- Attorney General William Barr on Thursday became defensive when reporters asked if he was trying to protect President Donald Trump via his handing of the rollout of the redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian election interference.
- Barr held a press conference ahead of the redacted report’s release, which led to accusations from Democrats he’s trying to "spin" the report.
- A reporter accused Barr of being "quite generous" to Trump, which he said there was "no basis" for.
- Barr only took a few questions before walking off.
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Attorney General William Barr on Thursday became testy with a reporter who questioned whether he’s trying to protect President Donald Trump with his handling of the release of a redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian election interference.
The reporter cited consternation from congressional Democrats on how he’s dealt with this process, as well as recent criticism of Barr from a federal judge on the matter, as she accused the attorney general of being "quite generous" to the president in his remarks on Thursday by acknowledging his "feelings and emotions."
She also noted that Trump has been fundraising off of Barr’s recent, controversial testimony to Congress in which he suggested the FBI was "spying" on the president’s campaign in 2016.
The reporter went on to ask what Barr would say to those "who are concerned" he’s "trying to protect the president."
Barr took issue with the implication he’s "generous" to Trump during the press conference.
"The statements about his sincere beliefs are recognized in the report, that there was substantial evidence for that, so I’m not sure what your basis is for saying that I’m being generous to the president," Barr said.
Another reporter then asked why Mueller wasn’t present for a press conference ahead of the release of a report he compiled.
Barr replied that "it’s not" Mueller’s report, "it’s a report he did for me as the attorney general."
"I’m here to discuss my response to the report."
Subsequently, Barr was also asked how he felt about those who’ve alleged he’s attempting to "spin" the report in Trump’s favor by holding a press conference ahead of releasing a redacted version to Congress.
A reporter asked, "Is it an impropriety for you to come out and sort of spin the report before people are able to read it?"
Barr said "no," turned, and walked away without taking any more questions.
During Thursday’s press conference, Barr repeatedly said in some form or another that Mueller found "no collusion" between the Trump campaign and Russia, echoing a phrase the president frequently employs. Not long before Barr’s appearance, Trump tweeted a video with the caption, "No Collusion — No Obstruction!"
Barr also defended Trump’s demeanor throughout the Mueller probe, stating that the president had been "fully cooperative" despite his many public attacks against those involved as well as his refusal to sit down for an interview with the special counsel’s team.
"In assessing the president’s actions discussed in the report, it is important to bear in mind the context. President Trump faced an unprecedented situation. As he entered into office, and sought to perform his responsibilities as President, federal agents and prosecutors were scrutinizing his conduct before and after taking office, and the conduct of some of his associates," Barr said.
The attorney general added, "At the same time, there was relentless speculation in the news media about the President’s personal culpability. Yet, as he said from the beginning, there was in fact no collusion."
He went on to say the president had been "frustrated and angered by a sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents, and fueled by illegal leaks" but still "fully cooperated" with Mueller’s probe.
Democrats, who’ve demanded a full, unredacted version of Mueller’s report, are livid with Barr over his approach to the process and blasted his performance on Thursday.
"Attorney General Barr is supposed to be the nation’s top impartial lawyer, not a White House spokesman. His press conference was just an attempt to spin a report nobody has read yet, and that’s really disappointing," Sen. Chris Murphy said in a statement. "The American people deserve the full report so they can decide for themselves on these findings. Our democracy depends on transparency, and Congress should use our oversight powers to demand it."
Similarly, Sen. Cory Booker, who’s running for president in 2020, tweeted, "The American people deserve the truth. Not spin from a Trump appointee. Release Mueller’s full report now."
- Justice Department releases redacted Mueller report to public
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