After Judiciary Hearing, Harris Calls on Barr to Resign
WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) on Wednesday released a statement following Attorney General William Barr’s appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee:
“After today’s hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, it is clear that Attorney General Barr lacks all credibility,” said Harris. “The American public deserves an attorney general that will fairly and impartially enforce the law. Barr must resign.”
Harris continued, “As a former attorney general, I take extremely seriously the responsibility of the Attorney General of the United States to represent the interests of justice for the American people, not the interests of the president. Yet Attorney General Barr refused to provide a straight answer about whether the president or anyone in the White House had directed him to open an investigation into any individual, and he acknowledged that he did not review the underlying evidence of the Mueller report before deciding not to charge the president with obstruction of justice.
“Attorney General Barr has a fundamental conflict of interest that seriously undermines his ability to fulfill his vital role on behalf of the American people. We need a new attorney general immediately.”
During the hearing, Harris asked Barr whether the president or anyone in the White House had ever asked him to open up an investigation into anyone. Barr refused to answer.
HARRIS: Has the president or anyone at White House ever asked or suggested that you open an investigation of anyone? Yes or no please, sir.
BARR: The president or anybody else?
HARRIS: Seems you would remember something like that and tell us.
BARR: Yeah, but I’m trying to grapple with the word “suggest”. There have been discussions of matters out there- that they have not asked me to open an investigation.
HARRIS: Perhaps they’ve suggested?
BARR: I wouldn't say suggest.
BARR: I don't know.
Harris also questioned Barr about whether he had reviewed the underlying evidence that informed Special Counsel Mueller’s report before he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein decided not to charge the president with obstruction of justice. Barr indicated that he had not.
HARRIS: My question is in reaching your conclusion, did you personally review all of the underlying evidence?
BARR: No. We took --
HARRIS: Did Mr. Rosenstein?
BARR: No, we accepted the statements in the report as the factual record. We did not go underneath it to see whether or not they were accurate. We accepted it as accurate and made our—
HARRIS: So you accepted the report as the evidence.
A full transcript of Harris’ questioning is below:
Harris: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Attorney General Barr- has the president or anyone at White House ever asked or suggested that you open an investigation of anyone?
Barr: I wouldn’t-
Harris: Yes or No?
Barr: Could you repeat that question?
Harris: I will repeat it. - has the president or anyone at White House ever asked or suggested that you open an investigation of anyone? Yes or no please, sir.
Barr: The president or anybody else?
Harris: Seems you would remember something like that and tell us.
Barr: Yeah, but I’m trying to grapple with the word suggest. There have been discussions of matters out there- that they have not asked me to open an investigation.
Harris: Perhaps they've suggested?
Barr: I wouldn't say suggest.
Barr: I don't know.
Harris: Inferred? You don't know? Okay. In your March 24th summary you wrote that, quote, after reviewing the special counsel final report --
Barr: I will say that no one --
Harris: Sir, I’m asking a question. In your March 24th summary, you wrote that, quote, after reviewing the special counsel's final report, Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and I have concluded that the evidence is not sufficient to establish that the president committed an obstruction of justice offense. Now the special counsel's investigation produced a great deal of evidence. I’m led to believe it included witnesses and notes and emails and witnesses and congressional testimony, witness’s interviews which were summarized in the FBI 302 forms, former FBI director Comey memos and the president's public statements. My question is in reaching your conclusion, did you personally review all of the underlying evidence?
Barr: No. We took --
Harris: Did Mr. Rosenstein?
Barr: No, we accepted the statements in the report as the factual record. We did not go underneath it to see whether or not they were accurate. We accepted it as accurate and made our --
Harris: So you accepted the report as the evidence.
Harris: You did not question or look at the underlying evidence that supports the conclusions in the report?
Harris: Did Mr. Rosenstein review the evidence that underlines and supports the conclusions in the report, to your knowledge?
Barr: Not to my knowledge. We accepted the statements in the report and the characterization of the evidence as true.
Harris: Did anyone in your executive office review the evidence supporting the report?
Harris: No. Yet you represented to the American public that the evidence was not, quote, sufficient to support an obstruction of justice offense --
Barr: The evidence presented in the report -- this is not a -- this is not mysterious process, in the Department of Justice we have cross memos and declination memos every day coming up and we don't go and look at the underlying evidence.
Harris: Sir, would you support --
Barr: We take the characterization of the evidence as true.
Harris: As the attorney general of the United States, you run the Department of Justice. If any attorney's office around the country, the head of that office, when being asked to make a critical decision, about in this case the person who holds the highest office in the land, and whether or not that person committed a crime, would you accept them recommending a charging decision to you if they had not reviewed the evidence?
Barr: That is a question for Bob Mueller. He’s the U.S. Attorney. He’s the one who presents the report.
Harris: But it was you who made the charging decision, sir.
Barr: What --
Harris: You made the decision not to charge the president.
Barr: No. In a cross memo and declination memo --
Harris: You said it was your baby. What did you mean by that?
Barr: It was my baby to let -- to decide whether or not to disclose it to the public.
Harris: And whose decision was it -- who had the power to make the decision about whether or not the evidence was sufficient to make a determination of whether there had been an obstruction of justice.
Barr: Prosecution memos go up to the supervisor, in this case it was the attorney general and the deputy attorney general who decide on the final decision. And that is based on the memo as presented by the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Harris: I think you've made it clear you've not looked at the evidence. We could move on.
Barr: I’ve seen a lot of prosecution --
Harris: You made it clear you have not looked at the evidence and we could move on. Would you agree to consult career DOJ ethics officials whether your recusal from the 14 investigations discussed by my colleagues is necessary?
Barr: I don't see any basis for it. I already consulted with them and --
Harris: You have consulted with them? About the 14 other investigations?
Barr: About the Mueller case.
Harris: Have you consulted with the career DOJ ethics officials about the appropriateness of you being involved or recusing yourself from the 14 other investigations that have been referred out?
Barr: On what basis?
Harris: Conflict of interest. Clear conflict of interest.
Barr: What is my conflict of interest?
Harris: I think the American public has seen quite well you are biased in this situation and not objective and that is the conflict of interest.
Barr: I haven't been the only decision-maker here. Let’s take the deputy attorney general who was approved 94-6 with specific discussion on the floor would be responsible for supervising the Russia investigation.
Harris: I’m glad you brought up that.
Barr: And he has 30 years experience and we had a number of senior prosecutors in the department involved in this process, both career and non-career --
Harris: Yes, I’ve read the process, sir. I have another question. And I’m glad you brought that subject up because I have a question about that. Earlier today in response to senator graham, you said, quote, you consulted with Rosenstein constantly, unquote, with respect to the special counsel investigation and report. But deputy attorney general Rosenstein is a key witness in the firing of FBI Director Comey. Did you consult -- with -- I’m not finished. Did you consult with DOJ ethics officials before you enlisted Rod Rosenstein to participate in a charging decision for an investigation, the subject of which he's also a witness?
Barr: My understanding was that he had been cleared already to participate in it by the --
Harris: So you had consulted with them and they cleared it?
Barr: No, I think they cleared it when he took over the investigation.
Harris: Did you consult --
Barr: It is my understanding.
Harris: You don't know whether he's been cleared? Of a conflict of interest?
Barr: He would be participate field goal there was a conflict of interest.
Harris: So you're saying that it did not need to be reviewed by the career ethics officials in your office to determine if it was appropriate?
Barr: I believe it was -- I believe it was reviewed.
Harris: And what was the finding?
Barr: And I will also point that this seems to be a bit of a flip flop because when the president supporters were challenging --
Harris: Sir, the flip flop I think in this case is that you are not answering the question directly. Did the ethics officials in your office in the Department of Justice review the appropriateness of Rod Rosenstein being a part of making the charging decision on an investigation which he is also a witness in?
Barr: So, as I said, my understanding was he had been cleared and he had been cleared before I arrived.
Harris: In making a decision on the Mueller report?
Harris: And the findings of whether or not the case would be charged on obstruction of justice? He had been cleared on that?
Barr: He was the acting attorney general on the Mueller investigation.
Harris: Had he been cleared to make --
Barr: I am --
Harris: By your side --
Barr: I’m informed that before I arrived he been cleared by the ethics officials.
Harris: Of what?
Barr: Of serving as acting attorney general on the Mueller case.
Harris: How about making a charging decision on obstruction of justice and the underlying offenses that include him as a witness.
Barr: That is what the acting attorney general’s job is.
Harris: To be a witness and to make the decision about being prosecutor?
Barr: Well, no but to make charging decisions.
Harris: I have nothing else my time has run out.
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