WASHINGTON — Attorney General William Barr’s release of a redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian election meddling and the Trump campaign was met with criticism by Democrats who demanded Thursday that the special counsel testify before Congress about his findings.
“The American people deserve to hear the truth,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
Democratic leaders also claimed that Barr distorted the findings outlined in the report.
“Special counsel Mueller’s report paints a disturbing picture of a president who has been weaving a web of deceit, lies and improper behavior and acting as if the law doesn’t apply to him,” Pelosi said in a statement.
She claimed Barr tried to cloak those findings in his comments.
Republicans, though, seized on conclusions that there was no evidence to conclude any criminal wrongdoing by President Donald Trump to accuse Democrats of launching congressional partisan investigations ahead of the 2020 presidential election.
“It’s time to move on,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.
Fight moves to Congress
The partisan battle over the special counsel investigation into the Russian election meddling in 2016 and conduct by Trump campaign officials, and later, the president and current and former White House officials, now moves to Congress.
Mueller was asked to testify before the House Judiciary Committee about the findings of his investigation, and the panel plans to use its subpoena power to get the full 448-page report without redactions.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Pelosi criticized Barr for holding a “campaign news conference” at the Justice Department to “spin” his version of the report’s findings before releasing the document to congressional leaders.
Schumer and Pelosi said the only way to restore public trust is for “Mueller himself to provide public testimony in the House and Senate as soon as possible.”
Barr said he had no qualms about Mueller testifying before Congress. And, Barr said, he would make available a less redacted version of the report to key members of Congress.
The attorney general defended the redactions in the report. He said redactions were done to protect intelligence sources, privacy, grand jury secrecy and ongoing investigations.
Republicans in Congress glossed over the damning details of the investigation that resulted in charges and convictions of people around the president — but not enough to support charges against the president himself — to mount a defense of Trump as Democrats intensify their review.
“Democrats want to keep searching for imaginary evidence that supports their claims, but it is simply not there,” McCarthy said.
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., a former state attorney general, said, “Americans deserve full transparency.” She said the release of the redacted report is the starting point of continued scrutiny and action to thwart election meddling by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“This investigation has always been central to learning how a foreign power sought to interfere in our elections,” Cortez Masto said in a statement released by her Washington office.
“This report and Attorney General Barr’s statements make it clear that there is concrete evidence the Russians and Putin’s leadership interfered in our elections,” Cortez Masto said.
Looking at Trump Hotel
One ongoing House investigation into the president is being conducted by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, where subcommittee Chairwoman Dina Titus, D-Nev., is reviewing Trump’s lease of the Old Post Office Tower, a national monument.
The building houses Trump’s hotel in Washington, which has raised questions about whether the arrangement has enriched the president, which would be a violation of law. Trump’s lawyers have argued in court documents that it does not. But Titus’ subcommittee is reviewing documents from the General Services Administration about the lease.
Titus echoed other Democratic leaders who said the “political display” by Barr during the news conference Thursday was designed to protect the president and has caused many Americans to lose faith in the Department of Justice.
“I’m one of them,” she said.
Since the special counsel did not exonerate Trump over questions about whether he intended to obstruct the investigation, Titus said, in a statement: “Congress must hold the president fully accountable for his actions.”
Other members of the Nevada congressional delegation, out of Washington for a two-week Easter and Passover recess, were reading the report and weighing the findings.
Ignoring the president
The report detailed attempts by Trump to influence the special counsel probe, which were unsuccessful because White House underlings refused to carry out his orders.
The redacted document shows that other spinoff investigations are ongoing, probes that have already resulted in convictions for lying to the FBI or Congress.
“It recounts the many outright lies the president and his aides have told the American people and the press,” Titus said.
There are ongoing investigations related to the Mueller probe in New York, Virginia and the District of Columbia.
Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said his panel would issue subpoenas for full report and evidence, and asked Mueller to testify before the panel by no later than May 23.
Earlier this year, Barr released a four-page letter summarizing the Mueller investigation’s findings, which the attorney general said did not find evidence that the president colluded with Russians and neither accused nor exonerated him of obstruction of justice.
Nadler said the fact that the special counsel investigation did not exonerate the president on obstruction demands a review by Congress.
Nadler noted that the president was never interviewed by the special counsel. (Trump answered written questions pertaining to the alleged collusion.)
In addition to questions about obstruction of justice, Congress plans to review the president’s business dealings, finances and White House issuance of security clearances to current and former officials over objections by the U.S. Secret Service.
Liberal lawmakers in the House Democratic Caucus have called for Trump’s impeachment.
Pelosi, however, ruled out impeachment hearings unless there was a finding of criminal wrongdoing and bipartisan support for proceedings.
“He’s just not worth it,” Pelosi said in March as she tamped down impeachment talk among Democrats.