Trump’s hand-picked Attorney General William Barr sat for a hearing with the House Appropriations Committee today and Democrats came out swinging. The opening statement was presented by committee chairman Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY), and Barr’s handling of the Department of Justice, as well as the Mueller report, were quickly called into question.
Cmte Chmn Serrano to AG Barr: “When someone higher up tells you not to answer our questions…that’s not who we are as a country.”
— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) April 9, 2019
Before addressing the biggest question of the day around Barr’s summary of the Mueller report and the delay in releasing it to Congress and to the American people, Rep. Serrano touched on the immensely harmful handling of protection for marginalized communities by the DOJ under AG Barr.
‘We have heard what appears to be a lack of commitment to the department’s traditional mission to defend civil rights, disability rights, and prevent discrimination. We have discussed what appears to be a clear animus towards policies that protect individuals’ healthcare, voting rights, access to education and much, much more.’
In opening remarks, Democratic Rep. Jose Serrano addresses "elephant in the room" — AG William Barr's Mueller report summary — and says there are "serious concerns about the process by which you formulated your letter." https://t.co/o2EiP4fRP7 pic.twitter.com/kLK1vJmxyT
— CBS News (@CBSNews) April 9, 2019
Serrano then addressed Barr’s summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the investigation into allegations of collusion between the Trump 2016 presidential campaign and Kremlin operatives as well as obstruction of justice by Trump in his interference with that investigation. Following the release of a story by The New York Times saying that Mueller’s investigative team questioning Barr’s rather whitewashed summary, the issue looms large over the Trump administration and Barr’s DOJ.
‘You turned a 300-plus page report into a four-page letter that supposedly summarized the findings, [but] last week, the New York Times reported that the special counsel’s office had already created summary documents that were ignored in your letter.’
For those watching the Bill Barr hearing, remember, the chairman of the subcommittee, Jose Serrano, just announced his retirement as his Parkinson's Disease advances. https://t.co/1czgPeFtIy
— (((JonathanWeisman))) (@jonathanweisman) April 9, 2019
Until around five minutes before Barr’s summary exonerating the president, Trump repeatedly said he wanted the entire report released. The House of Representatives, in a bipartisan vote, voted 420-0 for the full report to be released. The minute Barr had the report in his hands and insisted that Trump was innocent, Trump and the GOP changed their tunes and began fighting the report’s release.
‘Congress voted unanimously to see that report. The American people want to see the report. I think it would strike a serious blow to our system and, yes, to our democracy if that report is not fully seen.’
‘Representative José E. Serrano,…pressed Mr. Barr to say whether the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, or his staff had played any role in drafting or reviewing two letters that Mr. Barr sent to Congress late last month about the report.’ https://t.co/09yZ4jlIbu
— Gerson Borrero (@GersonBorrero) April 9, 2019
One could argue that Barr’s delay in releasing the report and Trump’s approval of unsupervised redactions is, in itself, a form of obstruction of justice. That’s a difficult argument to make fruitful in any meaningful way while a corrupt president and his friends rule over the DOJ. Serrano reminded Barr that his version of the law does not match the country’s historical interpretation of it.
‘What cannot happen is that somebody higher than you tells you that you don’t have to answer our questions or you don’t have to deal with us at all. That’s not who we are as a country, that’s not who we are as a democracy. Since 2017 our nation’s Justice Department has too often failed to meet the needs of the American people. I hope that with your ascension to attorney general we can work together to change that.’
For live video of the full hearing, see below. Serrano’s comments begin at 58:08.
Featured image screenshot via YouTube