body politic was in a high state offageitation. there was learning what the results of the investigation was particularly as to collusion. i didn't feel it was in the public interest to allow this to go on for several weeks without saying anything 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? >> and he was pretty specific in rejecting the notion that the
four-page letter was a summary. basically just the verdict not guilty. >> on collusion or conspiracy and obstruction. that's his argument. it wasn't a summary for anybody including bob mueller who thought it was a summary since it was the only thing floating out there for a month. a lot of heat on the attorney general about whether or not he himself committed perjury or was less than honest when he testified before congress between the house and the senate and was asked about the "new york times" report at the time suggesting that members of mueller's team were upset with the four-page verdict, summary as not getting into the weeds and expressing the nuance and the complexities of the case. we have this letter from bob mueller, the special counsel himself to barr making the argument that the march 24 letter did not quote fully convey the context, nature and
substance and conclusions. i was talking about how maybe he was successfully hair splitting in saying i didn't know who these people were about my conclusions. i did know about mueller and the letter, but that is a separate matter. >> i think he is hair splitting to defend himselves. lawyers hair split when they want to make sure the question isn't misleading. his client is not the president, not mueller. it's the american people. so there was nothing misleading about the questions if he is there representing the american people and there to inform people, he should have spoken transparently about it. >> what should he said? >> he should have told them i did speak to bob mueller. >> does he have the prerogative, one thing mueller said in this letter, i wrote two summaries
for volume one about conspiracy and on obstruction which he basically kicked to the attorney general and maybe to congress. i wrote two summaries that didn't need to be redacted. i wanted you to release them. attorney general barr said i didn't juan to do that. >> he didn't give a good explanation. obviously, mueller over a tu-month investigation was more than aware it would become public. he did not incorporate things that shouldn't be in the public's eye in the summations. barr promised transparency to the extent that he could over the regulations of d.o.j. i think he confused the word transparent with opaque. he actually should have been providing the american people with that summation at the very least. remember, the actual letter that mueller wrote to barr said please raise it to congress and the public at this time.
he waited three weeks and gave it to the private attorneys, not the white house counsel of the president of the united states. clearly, he was well aware about the implications and not because of grand jury testimony . he was being deceptive. i expect a great deal more from the attorney general of the united states because if i had had a witness on the stand pull the same antics he did talking about did you mean when you asked the question for the subject and verb and predicate to agree? i would look at you and say i hope you have an indictment. you should expect the same thing for the attorney general of the united states. he was more than splitting hairs. he was being deceitful and an tu opportunity when promised transparency. what did you think a hearing was for? >> bill barr is not a good
witness. you can almost see when he is nervous about a question. when he is comfortable, he has his hands full that he is direct and credible. when the democrats' hand goes to the face. he is invasive and giving what world are we living in answers? that's all he did for almost a month. he gave us his letter. he is giving bizarre answers. what do you mean by receptive? if i was at a break and he was my witness i would say get it together, give straight answers both ways. you are transparently leaning one way. >> let's go up to capitol hill. a lot of democrats are calling on the attorney general bill barr to resign and to resign immediately. what are you hearing? >> reporter: that's right. and a lot of democrats are calling for bob mueller to come and testify before the senate judiciary committee run by
democra democrats. just moments ago a republican senator essentially joined those calls like senator john kennedy of louisiana. i asked him about the concerns that he had. he said i had quote no problem hearing testimony from mueller before the senate judiciary committee. he said i would like to know what he is unhappy about. this is different than what the senate judiciary committee chairman has been saying, lindsey graham, who said essentially this is over after today and bill barr will have the final word before his committee has no plans. he said i don't care about hearing from mueller in a public setting and tried to ask graham if he changed his view on that. he said he will not comment on this until after today's hearing, no indications that he will. democrats here in the hallway are seizing on the testimony from this morning, not going as far as saying that he committed
perjury, but that he deliberately misled this committee during past testimony by the conversations and concerns that he apparently heard from bob mueller that he did not reveal in his testimony before the house and senate panels. i caught up with the democratic senator doug jones who was one of three democrats who actually voted to confirm bill barr. i said do you regret your vote for bill barr. he would have said i don't regret the vote yet, but he said he is getting very close to losing confidence. he said i am incredibly disappointed with barr's handling of the mueller report. you hear democrats criticizing the attorney general in very stark terms. some republicans want to hear from bob mueller, at least one does, john kennedy. >> thanks so much. moments from now barr's
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and just moments from now, senators will continue their questioning of attorney general bill barr on the mueller report or on hillary clinton's various misdeeds depending on what side of the aisle they sit. patri patrick leahy pushed about the actions of the campaign when it was offered help from the russians. >> the fact that mr. mueller
found the trump campaign was receptive to 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 are receptive to offers of assistance from russia. >> what do you mean by receptive? i think the report says -- obviously, they were expecting to benefit from whatever the russians -- >> the report says in some of the investigations multiple lir links, those links included russia offering assistance to the campaign and in some instances the campaign was receptive to the offer. >> does that bother you at all? >> i have to understand what that refers to, what communications that referred to. >> you have the report.
i just gave you the page from the report. >> so let's bring in our team here because pamela brown, i would think that an attorney general of the united states of america who has just minutes before acknowledged that the russians are seeking to interfere in this election and other foreign bodies are seeking to interfere in this election and did so in 2016 might say if anybody from a foreign country offers to help your campaign, offers dirt especially stolen materials about the arrival campaign, you should bring that information to the fbi immediately. >> especially from a hostile -- he is the chief law enforcement officer in our country. he acted like he didn't know what he is talking about and he is going to have to look at the report. as i listened to that, i think
why is he sort of splitting hairs and acting like i don't kn know. >> he really wanted to convey the idea that the public has valorized mueller and put him on a pedestal. barr seemed to want to take him down and make it clear who was in charge of this investigation. this is my baby is what he said about the report. it's interesting, he made it clear that he actually doesn't this go mueller did his job because he didn't reach a decision. and he said what was the purpose
of investigating. mueller says the reason he lays it out is to preserve the record. he says he wanted to do it when memories were fresh. did russia interfere? yes. will you work with us on doing things to prevent that in the future? yes. they ripped the rear view mirror out of the car. they refuse to look at anything that happened. he is the attorney general of the united states. he was the attorney general 25 years ago. it's right here on the report. the investigation identified two different forms of connection business tween the internet research agency and members of the trump campaign. the investigation identified no similar connections between the internet agency and the clinton campaign. don jr. direct messaging with
wiki leaks. negotiations continuing well past when they said they were over. the trump tower meeting, other conversations. define receptive, how about taking information from people, engaging in ongoing communications with people when a simple search engine would tell you they are kind of suspect. >> it would seem to me simple answers instead of the convoluted explanations. that's what we are hearing. the reason he is giving these very convoluted answers is that the simple answer is those
answers were untrue that he was hiding from the congress, that mueller was upset about how this whole process had been handled. he was trying to give the impression that mueller was on board, that everything barr had said, mueller endorsed which was not true. so instead of making that straightforward comment, straightforward answer, he is coming up with these convoluted answers about members of mueller's staff and not mueller himself. that's a problem. that's why people give convoluted answers when they don't want to give simple ones. >> barr's testimony will continue. we will squeeze in a quick break and be right back. if you're turning 65, you're probably learning
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for round two for testimony for attorney general bill barr. listen to this exchange with rhode island senator's previous use of the word spying. >> have you ever referred to authorized department investigative activities officially or publically as spying? i'm not asking for private conversation. >> to me the question is always whether or not it is authorized and adequately predicated, spying. i think spying is a good english word that in fact doesn't have synonyms because it is the broadest word incorporating all forms of covert intelligence collection. so i'm not going to back off the word spying.
i use it frequently as the media. >> when did you decide to use it, was it off the cuff in that hearing? >> it was actually off the cuff, to tell you the truth. >> let's bring in our cnn law enforcement analyst, the supervisory special agent. the whole issue of spying, the allegation was that they were officials sort of deep state officials as a lot of the critics call them who were inside the fbi, your former agency, inside other parts of the u.s. government who were spying on the trump campaign during the election. it's interesting hearing the attorney general. if you talk to anyone inside the justice department or the fbi, they were very much perplexed by the use of the term. it is a good english word. within the halls of the justice department and the fbi it is
referring to what foreign governments do for us. so to hear that used by a lawyer is very curious. i think it is important to note that there has been this kind of back and forth about whether the congress or others should be looking into the actions of the fbi during that election. i think that they should. in a democracy law enforcement can't just say trust us. they have to obviously have that oversight. i talked to people who actually welcome it and say we want to be vindicate skd and reviewed. the problem is there is a question as to whether bill barr is the person to do that review. he appears conflicted based upon the fact that he appears to be running interference for the president. so people inside the justice department and the fbi want to be looked at. the question is should he be the one leading that effort. >> one of the other questions you heard republican questions bring up about the investigation into hillary clinton and the
text mess ages where they said things about then candidate donald trump and hillary clinton destroying e-mails. is that being reviewed by the inspector general of the fbi and justice department? >> so the inspector general already went back and looked at the fbi's actions as to hillary clinton's e-mails. it's a scathing rebuke people were texting each other. i talked to people inside the justice department who think those two especially did great harm to the agency and the reputation. did they actually impact an investigation? i think that's where the president and his allies are trying to conflate the two that you had bad behavior. i have said this before and again that if you believe this conspiracy theory that there was
a deep state inside the fbi trying to bring down donald trump, why didn't anyone know about it in the public? the fbi kept that investigation secret as they do with most and conducted their work and came and announced that it was under investigation. at the time, they didn't announce it because they were focussed on the work, not trying to bring down donald trump. >> i was going to just point out that you see the chairman lindsey graham is about to gavel this round two into session. bill barr, the attorney general is in the seat. they always give the photographers a chance to take pictures as you and i know having covered the hearings many times over the year. by my count, there are still 14 senators who each have seven minutes to ask questions. >> three of those senators are democratic presidential candidates, amy klobuchar of minnesota, kamala harris of california and cory booker of
new jersey. we expect that they will take advantage of the opportunity to have a national stage when they are running for president to make points that are probably broader than ones that have to do with this specific hearing. pamela brown, what are you waiting to hear resolved or asked at this hearing in the remaining hours? >> gosh, there is a lot. i'm not so optimistic that we will hear it given how the attorney general hasn't been fully forth coming it appears or has been hair splitting, as we have said. >> we are going to listen into the hearing. >> republican senator kennedy. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> something you wanted to say, mr. attorney general? >> just briefly, mr. chairman. senator cornen asked me about defensive briefings and i said there were different kinds of
them. i was referring to the kind where you are told of a specific target. and i have been told at the break that a lesser kind of briefing, a security briefing that generally discusses general had threats apparently was given to the campaign in august. >> thanks to my colleagues for letting me go out of order. i promise to be as brief as possible. mr. chairman, or general, thanks for coming today. humans have the universal need i think to be listened to, to be understood and to be validated. i think we all share that. i have listened to the mueller team. i validate them. i twupt be suwant to be sure i
it. has mr. mueller or his team changed their conclusions? >> you mean during the course of the investigation? >> no, today. it's clear at least according to press reports, excuse me, general, that at one point, the mueller team was unhappy. i think it had to do with your letter. what matters to me, and i will get to this in a moment, i want to know first, has the mueller team changed its mind on its conclusions? >> its conclusions as to what? >> collusion, conspiracy. >> not that i'm aware of. >> so the decision not to bring an indictment against the president for collusion kons with russia has not changed. >> it hasn't. >> and the conclusion not to bring an indictment against the president for obstruction of justice has not changed? >> no. >> okay.
i take it from your testimony that the mueller team was unhappy when you received the letter from mr. mueller. >> i can't speak to the team as a whole. >> mr. mueller, then? >> when i talked to bob mueller he indicated he was concerned about the press coverage that had gone on the previous few days. and he felt that was to be remedied by putting out more information. >> i understood you to say the first concern that mr. mueller had he felt like your letter wasn't nuanced enough. >> correct. >> that problem has been solved, has it not? >> it was solved by putting out the whole report which is why i think the whole thing is sort of mind bendingly bizarre because i made clear from the beginning that i was putting out the report, as much of the