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tv   William Barr Senate Hearing  CNN  May 1, 2019 10:00am-11:00am PDT

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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 report as i could. and it was clear it was going to
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take three weeks or so, maybe four, to do that. and the question is what is the place holder? and the place holder in my judgment was the simple statement of what the bottom line conclusions were. and i wasn't going to be in the business of feeding out more and more information as time went on to adjust to what the press was saying. >> and that's your call as attorney general. >> absolutely. >> that wouldn't be the call of a u.s. attorney or a special counsel? >> no. not at all. > >> i mentioned the nuance ku concern. the second reason that mr. mueller was concerned -- i don't want to say unhappy -- he was concerned about press coverage. >> he felt that what was inaccurate was the press coverage and what they were interpreting the march 24th letter to say. >> and what were you supposed to do about that? >> he wanted to put out the full
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executive summaries that are incorporated in the report. and i said to him i wasn't -- and by the way, those summaries when he sent them required more redaction because of the intelligence community. so the fact is we didn't have readily available summaries that had been fully vetted. but i made it clear to him i was not in the business of putting out periodic summaries because a summary would start a whole public debate. it's by definition under inclusive. i thought we should focus on getting the full report out as quickly as possible which we did. >> and that's your call as attorney general. >> of course. >> and the news coverage issue, none of us can control what the news publishes or prints except the media. but to the extent that an argument was made they didn't have the full report, that's a
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moot issue too now isn't it? >> yes. >> can you briefly go over with me one more time, i find it curious that the mueller team spent all this time investigating obstruction of justice and then reach no conclusion. tell me again briefly why mr. mueller told you he reached no conclusion or couldn't make up his mind? i'm not trying to put words in your mouth. >> i really couldn't recapitulate it. the deputy was with me, the principle associate deputy. we didn't really get a clear understanding of the reasoning. and the report, i'm not sure exactly what the full line of reasoning is and that's one of the reasons i didn't want to try
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to put words in bob mueller's mouth. >> he did not choose to bring an indictment. we know that much. >> right. >> regardless of the reason. >> right. >> i'm going to repeat quickly what we talked about the last time you were here. this is one person's opinion. as i told you before, i think the fbi's premiere law enforcement agency in all of human history. i do think there were a handful of people, maybe some are still there, who decided in 2016 to act on the political beliefs. there were two investigations here. one was an investigation of donald trump. there was another investigation of hillary clinton. i'd like to know how that one started, too. and it would seem to me that we all have a duty. if not to the american people, to the fbi to find out why these investigations were started, who
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started them and the evidence on which they were started. i hope you will do that and you will get back to us. and there is another short way home here, as well. all you got to do is release, the president can, release all the documents and the fbi and the justice department pertaining to the 2016 election. you can redact national security information, but just release it instead of us going through this spin and leaks and rumors. let's just let the american people see them. and the final point i will make, when you are investigating leaks at the department of justice and the fbi, i hope you will include the mueller team, as well. thank you. senator klobuchar. >> mr. attorney general, i will take us out of the weeds here because i think the american people deserve to know what happened in the election for the highest office of the land. i'll give my views very quickly and not ask you about these
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topics. i think your four page letter was clearly a summary and that's why director mueller called it a summary. i think when senator van hallen asked you if the special counsel disagreed with you under oath you had to go out of your way not to at least mention the fact that he had sent you this letter, that you didn't mention it. and then i would say that we must hear from director mueller because in response to some of my colleagues' questions you have said that you didn't know what he meant or why he said it. and i believe we need to hear from him. i want to first start with russia. special counsel mueller's report found that the russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in a sweeping and systematic fashion. later director wray informed us that 2018 was a dress rehearsal for the big show in 2020. director coats, the president's intelligence adviser has told us that the russians are getting
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bolder. yet for the last two years senator langford and i on a bipartisan bill with support have been trying to get the secure elections act passed. this would require backup paper ballots, if anyone gets federal funding it would require audits and better cooperation. yet the white house as we were on the verge of getting a markup in the rules committee and getting it to the floor, the white house made calls to stop this. were you aware of that? >> no. >> that happened. what i would like to know from you as our nation's chief law enforcement officer if you will work with us to get this bill done. otherwise we have no clout to get back up paper ballots if something goes wrong in this election. >> i will work with you to enhance the security of our election and i will take a look at what you are proposing.
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i'm not familiar with it. >> it is the bipartisan bill. it has support from senator graham and the leads are senator langford and myself. it had significant support in the house, as well. the russian military intelligence agency targeted u.s. state and local agencies along with private firms that are responsible for electronic polling and voter registration. the g.r.u. accessed voter information and installed malware on a voting technology company's network. i understand there will be briefings on efforts by russian hackers to gain access to florida election data. will you commit to have the fbi provide a briefing to all senators on this? >> just on the florida situation? >> on the entire russia situation including the florida
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situation. >> sure. >> that will be helpful. we are trying to get our bill passed. i think if everyone hears about this it may help. also according to the report, the i.r.a. purchased over 3,500 ads on facebook to undermine our democracy as the chairman has pointed out contrary to what we heard from a high ranking official at the white house. this was not just a few facebook ads. i am pleased that chairman graham has decided to be lead republican on the honest ads act that i introduced last year with senator mccain. will you help us so we can show where the money is coming from and who is paying for the ads? >> in concept, yes. >> very good, thaupg. we need that support. let's go to something i noted in the opening. you talked about how the two major concerns at your nomination hearing were about the report and about making the
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report public. there was a third concern and it was something i raised. that was your views on obstruction. i asked you if a president or any purp convinerson convincing to change testimony would be obstruction of justice. you said yes. the report found that michael cohen's testimony to the house before it that the president repeatedly implied that cohen's family members had committed crimes. do you consider that evidence to be an attempt to convince a witness to change testimony? >> no. i don't think that that could pass muster, those public statements he was making could pass muster. >> this is a man in the highest office in the most powerful job in our country, and he is basically -- i'm trying to think how someone would react if the president of the united states is implying, getting out there
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that your family members have committed a crime. you don't consider that any attempt to change testimony? >> well, you have two different things. you have the question of whether it's an obstructive act and then also whether or not it is a corrupt intent. i don't think general public statements like that -- we can show that they would have sufficiently probable effect to -- >> let's go to private statements. report found that the president's personal counsel told paul manafort that he would be taken care of. that you don't consider obstruction of justice? >> no not standing alone. on both the same reasons. >> i think that is my point here. >> what? >> you look at the totality of the evidence. that's what i learn whd i was in
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law school. the report foupd that the president's personal counsel told michael cohen if he stayed on message about the trump tower moscow project the president had his back. >> the counsel acknowledged that it is unclear whether he was reflecting the president's statements on that. >> the report found that after manafort was convicted, the president himself called him a brave man for refusing to break. >> yes. and that is not obstruction because the president's -- the evidence, i think what the president's lawyers would say is that the president's statements about flipping are quite clear and express and uniformly the same which is by flipping he meant sucoming to pressure on unrelated cases to lie and compose in order to get lenient
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treatment. that is not -- it's a discouraging flipping in that sense, it's not obstruction. >> look at the pattern here. the report found that after cohen's residence and office were searched by the fbi, the president told cohen to hang in there and stay strong. the report found after national security adviser michael flynn resigned the president made public positive comments about him and when he cooperated changed his tune. during your confirmation hearing i ask you whether a president deliberately impairing the integrity or availability of evidence would be obstruction. you responded yes. this is a different take on senator feinstein's question. would causing mcgahn, the white house counsel, to create a false record when the president ordered him to have the -- when mcgahn told him to deny reports,
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he tells mcgahn deny reports that the president ordered him to have the counsel fired. if you don't see that as obstruction and directing him to change testimony, do you think that would create a false record to impair the integrity of evidence? >> it fails -- the evident would not be sufficient to establish any of the three elements there. first, it's not sufficient to show an obstructive act because it is unclear whether the president knew that to be false. in fact, the president's focus on the fact that i never told you to fire mcgahn. did i ever say fire? i never told you to fire mcgahn. >> i'm getting at something about impairing the integrity of the evidence. i see it as different. >> the second thing, it's hard to establish the nexus to the
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proceeding because he already had testified to the special counsel. he had given his evidence. there is evidence that the president actually thought and believed that the times article was wrong. that is evidence on the president's side of the ledger that he actually thought it was wrong and was asking for its correction. it is also possible, the report says, that the president's intent was directed at the publicity and the press. the government has toprove things beyaupd a reasonable doubt. as the report shows, there is ample evidence on the other side of the ledger that would prevent the government from establishing that. >> i look at the totality of the evidence. when you look at it, it is a pattern. it is different than having one incident. senator. >> general barr, i would like to go back to russia and your
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opening statement laid out some of what the g.r.u. had done, what russian military intelligence had done in terms of hacking. i would like to look at some of the oligarchs and corruption so closely aligned with putin. volume one pages 129 to 144 are largely about deripaska. can you tell us who he is and what his objectives are? >> i would rather not get into that in this open setting. >> well, i'll at least quote the department of treasury because this is a public document. oleg deripaska is the designated individual. he possesses a russian diplomatic passport and regularly claims to represent the russian government. he is an aluminum and other metals billionaire. he has been investigated by the u.s. government and by others by money laundering, he has been charged with illegal wire tapping, taking part in
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extortion and racketeering schemes, he ordered the murder of a businessman and has many links to russian organized crime. i think we can agree he is a bad dude. this is a bottom feeding scum sucker. he has absolutely no -- i'll take your laugh as agreement. he has absolutely no alignment with the interests of the u.s. people and our public. so the section of volume one that deals with nominally paul manafort and about deripaska, i would like you to help us have an american public understanding of what is and isn't allowed. paul manafort is hired by deripaska for things related to the ukraine. they have a bunch of failed business ventures together. he is on the pay roll of a russian oligarch that has interested completely disaligned with the american people. he is on his payroll. is it permissible for someone to
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be paid by someone who is basically an enemy of the united states? could that individual volunteer to a campaign in the u.s.? i mean this -- let me interrupt for a second and say one of the things i think is painfully tragic about a hearing like this, i think the vast majority of the american people will tune it out. those that pay attention will think the omtake aways is a bunch of people were pro trump before they came and stayed pro trump and we didn't dig into any of what the report says. i think the 448 pages say a bunch of really important things about intelligence operations against the united states people and our public and our government and our public trust. i think it isn't just about 2016. there are important questions about 2016. chairman graham summarized how much money and time was available to the special counsel and his team to do their work. so there are a bunch of factual matters that matter.
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if one of the most important things we take away from this -- it needs to be that we are going to be under attack again in 20 20. it's also likely china who is much more sophisticated. can you help us understand what is legal and illegal about foreign intelligence services being involved in u.s. elections? and what should american people know about what's appropriate and not appropriate to take in the form of help from foreign intelligence agencies? >> that's a very broad topic what is legal and illegal. can you refine it a little bit? are you talking about what kind of propaganda, that kind of thing, coming into the country? >> you can't put money into a campaign. >> could you -- could russia/china decide to come into
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the united states and look at all the political talent and make a database. the hack in 2014 tells us the chinese government is actively involved in creating databases. more than 20 million people are already in the spy recruitment database. could they come in and build a database of all campaign operatives in the u.s. and just decide to hire all of them and say why don't you volunteer for this campaign and you volunteer for that campaign? could we have campaign chair men and women running around the u.s.? paid for by foreign entities choosing to volunteer on campaigns going forward. is that legal? >> if their time is paid for for the purpose of participating in a campaign, i wouldn't think it's legal. >> but given how sleazy so much of the city is and a bunch of people live on retainers of 15, 20, $30,000 a month, is it
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always obvious? some russian oligarch decides to put american campaign personnel on retainers and say we may need you to lobby for something. they have views on oil pipelines. we will hold you on retainer and the fact that you are a person who likes to work for specific campaigns, feel free to go and do whatever you want whenever you want. is that a place we should head? is that allowed under u.s. law today? >> it depends on the specific circumstances, the nature of the agreement, who the person is representing. are they representing the interest of a foreign government or foreign agent? are they registered? it's a slippery area. we can sit here all day and without specifics -- >> i only have seven minutes. i don't get all day. you are the chief law enforcement officer of the united states government. i think it would be helpful to have a shared understanding of what campaign operatives should
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well understand is beyond the pale. if the chinese government decides to start hacking into 2020 campaigns, i would hope there is clarity from the department of justice about whether or not democratic presidential campaigns and whether the trump re-election campaign are allowed to say we are interested in this hacked material. i think we need to have clarity. i think as somebody on the intelligence committee, i think there are a bunch of counter intelligence investigations happening where campaigning don't really understand what the laws are. i think we need a lot more clarity about it. let me give it to you as a precise question. under the presidential transitions act, once you have a democratic nominee for president and a republican nominee for president one thing we do is start to brief them on in the event that you would become the president-elect, you will need to know where we are in different national security issues. should we be adding to the presidential transition act
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counter intelligence briefings for campaigns as they become the nominee in a much more detailed way than the response you had about the bureau's efforts when senator corn en if briefings should be given? should nominees for the highest office in the land heading into 2020 be receiving regular counter intelligence briefings on the fact that foreign intelligence services aren't going to surround people that are likely people of influence and pripsple officers of the united states government should nay win? >> absolutely. i think the danger from countries like china, russia and so forth is far more insidious than it has been in the past because of nontraditional collectors that they have operating in the united states. and i think most people are unaware of how pervasive it is
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and what the risk level is. and i think it actually should go far beyond even campaigns. more people involved in government have to be educated on this. >> thank you. i'm at time. i would love to work with you in the broader intelligence community on that more. i think there are a number of members of the senate intelligence committee who know what you are saying particularly about the chinese government and their intent to incircle lots of people who will have influence in the future. i think we not just the whole of government effort but the whole society effort have to become much more sophisticated about what is being plotted for the future. >> whenever there is an election, foreign governments and operatives descend on the people who they think could have a shot at winning. it's common and most typical scenario is that they do try to make contacts and so forth.
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>> and in a digital cyber era, you don't need a bar and a hooker anymore. you can surround people digitally much easier and we know we will be having these kinds of attacks in the future and we need to up our game. thanks. >> minus the bar and the hooker, we will have hearings about all this stuff. thank you attorney general barr. i want to follow-up on some of the line of questioning from senators sasse and klobuchar. the special counsel was appointed to investigate the attack on our 2016 election and potential coordination with the trump campaign. i'm glad the chairman started by recognizing we need to focus on the assault on our democracy. i look forward to working with my colleagues whether on sanctions bills or on the langford klobuchar bill. we generally need leadership from you, mr. attorney general and from the white house and our president to make sure that we are doing everything we can to protect our next election.
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but frankly, we can't ignore volume two of this report which i think details unacceptable conduct by the president and his campaign. and that includes trying to fire the special counsel without cause. i appreciated the leadership of senators graham and till s in a bill to try to protect the special counsel, something i think is still worth doing for future special counsels. we were told by many colleagues there was nothing to worry about because the president wasn't going to fire the special counsel. i was particularly struck by some reports in the second volume that the president attempted to do exactly that. i frankly, mr. attorney general, have concerns that your march 24 letter obscured that conduct and as a result worked to protect the president for several weeks rather than give the full truth to the american people as i now believe special counsel mueller was urging you to do as reflected in thoe letter we jus received today. the bottom line is that i think we need to learn more about the special counsel's work from the
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special counsel. according to special counsel mueller's report, in june of 2017, president trump called white house koum mcgahn and directed him to have a special counsel removed. this is from about page 85, 86. mcga mcgahn recalled the president called him at home twice and directed him to call rosenstein and say that mueller had conflicts and could no longer serve at special counsel. mcgahn testified that he shared the conflicts were silly, not real and chris christie advised president trump there were no good cause to fire the special counsel. in one call, the president said tell him robert mueller had conflicted. mueller has to go. i assume he didn't mean go to cleveland or seattle. he meant go, be fired. call me back when you do it. i think the president's demands to fire mueller without cause are alarming and unacceptable.
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mr. attorney general, not one bit of what i just described was in your march 24th letter to this committee. was it? >> no. it was in the summaries offered to you by special counsel mueller and his team which you chose not to release. >> i respect and appreciate. a critical three weeks passed between when you delivered the letter with the focus on the principle conclusions and when we ultimately got the redacted report. what i take from the mueller letter -- >> why were they critical? >> i think that the volume two summary would have revealed to the general public a whole range of inappropriate actions by the president and his core team. on february 5th of 2018 over a week after the story broke publically that the president ordered his white house council to fire the special counsel investigating the president, the
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president demanded that mcgahn create a false record saying the president never directed mcgahn to fire the special counsel. the president wasn't looking for a press statement here or looking to correct the record. he wanted a fraudulent record for white house record, a letter that wasn't true. mcgahn refused to do it. there is nothing about the president's request to create a false record in your march 24th letter. >> that's your characterization of it. it would be difficult for the government to prove that beyond a reasonable doubt. there are very plausible alternative explanations. but the -- what i was trying to get out was the final report and have one issuance of the complete report. i made it clear in the march 24th letter that bob mueller didn't make a decision, but that
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he felt he could not exonerate the president. >> that's right. >> i wasn't hiding on where mueller was. he was presenting both sides of the issue. he was not making a call. he felt he couldn't exonerate the president. and then i briefly described the process we went through to make a judgment. as i say, from the public interest standpoint i think it should be the complete report. >> i know we differ in our conclusions about what that meant, but my concern is that that gave president trump and his folks more than three weeks of an open field to say i was completely exonerated when had you released the summaries of the first and second volume, we would have been more motivated than ever based on the first
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volume to work cooperatatively and more concerned than ever about misdeeds, inappropriate actions by the president and by some of his core team as a result of the summary of the second volume. at the end of the day, you had a number och exchanges where you said i can't tell you why mueller chose not to charge. i want to hear that from bob mueller. i think we should hear from special counsel mueller. let me move on to a point senator sasse was asking about foreign intelligence and their role in our elections. the reason we have this investigation was george papadopoulos was told the russians had dirt on hillary clinton and offered to give dirt about his father's opponent. donald trump jr. said i love it and invited the campaign chairman and son-in-law to a meeting. >> who did you say offered it? >> in the second instance it was russians made an offer to donald trump. i have 30 seconds. let me get to a question if i
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could. going forward, what if a foreign adversary offers a presidential candidate dirt on a competitor in 2020? do you agree with me the campaign should immediately contact the fbi? >> yes. >> should they say i love it, let's meet? >> if foreign intelligence service does, yes. >> here is my core concern. the president ordered the white house counsel to have special counsel mueller fired. he fabricated evidence to cover it up. it is unacceptable. everyone who said we didn't have to worry about president trump firing special counsel was flat out wrong. the russians offer the trump campaign dirt on hillary clinton and the trump campaign never reported it and instead tried to
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conceal the meeting and mislead the american people. i think we have to work on a bipartisan basis to protect on a repeat on this. you somehow concluded the president didn't obstruct justice and announced you had cleared the president 25 days before the public could read the mueller report for themselves. i think it is no wonder special counsel mueller thought your four-page letter created public confusion about critical aspects of the results of the investigation and that threatened to undermine the central purpose for which he was appointed. i think we need to hear from special counsel mueller. i think we need to hear from don mcgahn and review how we are going to mand ahandle the fact you are supervising 12 ongoing cases that have come out of the mueller investigation and have been referred. this body has a central role in oversight that i believe we need to exercise given your recent
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record. thank you. general barr, i commend your candor in calling what happened in 2016 what it is which is spying from the trump campaign and spying on the president of the united states. let's talk more about spying. counter intelligence investigations like the one that we now know the fbi launched against candidate trump and president trump, those are designed to thwart spying and sabotage is that correct? >> that's correct. >> to your knowledge has the fbi laurched koupter intelligence against another president. >> not to my knowledge. >> to your knowledge this move was kmecompletely unprecedented >> to my knowledge. >> would it be unusual to your knowledge to hide existence and results from their superiors? >> would it be typical? >> it would it be unusual? >> very unusual.
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>> that is what press reports suggest happened here. investigations from superiors is there anybody to hold them accountable? what happens? >> there is no accountability. >> have you looked into the decision by the fbi to why they launched the counter intelligence investigation? >> i am looking into it. i have looked into it. >> and you will -- will you commit to telling us what you find as the result of your own review and investigation? >> well, at the end of the day, when i form conclusions, i intend to share it. >> i'll take that as a yes. let me ask you about 25th amendment. we know that former acting director publically confirmed that he contemplated forcing the president from the office. have fbi officials contemplated forcing any other from the office against his will. >> not to my knowledge.
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>> contemplated taking over when the president is unable to act. would you agree that that text con templates physical ailments like a coma, mental incapacitation, not just political differences of opinion? >> yes. >> have you ever doubted since you have been in your current position whether this president is physically able a to discharge the duties as president? >> no. >> would you agree that discussions within the fbi of forcing the president out of office for political reasons gives the public at best reason to question what the fbi is doing and to fear that there may be abuses of power in the organization? >> i think it gives reason to be kurp concerned about those particular individuals involved. >> speaking of particular individuals who are involved, i have listened to this testimony all day today. to me maybe the most shocking thing i have heard is this.
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august 26, 2016. this is a text message from a top counter intelligence investigator who we know helped launch this counter spy investigation of the president of the united states. he says just went to a southern virginia wal-mart. i could smell the trump support. smell is capitalized. just went to a southern virginia wal-mart. i could smell the trump support. you want to know what is going on here and why the count fr intelligence investigation happened and why we are sitting here today? that's why is because an unelected bureaucrat, an unelected official in this government who clearly has open disdain for trump voters like the people of my state, i could smell the trump support then try to overturn the results of the democratic election. that's what is really going on here. that's the story. that's why we are here today.
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i cannot believe that a top official of this government with the kind of power that these people had would try to exercise their own prejudices. that's what this is. it's open blatant prejudice. we try to use that in order to overturn a democratic election. to my mind, that's the real crisis here. it is a crisis. if there is not accountability then we don't have a democracy anymore. i appreciate your leadership. i look forward to hearing the results of your investigation. and i look forward to this committee continuing its constitutional responsibility to find out what is going on here and making sure that the will of the people is vindicate skpd established. senator blumenthal. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you attorney barr for being here today. you have been very agile in your responses to questions here.
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i think history will judge you harshly and maybe a bit unfairly because you seem to be the designated fall guy for this report. i think that conclusion is inescapable in light of the four-page summary and then the press conference you did on the day it was released knowing that you had in hand a letter from the special counsel saying that he felt that you mischaracterized his report. and you were asked by one of my colleagues, senator van hallen, whether you know, whether you knew that bob mueller supported your conclusion. and you said i don't know whether bob mueller supported my
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conclusion. you were asked by representative crist -- >> excuse me, senator. that conclusion was not related to my description of the findings in the march 24th letter. that conclusion refers to my conclusion on the obstruction. so it's a different conclusion. >> it was used by special counsel mueller. and on the obstruction issue, at page 8 and 18 2 of the report, the special counsel specifically said at the same time if we had confidence after thorough investigation of the facts that the president did not commit obstruction of justice we would so state. he said it again at page 182 and yet in your summary and in the
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press conference that you did, you in effect cleared the president on both so-called -- >> the difference is i used the proper standard. that statement is a strange statement. >> robert mueller concluded that there was substantial evidence on four -- on the three necessary elements of obstruction. >> you're a prosecutor -- >> i have to finish my question. >> if you let me finish my answer. >> we can do both. >> you ignore in that press
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conference and in the summary that robert mueller found substantial evidence. and it's in the report. and we have a chart that shows the elements of that crime, intent, interference with an ongoing investigation and the obstructive act. so i think that your credibility is undermined within the department, in this committee and with the american people. and i want to ask you whether on those remaining investigations, the 12 to 14 investigations, whether you have had any communication with anyone in the white house. >> no. >> and will you give us an iron clad commitment that you will in no way -- >> i'm not sure the laundry list
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of investigations. i certainly haven't been directed to do anything on any of the cases. >> let me give you an tu opportunity to clarify. have you had any conversations with anyone in the white house about those ongoing investigations that were spawn or spun off -- >> i don't recall having any substantive discussion on the investigation. >> have you had any nonsubstantive discussions? >> it is possible that a name of a case was mentioned. >> and have you provided information about any of those ongoing investigations? any information whatsoever? >> i don't recall, no. >> i don't recall. >> i don't recall providing anything. >> wouldn't you recall if you gave information to somebody in the white house about an ongoing criminal investigation in the southern district of new york or the eastern district of new york or the eastern district of virginia or the department of
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justice? >> i mean, i just don't recall providing any substantive information about a case. >> is there anything that would refresh your recollection? >> if i looked over a list of cases and thought about it. but i don't recall -- >> we know what the investigations are. we have discussed them at your confirmation hearing, correct? >> i think you have 12 or 18 cases, right? >> you don't know what those investigations are? >> i do generally, but i can't remember each? >> let me ask you one last time. you can't recall whether you have discussed those cases with anyone in the white house including the president of the united states? >> my recollection is i had not discussed those. >> but you don't recall for sure? >> i can say very surely i did not discuss the substance of anything.
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>> will you recuse yourself from those investigations? >> no. >> let me ask you about a couple of quotes from the president since a number of my colleagues have raised the russian investigation. these are from the report on truths recited by the report from the president when president trump was asked about the intelligence community's conclusion that russia interfered in our election to boost trump's chances. he said he had no idea if it's russia, china or somebody. it could be somebody sitting in a bed someplace. >> 400 pound person. >> i'm sorry, mr. chairman. >> a 400-pound person sitting on a bed. >> he referred to it as somebody. he also had helsinki denied russian attacks in 2016 on our
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election, another lie. two days after president trump was elected, russian officials told the press that the russian government had maintained contacts with trump's quote immediate entourage end quote during the campaign. when president trump was asked about it he said quote there was n no communication between the campaign and any foreign entity during the campaign. the first quote i gave you was page 21 of volume 2. the president initially denied playing any role in shaping his son's statement to the press about the now infamous june 9 meeting. the mueller report established that the president dictated a misleading statement about the that meeting through hope hicks at page 101 and 102 of volume 2. after news organizations reported that the president
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ordered mcgahn to have the special counsel removed, the president publically disputed these accounts. the mueller report establishes that quote substantial evidence supports the conclusion that the president, in fact, directed mcgahn to call rosenstein to have the special counsel removed. that's volume 2 page 88. in your view, did president trump on those occasions and others recited in the report lie to the american people? >> i'm not in the business of determining when lies are told to the american people. i'm in the business of determining whether a crime has been committed. >> so he may have lied. >> i would like an opportunity to answer some of these questions. you started by citing this thing in volume 2 about how the report says that they could not be sure that they could clearly say that he did not violate the law. as you know, that's not the
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standard we use in the criminal justice system. it's presumed that someone is incei innocent and the government has to prove that they clearly violated the law. we are not in the business of exoneration and in the business of proving they didn't violate the law. >> i find you exonerated him in your press conference and in your four-page summary. >> how did that start? i didn't hear the beginning? >> you exonerated or cleared the president. >> i diplomat exdn't exonerate. i said we did not believe there was substantial evidence. the job of the justice department is now over. that determines whether or not there is a crime. the report is now in the hands of the american people. everyone can decide for themselves. there is an election in 18 months. it's a very democratic process. we are out of it. we have to stop using the
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criminal justice process as a political weapon. >> my time has expired. i apologize, mr. chairman. i would just say that the four-page letter and the press conference that you did left a clear impression and it has been repeated again and again that you cleared the president. >> thank you. thank you had, mr. chair. thank you attorney general barr for being here today and visiting with all of us. the special counsel's investigation and all of the ripples that came from the 2016 presidential election have really permeated the country. there is great interest in this. as i'm touring the 99 counties of iowa i am asked about this at town halls and other interactions with my constituents just as much as any other issue at hand. and i am sure many other senators here have had the same experience. and i would like to start today
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by visiting with you about the actions of russia during the 2016 presidential election. i think that's where a lot of us we need to focus on what happened in the 2016 election and then look ahead and make sure we're safeguarding our practices. so i think it is natural to think of acts of aggression by a foreign state in terms of bullets, in terms of bombs, that is what we typically thought of as acts of aggression. after all, up until just recent days, acts of aggression or warfare has been a symmetrical operation by a foreign adversary. in the past it has been practiced by boots on the ground or various bombing campaigns but that is not what we are facing today. and i do believe what we saw from russia was an act of aggression. other adversarial foreign states, not just russia but i
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think a number of colleagues have mentioned china as well, perhaps north korea, iran, we could go on and on. not only do they practice direct hostile military action, just as russia did in ukraine with the illegal annexation of crimea but in the special counsel report they seek to influence the elections of our free states through cyber means and it is an objective thought that russia attempted to influence our election. we know that, folks. all of us admit to that. we see the evidence that russia tried to influence our election. the hacks, the disinformation and social media cyber attacks by russia were done with the intent to sow discord among the american people. russia will show no hesitation. they have not in the past, they won't in the future, in using these types of acts after gression in an attempt to ubd
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mine our elections process and our way of life and it doesn't matter if the attack is coming from the end of a barrel of a gun or the click of a mouse. we have to get to the bottom of it. and so, general barr, the past two years we've been talking about this investigation in terms of what happened and now we have the opportunity to decide how to do better. so the special counsel report is the end of the road. i think many have stated that. the end of the road when it comes to the question of the trump administration intent, but it is just the beginning of the conversation on how we counter russia and other foreign adversaries in their attempts to undermine our republic. so if we can talk about that 2016 presidential election. do you see vulnerabilities or weaknesses that existed at that time that left us open to
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foreign aggression, foreign influence in the election system and then how do we move forward through the department of justice in making sure we're shoring up some of those avenues of approach of a foreign adversaries. >> yes. the fbi has a very robust program. the foreign influence task force which is focused on this problem. and is working to counter-act and prepare for the kinds of interference that we saw -- have seen. and it is a very dynamic program. i've been briefed on it by chris wray and i'm very impressed with what they're up to. i think that the way i view this general problem is there is always been efforts by russia and other hostile countries to influence american elections and
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public opinion. but it was more easily detectible and sort of a cruder operation in the past. and what we have now is with technology and the democracyization of information, the danger is far morin -- more insidious and this is just the way we -- we communicate with each other and into our business systems, our infrastructure. it also allows them to do exactly what we've seen, which is because of our robust first amendment freedoms, they're able to come in and pretend their americans and affect the dialogue and the social dynamics in the united states in a way they've never been able to do before. and it is a huge challenge to deal with it. but i think the intelligence community is responding to the
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challenge and the threat. i think -- i had this discussion with bob mueller on march 5th when he was briefing me on his work and discussing lessons learned what, he's seen in dismantling the threats that he was able to detect and how we could start using that approach across the board. >> so i see we've acomplished a lot through the -- accomplished a lot through the federal agencies and just is and are we able to work with other social media giants or other private organizations to help counter some of them. do you see they are stepping up to this challenge to take this on and making sure that they are pushing back as well against what they might determine as a foreign adversary? >> yes, i think the private companies are stepping up their game and being more responsible in addressing it. >> i think it is -- i think that
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is important. i'm sorry, go ahead, please, general. i just think it is important that we really focus on why we're here today. and that is because we did see russian influence in our 2016 presidential election. what we need to make sure is many of our other colleagues have noted is that this doesn't happen to us again. and that we are aware and as a public we're aware of what has been happening. not just in our own elections process here in the united states, but to many of our allies around the globe as well. and making sure that we are adequately pushing back against that and even over-matching in making sure that we keep that type of influence out of our election cycle. so i appreciate your time today. thank you very much, general barr. >> thank you. >> senator hirono. >> thank you, mr. chairman. mr. barr, now the american people know that you are no different from rudy giuliani or kellyanne conway or any of the other people who sacrifice their
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once decent reputation for the liar who sits in the oval office. he once turned down a job offer from donald trump to represent him as his private attorney. at your confirmation hearing you told senator feinstein that the job of attorney general is not the same as representing and, quote, the president. so you know the difference you've chosen to be the president's lawyer and side with him over the interest of the american people. to start with, you should never have been involved in supervising the robert mueller investigation. you wrote a 19-page unsolicited memo which you admit was not based on any facts attacking the premise of half of the investigation. and you also should have insisted that deputy attorney general rod rosenstein recuse himself. he wasn't just a witness to some of the president's obstructive behavior, we now know he was in frequent personal contact with the president, a subject of the investigation. you should have left it to career officials.
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then once the report was delivered by the special counsel, you delayed its release for more than two weeks and let the president's personal lawyers look at it before you even damed to let congress or the public see it. during the time you substituted your own political judgment for the special counsel legal conclusions and in a four-page letter to congress and now we know, thanks to a free press, that mr. mueller wrote you a letter objecting to your so-called summary. when you called mueller to discuss his letter, the reports are that he thought your summary was giving the press, congress and the public a misleading impression of his work. he asked you to release the report summaries to correct the misimpression you created, but you refused. when you finally did decide to release the report, over a congressional recess and on the eve of two major religious holidays, you called a press conference to once again try to
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clear donald trump before anyone had a chance to read the special counsel report and come to their own on collusions. but when we read the report, we knew robert mueller's concerns were valid and that your version of events was false. you used every advantage of your office to create the impression that the president was cleared of misconduct. you selectively quoted fragments from the special counsel report, taking some of the most important statements out of context and ignoring the rest. you put the power and authority of the office of the attorney general and the department of justice behind a public relations effort to help donald trump protect himself. finally, you lied to congress. you told representative charlie crist that you didn't know what objections mueller's team might have to the march 24th so-called summary. you told senator chris van hollen you didn't know if robert mueller supported your conclusions but you knew you lied and now we know.
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a lot of respected nonpartisan legal experts and elected officials were surprised by your efforts to protect the president. but i was unsurprised. you did exactly what i thought you would do. it is why i voted against your confirmation. i expected you would try to protect the president and, indeed, you did. in 1989, this isn't something you hadn't done before. in 1989 when you refused to show congress an olc opinion that led to the arrest of manuel noriega in 1992 when you recommended pardons for the subjects of the iran contra scandal and last year when you wrote the 19-page memo telling donald trump as president can't be guilty of obstruction of justice and then didn't recuse yourself from the matter. from the beginning you were addressing an audience of one. that person being donald trump. that is why before


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