Top Democrats in Congress are more concerned than ever about Attorney General Bill Barr’s handling of special counsel Robert Mueller’s final report.
In a Thursday letter renewing their call to receive the full, unredacted document, the lawmakers pointed to Barr’s misleading claim that the FBI was “spying” on the Trump campaign as the latest latest evidence that the Attorney General is trying to protect the President.
“We would be remiss not to express profound concern about your comments before the Senate Appropriations Committee regarding your apparent review of the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election,” they wrote. “Your testimony raises questions about your independence, appears to perpetuate a partisan narrative designed to undermine the work of the Special Counsel, and serves to legitimize President Trump’s dangerous attacks on the Department of Justice and the FBI.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff (D-CA), and Senate Intelligence Committee ranking member Mark Warner (D-VA) signed off on the letter.
Barr made the surprising claim in Wednesday testimony before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee. He said he was looking into the prospect that the FBI engaged in “unauthorized surveillance” of the Trump campaign, although he admitted he had “no specific evidence” to cite.
The President praised Barr’s “accurate” remarks about spying. In Trump’s telling, the U.S. intelligence community’s efforts to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 election were actually an illegal “witch hunt” intended to discredit his campaign.
Barr maintained this week that he will only release a redacted version of the report. He testified Wednesday that he’s concerned that grand jury material and other privileged information could leak if it’s turned over to Congress.
Democratic lawmakers say it’s their responsibility to review the full report and conduct “thorough oversight” of the executive branch. They noted in their letter that grand jury material was made available in both the Watergate investigation and Kenneth Starr’s sprawling probe into Bill Clinton’s conduct.
Barr said this week that neither example was relevant. Formal impeachment proceedings were already underway for Richard Nixon when a court granted access to the grand jury materials in that case. Starr was also operating under a different statute from Robert Mueller that required him to release his full report.
The attorney general said he had no “intention” of asking a judge to make the grand jury information public.
Read the new letter below.