Mueller report refuels Democrats’ attacks on Trump, William Barr
Ten days after special counsel Robert Mueller submitted his report to the Justice Department it has done surprisingly little to settle matters for Congress and the American public.
After an initial bout with uncertainty, Democrats have ramped up their attacks on President Trump and Attorney General William Barr, accusing them of a whitewash of Mr. Mueller’s work and suggesting that there’s still criminal activity to be found.
For Republicans, meanwhile, Mr. Mueller’s exoneration of Mr. Trump of any Russian conspiracy has only increased calls for a more complete bloodletting about how the FBI got it so wrong and whether top Obama-administration officials were involved.
Mr. Mueller himself has been silent publicly, though he’s apparently assisting Mr. Barr. Having released a four-page letter detailing the basic conclusions of the 22-month investigation, Mr. Barr says the nearly 400-page full report should be coming by mid-April.
“Everyone will soon be able to read it on their own,” the attorney general wrote in a letter Friday to the chairmen of the House and Senate Judiciary committees.
Republicans say Mr. Barr’s letter concluding there was no evidence of conspiracy to subvert the 2016 election, and no prosecutable case against Mr. Trump for obstruction of justice, should have been enough to calm the anti-Trump hysteria that has gripped Democrats for more than two years.
Initially, it seemed it would.
Several Democrats said it was time to move on from the probe, and return to issues and legislating.
But by the middle of last week, congressional Democrats had found their war footing once again.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused Mr. Barr of a whitewash, and Democrats said they wouldn’t cool their criticism without seeing the entire Mueller report and some said they want to see all his investigative files, too.
Democrats are convinced the evidence will show Mr. Trump’s actions were questionable at best.
The public at large seems to share Democrats’ sentiment.
A Marist/NPR/PBS News Hour poll taken after Mr. Barr’s letter found 56 percent say they still have questions, while just 36 percent said Mr. Trump has now been cleared of wrongdoing.
More worrisome for chances of moving on is that a majority of Democrats refuse to accept the Barr summary of Mr. Mueller’s findings, according to a Washington Post-Schar School poll. A strong majority of Democrats in the poll continue to believe Mr. Trump committed crimes.
Among Republicans, 81 percent told the poll Mr. Trump did nothing wrong.
On Capitol Hill, Republicans challenged Democratic lawmakers to accept the findings on conspiracy.
“What time is your side going to acknowledge it didn’t happen?” House Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the chamber’s No. 2 Republican, told Democrats on the chamber floor last week. “If you want to change the results of the presidential election, the results are changed at the ballot box. That’s how we resolve it in America.”
Republicans say that they’re fine with releasing the Mueller report, but say that shouldn’t be the last word. They want to see all the documents behind the FBI’s political investigations of the last few years.
“Release it all ... from start to finish,” said Rep. Lee Zeldin, New York Republican, ticking off not only the Mueller report but documents related to the probe into Hillary Clinton, the origins of the probe into then-candidate Donald Trump, and the wiretap applications on a Trump campaign figure.
“Sunlight accountability!” Mr. Zeldin tweeted.
The debate played out in the Senate on Thursday afternoon, where Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, tried to offer an amendment demanding an even broader release of information.
He said he wanted to see former CIA Director John Brennan and former National Intelligence Director James Clapper, two of the most vocal voices accusing the president of crimes, have to turn over all of their communications related to the 2016 election and the investigation.
He also demanded release of former President Barack Obama’s White-House-era communications, and those involving former FBI Director James Comey, former National Security Advisor Susan Rice, former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, fired FBI Agent Peter Strzok, former FBI lawyer Lisa Page, former Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Justice Department figure Bruce Ohr, who served as a conduit for the discredited Steele dossier.
“We based this investigation on a lie. We should investigate who the liars were,” Mr. Paul said.
He tried to attach his demand to Democrats’ effort to encourage release of the broader Mueller report.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat seeking to run against Mr. Trump in 2020, refused Mr. Paul’s request, saying she just wanted to see the Mueller report.
After she refused his amendment, Mr. Paul then objected to her demand, leaving the two sides in a stalemate.
Still, Mr. Mueller’s report will be coming, in some form, and the White House apparently isn’t meddling in that, either.
In his letter to congressional leaders last week Mr. Barr said the president has the right to block some information in the report by claiming executive privilege, but “he has stated publicly that he intends to defer to me and, accordingly, there are no plans to submit the report to the White House for a privilege review.”
Mr. Barr did say he would redact any information that compromises sources or “infringe upon the personal privacy and reputational interests” of third parties who were not investigation targets.
He then offered to testify to Congress afterward. He suggested May 1 for the Senate and May 2 for the House.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, said he would accept the May 1 date.