Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrMueller twice asked Barr to release report’s key findings Read: Mueller’s letter to Barr William Barr should be scrutinized on his record rather than rhetoric MORE is testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday on special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE’s investigation.

The hearing comes a day after a Justice Department spokeswoman said that Mueller had expressed “frustration” to Barr in late March over the lack of context in the attorney general’s four-page memo describing his investigation’s findings.

Follow The Hill’s live coverage here.

Senators, Barr return

12:55 p.m. 

The hearing reconvened just before 1 p.m. Barr returned to the room as senators trickled in.

— Morgan Chalfant 

Barr defends use of the word ‘spying’

11:55 a.m. 

Barr defended his use of the term “spying” from his testimony before Congress last month, saying he doesn’t believe the word has a negative implication.

“I don’t think spying has any pejorative at all,” Barr said in response to a question from Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseSenate Dems demand update on FAA’s seat-size rule Overnight Energy: Critics accuse EPA of weakening pollution rule for Pentagon | Booker unveils environmental justice initiative | House to vote on climate bill next week Graham jokes: If you said ‘Mueller thinks climate change is a hoax,’ then Trump would believe in it MORE (D-R.I.).


He said he considers the term to encompass all kinds of surveillance.

“I’m not going to back off the word ‘spying,’ ” Barr said, noting that it was also frequently used in media reports.

Barr faced criticism from Democrats who claimed that the attorney general’s use of the term to describe surveillance relating to the Trump campaign in 2016 indicated that he was biased toward the president, who has, in turn, claimed that the Justice Department is biased against him. 

Some Democratic lawmakers questioned Barr’s credibility after he used the term.

— Jacqueline Thomsen

Barr: ‘We haven’t waived his privilege’ on McGahn testimony 

11:35 a.m. 

Barr told Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinSenate Dems put brakes on Trump impeachment talk 5 questions Barr will likely be asked during hearing Lobbying world MORE (D-Ill.) that he has objections to former White House counsel Don McGahn testifying publicly to Congress about his interactions with Trump that Mueller reviewed and detailed as part of his obstruction inquiry. Barr also said “we” haven’t waived privilege with respect to McGahn’s testimony.

Durbin asked if Barr had “any objections” to McGahn testifying, as House Democrats have demanded. He answered that he did, noting McGahn was a “close adviser to the president.”

Barr also denied that Trump had already waived executive privilege by allowing McGahn to speak to Mueller and for the report to be publicly released without asserting privilege over any of its contents.

“No, we haven’t waived his privilege,” Barr said.

“That’s a call for the president,” Barr said when again pressed on whether McGahn should testify.

— Morgan Chalfant

Leahy complains that Barr’s testimony was ‘misleading’

11:30 a.m.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) confronted Barr over his previous testimony surrounding concerns from Mueller and his team about Barr’s initial portrayal of their findings, calling it “misleading.”

Leahy said that he was “somewhat troubled” by Barr’s past congressional testimony.

He noted that Barr had testified before Congress on April 9 that he did not know where the media reports about the Mueller team members’ concerns stemmed from.

“Now we know, contrary to what you said April 9, that on March 27 Robert Mueller wrote to you expressing very specific concerns that your March 24 letter … failed to capture the context, nature and substance of his report,” Leahy said.

“Why did you testify on April 9 that you didn’t know the concerns?” Leahy asked.

Barr defended his response, saying that he had responded to a question “relating to unidentified members who were expressing frustration to the accuracy relating to the findings” but that he was not aware of those concerns.

“I spoke to Bob Mueller, not members of his team,” Barr said. “And I did not know what was being referred to, and Mueller had never told me that the expression of the findings was inaccurate.”

“Mr. Barr, I feel that your answer was purposely misleading and I think others do too,” Leahy replied.

— Jacqueline Thomsen

Barr says he can’t say ‘with confidence’ dossier wasn’t part of Russian disinformation

11: 20 a.m. 

Barr told Sen. John CornynJohn CornynMueller fails to break stalemate on election meddling crackdown The Hill’s Morning Report – Biden’s bid gets under Trump’s skin GOP sets up firewall for Trump on Mueller MORE (R-Texas) that he could not say “with confidence” that the so-called Steele dossier containing salacious allegations about Trump’s ties to Moscow was not part of the Russian efforts to spread disinformation and interfere in the election.

“No I can’t state that with confidence and that is one of the areas that I am reviewing,” Barr said. “I am concerned about it and I don’t think it’s entirely speculative.”

The dossier was compiled by ex-British intelligence agent Christopher Steele and in part funded by Democrats. Many of its allegations remain unverified.

Republicans have scrutinized it because some of Steele’s research was used in an application to surveil Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, alleging improper conduct by FBI agents in the early months of the Russia counterintelligence probe.

— Morgan Chalfant

Barr defends Trump’s right to fire Mueller

11:15 a.m.

Barr told Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinLive coverage: Barr faces grilling on Mueller’s criticism Senate Dems put brakes on Trump impeachment talk California Democrats post tributes to former Rep. Ellen Tauscher MORE (D-Calif.) that President TrumpDonald John TrumpKhalifa Haftar is no longer part of Libya’s solution Poll: 70 percent of Dems support impeachment hearings after Mueller report Seattle mayor: Federalizing local law enforcement in sanctuary cities isn’t making America safer MORE had a legitimate reason to remove Mueller since he was not guilty of the crime being investigated.

Barr said the Department of Justice’s position would be that the president can fire the special counsel and that attempting to determine whether Trump obstructed justice is further complicated when taking into account that he was not guilty of conspiring with the Russian government.

“If the president is being falsely accused, which the evidence now suggests that the accusations against him were false, and he knew they were false, and he felt that this investigation was unfair, propelled by his political opponents and was hampering his ability to govern, that is not a corrupt motive for replacing an independent counsel,” Barr said.

“So that’s another reason that we would say that the government would have difficulty proving this beyond a reasonable doubt.”

The rationale in some ways mirrored Trump’s regular defense against questions of whether he was obstructing Mueller’s investigation, in which he would explain that he had a right to “fight back.”

Mueller’s report did not establish a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia but laid out 10 episodes of potential obstruction of justice involving the president.

Mueller detailed that Trump attempted on two occasions to have Mueller fired, but Barr disputed that the president was clearly attempting to obstruct the investigation.

“There is a distinction between someone saying go fire Mueller and go have him removed based on conflict,” he said.

— Brett Samuels

Barr dings Mueller on obstruction inquiry

11:10 a.m. 

Barr told Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGOP sets up firewall for Trump on Mueller On The Money: Trump wants Moore on Fed despite controversy | Senate GOP women pose obstacle to Moore | Polls highlight economic worries for Trump | House Dems reject Trump cuts with Labor-Health spending bill | Warren trolls Chase Bank over viral tweet Grassley to Trump: Lift tariffs or new NAFTA deal is ‘dead’ MORE (R-Iowa) that he could not “recapitulate” Mueller’s analysis on obstruction and said that the special counsel should not have gone down the path to investigate obstruction by Trump if he didn’t believe he would reach an ultimate judgment.

“I’m not really sure of his reasoning. I really could not recapitulate his analysis,” Barr said. “I think that if he felt that he shouldn’t go down the path of making a traditional prosecutive decision, then he shouldn’t have investigated. That was the time to pull up.”

— Morgan Chalfant 

Barr defends handling of Mueller findings, explains contacts with special counsel

10:50 a.m.

Barr defended his handling of Mueller’s report and explained in detail his contacts with Mueller during which the special counsel objected to his description of his findings on obstruction.

Barr said he wanted to release the report’s bottom-line conclusions as quickly as possible because the public was in a “high state of agitation” over the results of Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference and potential coordination between President Trump’s campaign and Moscow.

“The body politic was in a high state of agitation for Mueller’s results,” Barr said in his opening remarks. “Former government officials were confidently predicting that the president or members of his family would be indicted.”

Barr said he didn’t believe it was in the “public interest” to allow the public to wonder about Mueller’s conclusions while Justice Department officials poured over the report to make necessary redactions, which he said he realized would take three or four weeks after receiving the special counsel’s report on March 22 because the report was not marked so that grand jury material could be easily and quickly redacted.

“That’s what we were trying to do — notify the people of the bottom line conclusions,” Barr told lawmakers, saying he was not trying to “summarize” the report when he released a four-page memo on March 24 stating that Mueller did not establish conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Moscow and did not reach a conclusion on whether Trump obstructed justice.

Barr said that after the release of his summary letter, the special counsel had reached out with concerns not about the letter, but the media coverage surrounding it.

“He said that his concern focused on his explanation on why he did not reach a conclusion on obstruction and he wanted more put out on that issue,” the attorney general said. “He argued for putting out summaries of each volume, the executive summaries that had been written by his office, and if not that other material” relating to the obstruction decision.

“But he was very clear with me that he was not suggesting that we had misrepresented his report,” Barr added.

— Morgan Chalfant

Barr lays out process in deciding against obstruction charge

10:45 a.m.

Barr testified that Mueller had first informed the Justice Department that his team would not reach a decision at obstruction at a March 5 meeting.

“We were frankly surprised that they were not going to reach a decision on obstruction, and we asked them a lot for the reasoning for this and the basis for this,” Barr said.

Barr said the special counsel “emphatically” stated that a Justice Department guideline against indicting a sitting president did not relate to his decision.

“He said that in the future, the facts of the case might be such that a special counsel might consider abandoning the OLC opinion,” the attorney general said. “This is not such a case.”

Barr said the Justice Department did not understand the full reasoning behind Mueller’s decision, but that when they pressed him further Mueller said his team was still working on an explanation.

And he added that he and Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod Jay RosensteinWilliam Barr should be scrutinized on his record rather than rhetoric Live coverage: Barr faces grilling on Mueller’s criticism Dem lawmaker: Mueller must resign so he can testify ‘free’ from Barr’s ‘control’ MORE “had the responsibility to assess the evidence as set forth in the report and make the judgment” on an obstruction charge.

Barr said they felt it would be “irresponsible” to not make an announcement on obstruction ahead of the report’s release.

— Jacqueline Thomsen

Feinstein calls for Mueller to testify

10:25 a.m.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the committee’s ranking member, called for Mueller to testify before the committee so that senators can question him directly, raising questions about Barr’s interpretations of the special counsel’s report.

“Congress has both the constitutional duty and the authority to investigate the serious findings contained in the Mueller report,” she said. “I strongly believe that this committee needs to hear directly from special counsel Mueller about his views on the report.”

Feinstein noted Barr’s four-page summary published in late March, as well as his press conference last month shortly before Mueller’s full report was released, cleared the Trump campaign of conspiring with the Russian government and determined the president had not committed obstruction of justice.

But the senator argued those characterizations were too definitive, saying “the special counsel’s report contained substantial evidence of misconduct.”

She read extensively from passages from Mueller’s report, as well as a letter the special counsel wrote to Barr criticizing aspects of the attorney general’s summary of the document.

Feinstein quoted evidence laid out in the report that Trump dangled pardons, that he sought to remove Mueller and his desire to track down deleted emails from his 2016 Democratic opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonColorado moves presidential primary to Super Tuesday To impeach or not to impeach, that is the question Congress must face Live coverage: Barr faces grilling on Mueller’s criticism MORE.

She also referenced Mueller’s letter to Barr written in late March in which he wrote that the attorney general’s initial four-page summary of the report “did not fully capture the nature, and substance of the Office’s work and conclusions.”

— Brett Samuels

Graham uses expletive as he reads texts between FBI agents

10:15 a.m.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamLive coverage: Barr faces grilling on Mueller’s criticism The Hill’s Morning Report – The heat turns up on Bill Barr Mueller fails to break stalemate on election meddling crackdown MORE (R-S.C.) declared in his opening remarks that Mueller found “no collusion” between the Trump campaign and the Russians and defended Barr over his judgment that Trump did not obstruct the probe.

Graham then launched into an extended speech about his desire to investigate the origins of the FBI’s counterintelligence probe into the Trump campaign’s links to Russia as well as the Clinton email investigation — forecasting plans to ask Barr about those issues.

He read out loud several text messages exchanged by former FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page expressing criticism of Trump before the 2016 election. Republicans including Graham have seized on the messages as showing that the FBI agents who worked on the original probe into the Trump campaign and Russia were biased in their decisions.

“We know that the person in charge of investigating hated trump’s guts,” Graham said.

Graham read one text message that described Trump as a “f—ing idiot,” using the expletive during his remarks.

“Sorry to the kids out there,” Graham quipped to the room.

Graham said he had reviewed the less-redacted version of Mueller’s report that Barr has made available to a select group of lawmakers and that he “found it not to change anything in terms of the outcome.”

“As to obstruction of justice, Mr. Mueller left it to Mr. Barr to decide. Mr. Barr did,” Graham said. “You have to have specific intent to obstruct justice. If there is no underlying crime, it is pretty hard to figure out what intent might be if there was never any crime to begin with. The president never did anything that stopped Mr. Mueller from doing his job.”

Graham later said of the Mueller investigation, “For me, it’s over.”

— Morgan Chalfant

House Judiciary releases full Mueller letter to Barr

10:04 a.m.

Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee released a full copy of Mueller’s letter to Barr criticizing aspects of the attorney general’s summary of the special counsel’s report.

The letter was published moments before Barr arrived in the hearing room. Reports of the letter first surfaced Monday night and prompted several Democratic lawmakers to suggest the attorney general should resign.

Mueller wrote to Barr that the attorney general’s initial four-page summary of the report “did not fully capture the nature, and substance of the Office’s work and conclusions.”

— Brett Samuels

Barr arrives

10:02 a.m.

Barr arrived in the packed hearing room shortly after 10 a.m. A smattering of photographers snapped his picture as he sat down in the witness chair. Throngs of reporters and other members of the public were packed into the Senate Judiciary Committee room to watch the proceedings.

— Morgan Chalfant

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