By Samuel Chamberlain
Published April 17, 2019
Democrats in Congress attacked Attorney General William Barr Wednesday evening ahead of the Justice Department's planned release of a redacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.
Barr is set to hold a 9:30 a.m. news conference Thursday accompanied by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversaw the Mueller investigation after the special counsel's appointment in May 2017. Neither Mueller nor other members of his team will attend, according to special counsel spokesman Peter Carr. Democrats have criticized the timing of the news conference, saying that Barr would get to present his interpretation of the Mueller report before Congress and the public see it.
At a news conference Wednesday evening, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said the panel was expected to receive a copy of the report between 11 a.m. and noon, "well after the attorney general's 9:30 a.m. press conference. This is wrong."
"The attorney general appears to be waging a media campaign on behalf of President Trump, the very subject of the investigation at the heart of the Mueller report," Nadler told reporters. "Rather than letting the facts of the report speak for themselves, the attorney general has taken unprecedented steps to spin Mueller’s nearly two-year investigation."
Hakeem Jeffries, another member of the Judiciary Committee and the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, accused Barr -- whom Jeffries dubbed the "so-called Attorney General" of "presiding over a dog and pony show.
"Here is a thought," Jeffries added. "Release the Mueller report tomorrow morning and keep your mouth shut. You have ZERO credibility."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., tweeted that Barr "has thrown out his credibility & the DOJ’s independence with his single-minded effort to protect @realDonaldTrump above all else. The American people deserve the truth, not a sanitized version of the Mueller Report approved by the Trump Admin."
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said, "The process is poisoned before the report is even released."
"Barr shouldn't be spinning the report at all, but it's doubly outrageous he's doing it before America is given a chance to read it," Schumer added.
Democrats were further angered Wednesday by a New York Times report which said Justice Department officials have had "numerous conversations with White House lawyers" about Mueller's conclusions, which have aided the president's legal team as it prepares a rebuttal to the special counsel's report. The Times report has not been independently confirmed by Fox News.
Late Wednesday, Nadler and four other Democratic committee chairs released a joint statement calling on Barr to cancel the Thursday morning news conference, calling it "unnecessary and inappropriate."
"He [Barr] should let the full report speak for itself, read the statement from Nadler, Adam Schiff, D-Calif., Elijah Cummings, D-Md., Maxine Waters, D-Calif., and Eliot Engel, D-N.Y. "The Attorney General should cancel the press conference and provide the full report to Congress, as we have requested. With the Special Counsel’s fact-gathering work concluded, it is now Congress’ responsibility to assess the findings and evidence and proceed accordingly."
In court filings in the case against Roger Stone on Wednesday, the Justice Department also said it planned to provide a "limited number" of members of Congress and their staff access to a copy of the Mueller report with fewer redactions than the public version. Nadler claimed Wednesday evening that the Judiciary Committee "has no knowledge of this and this should not be read as any agreement or knowledge or assent on our part."
Nadler added that he would "probably find it useful" to call Mueller and members of his team to testify after reading the version of the report Barr releases.
The report is expected to reveal what Mueller uncovered about ties between the Trump campaign and Russia that fell short of criminal conduct. And, it likely will lay out the special counsel's conclusions about formative episodes in Trump's presidency, including his firing of FBI Director James Comey; his request of Comey to end an investigation into Trump's first national security adviser, Michael Flynn; his relentless badgering of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions over his recusal from the Russia investigation; and his role in drafting an explanation about a meeting his oldest son took at Trump Tower with a Kremlin-connected lawyer.
The report is not expected to place the president in legal jeopardy, as Barr made his own decision that Trump shouldn't be prosecuted for obstruction. But it is likely to contain unflattering details about the president's efforts to control the Russia investigation
Overall, Mueller brought charges against 34 people — including six Trump aides and advisers — and revealed a sophisticated, wide-ranging Russian effort to influence the 2016 presidential election. Twenty-five of those charged were Russians accused either in the hacking of Democratic email accounts or of a hidden but powerful social media effort to spread disinformation online.
Five former Trump aides or advisers pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate in Mueller's investigation, including former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and his former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen. Stone is awaiting trial on charges including false statements and obstruction.
Fox News' Jake Gibson, Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report.