AG William Barr questioned by senators on Mueller report

The Senate Judiciary Committee questioned Barr over the handling of the Mueller report.
20:49 | 05/01/19

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Transcript for AG William Barr questioned by senators on Mueller report
This is an ABC news special were. Now report. Do you did you. Good morning we come money here at this hour because the attorney general William Morris taking questions at this hour on Capitol Hill he's before the Senate Judiciary Committee. And he growing scrutiny over his actions after being given the mullah report as you were called the attorney general first. Issued his own four page summary in it he went much further than Mahler himself. And cleared the president on obstruction of justice and we have now learned that three days after that summary was made public. At the special counsel Robert Mueller sent the attorney general a letter indicating that he was not please ready Mitt. The bar summary quote it did not fully captured the context nature and substance of this office is working conclusions. The attorney general being asked about this in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee at this hour. He has said in testimony before the American people already this morning that. Three times in discussions with Robert Mueller before that summary was delivered by the attorney general three times he said Robert Mueller emphatically said. That he did not decide on obstruction of justice not because of Justice Department precedent. We didn't understand exactly what that meant William Barr said in response to what Robert Mueller told him. But of course. That would be. Argued about today on the hill as they continue to press them as to why he went ahead and made the decision himself we do know that in the Moeller report. Robert Mueller said congress does have the authority which many believed was in reference to Justice Department precedent. William Barr was asked pointedly was he surprised that Robert Mueller did not decide on obstruction of justice and here's what he said just a short time ago listen it's so. And the conclusions in your page four page summary tank. Accurately reflect his bottom line on collusion is that correct yes and you can read it for yourself if you. Kenny doubt as to obstruction of justice. Where he surprised he was going what you decide. Art yes I was surprised. So we want to bring in our team right now our chief legal analyst Dan Abrams has been watching this so witness here on the desk in new York and we have this letter from Robert Mueller that he sent. A mere number of fish was three days after bar summary and he said. That this is that misrepresentation. If you will of what the Moeller report had found. And now we hear from William Barr this morning comes right out of the gates said that Robert Mueller did not decide on obstruction of justice and not because a precedent from the Department of Justice but that fights. Some of the language we saw in the mullah report itself yet. Look if you read the mullah report there are four guiding principles at the outset of the obstruction section. And the first one. Is we can't indict a sitting president in this the third one. He's we don't even think it would be appropriate to accuse the president of a crime in this report from. Because he can't respond and the fourth one is what if we thought we could clear him we would mean. That's what the report sets now with regard to this letter that Mohler wrote that's seems to express frustration. With William Barr Barr responders that. And said that the that dad was not about the letter he said he talked to Robert Mueller. And Moeller actually said it was about the media coverage. Of the letter he says that mold that Mueller claimed. That his letter and his press conference was not inaccurate. That he did not net misrepresent the report. And this sort of creates a situation. Where is Robert Mueller has to task for us now because now we have bar saying what Muller thought what Moeller said to him. Beyond this letter. And if there was ever a question about whether Robert Mueller should testify. William Barr just answered it. By saying this is what Mueller thinks this is it Mueller said to me beyond what. But again remember Robert Mueller was reacting specifically to William Barr's summary in his letter when he said. It didn't did not fully capture the context nature in substance of this office's work. And conclusions he was not talking about the press there and that Larry was talking about William Barr summary correct but it but what are saying these notes he was talking about the media coverage so bar has now created. You know and I have to say that at the moment that bar came out. I thought that there was a conflict between Muller and bar as to to what to do and I think it is now entirely clear. That there is a conflict between Barr and Lawler. That pass to be assessed it certainly raises the stakes to get Robert Mueller us on capital app builders already reporting that Mueller wants to. Under the Department of Justice hasn't seven date yet for Robert Muller's testimony that is still being reported out. In the meantime this was another moment would William Barr he said that. When this special counsel turned over the mullah report that we thought the grand jury testimony to sixty testimony would have been redacted right it can get cut him. He said what was handed to us was not prepared in that fashion I thought that was a bit of the dig to Robert. Muller's team that was it was a dig but motors team's response would be that's why we created summaries. We created summaries so you could release those to the public. And it sounds like even from bars testimony. That's what Mueller wanted more one of those summaries to be released because he felt that they could more accurately characterize what was in the report had already been said. I said to him now. I don't want to release summaries I want to just release the whole report and the problem with that is on the one hand you have bar summarizing. But unwilling to release bowlers summaries. And so you have bars summary. Not Moeller summary being released and bar saying I don't want to release Summers. You've got write a letter from Robert Mueller that was made public last night and the full letter today I am requesting that you provide these materials to congress and authorized their public release at this time. And that as direct reference to those introductions and executive summaries that had prepared ahead of time redact it ahead of time. With the hope from Robert Mueller that they would be released immediately and as you point out Dan they were not William Barr decided not to instead decided to issue his own summary. He then talked to Bob Muller on the phone said Foster what's the problem here. Bob indicated again we prepare those executive summaries and William Barr decided to let his summary speak for the mall report for a matter of weeks. Before the public saw the un redacted version which is why want to bring in our senior White House correspondent Cecilia bigot because. For weeks William Morris Warren was the final word. Until we have the mole report itself which allowed the president of out there and say I've been exonerated that. That's the big picture of the take away in all of this today David at what the attorney general at this moment right now it's facing very serious. New questions renewed questions about his credibility and now that we know about this this letter this confrontation that has happened between. The attorney general and Robert Mueller. This gave just as you said president trump and the White House and his allies. Weeks to sort of set the message to sort of set the the agenda if you will then the bit that the attorney general really created the impression that Muller's team. Found no wrongdoing and then we later came to find out that that is not at all what the report concluded. And just as of two hours ago president trump these I was tweeting these words that we have heard him say so many times before no obstruction no couldn't cook look collusion. Complete vindication. That's been their narrative and in many ways it was a gift from the attorney general I think there are some. Some questions right now about whether the Democrats will certainly ask them about whether this is the attorney general acting as the attorney general the United States or the lawyer for. A president for the lawyer present from because remember Bob Mueller said in his report that if we could exonerate him we will. He did not senator Leahy's now asking the question of the attorney general let's listen if that was the time two. Pull up. And Kate. There have been a number of leaks coming out of the justice of our mayor BRA during high proof RO investigations. The inspector general found that during the department's investigation of Hillary Clinton for his handling highly class a party of abrasion. There was a culture of on all sororities media contacts. During oration investigation the leaks continue leaks are undermined the ability of investigators. To investigate further leaks to the papers were all congress' questions to the department on answers is unacceptable. It's obvious why senator Leahy will be coming under senator Grassley who is asking right now our news media about leaks by the deep connections with Armenia from Department of Justice let's listen write an investigation. We have multiple criminal leak investigations under way. Thank you simulate. Thank you and attorney general. Some are troubled by here your testimony here and in the other body. It appeared before a house corporations and April 9. You're asked about media reports as trade special counsel whose team is frustrated that your. March 24 letter didn't adequately portray the report's findings. In the congress will agree was congressman Chris. Asks if he knew what took members of the special counsel's tumor concerned about. You testified in response. No I don't. His dense that you really suspected they would have preferred more information was released but the letter. Now we know. Contrary to what you said April 9. On March 27. Robert Moore wrote you expressing very specific concerns. That your march report clutter. Your test for him on April night. That your marsh reports letter thrilled to capture the to quote mr. Moeller the context nature and substance close quarter of his report. Then what I learned really struck me. Smaller role to journal letters threatened to undermine its central purpose for which the department. Appointed the special counsel. Ensure full public confidence in the outcome of the investigation. Why did you testify in April 9 that you didn't know the concerns being expressed Morris K. We've actually heard those concerns dripping from mr. Mueller two weeks before. Well as I said. I talked directly to to Bob Mueller about his letter to me and and specifically asked them. What exactly are your concerns. Are you saying that the march 24 letter was misleading or inaccurate or why. He indicated that it was not he was not saying that and that would he was concerned about my question. Well I'm I'm I'm getting to the question which is the question from crest. Was. Reports have emerged recently. Press reports. That members of the special counsel's team. Our fraud are frustrated. At some level with the limited information included. In your march 24 letter. In that they don't adequately or accurately portray the report's findings. I don't know what members he's talking about I don't I and I and I certainly am not aware of any challenge to the accuracy of the findings most of our. He soon learned the filibuster rule lose even better than senators do I question was why did you say. You were not aware of concerns. When weeks before your testimony mr. Moore. Expressed concerns to me that's a fairly simple. Well I answered a question. And the question was relating to. Unidentified members who were expressing frustration over the accuracy. Relating to findings. I don't know what that refers to at all I talked directly to Bob Mahler not members of his team. And even though right did not know what was being referred to. And hadn't and and and Mueller had never told me that at that point it that the expression of the findings was inaccurate. But I did then volunteer. That I thought they were talking about the desire to have more information put out but it wasn't my purpose to put out more and from. Those are your IPO and her answer. Was purposely misleading. And I think others do too. I miss another one. You said the president is fully cooperated with the investigation. But his attorney had its own. A defendant should be taking care if they didn't cooperate with the investigation. Is there a conflict. And so it could you just for people just a matter of toward mr. Kornberg told by pros personal turning. Give me taking care. That there are corporate. You said that the president was pulling for. Sir conflict there. Yes. You know. Your biggest toy cooperated instructing me. Former aide to tell the attorney general and recuse himself shut down the investigation. And declared the president did nothing wrong. I don't think you. Quote obviously since I didn't find it would. It was obstruction I felt that it the evidence could not support it matters incest fully cooperating. No I ask that is obstruction. Is that fully cooperating yet he fully cooperated. So by instructive former aide to tell the attorney general I'm recuse himself shut down the investigation. And declare the president did nothing wrong that's fully cooperate wears out and report. It is on today Barton to page five. On June attitude towards seventy the president dictated message. Oh and ousted the reverend session as investors should secessionist republic and notes the numbers say excuse from the Russian investigation. Investors very apparent presence president nothing wrong right for them to get soap opera. We'll firstly asking sessions to on recuse himself like we do not think is a structure fire the president has nothing rotten pashtuns obstruction case. Property well I'd I don't know if that declares the president did nothing wrong although the president and in terms of collusion did nothing wrong isn't that correct. Closes on crime that's the idea of obstructing but is that fully cooperated. To it to say that. Well. I don't see any conflict between that and fully cooperating with the investigation. The president of course declared many times publicly and tweets and campaign runs on that you would testify. Photo he never did tests cracked. As far as I known it's. I think you know whether he testified as far as I know we didn't testify. And mr. Lawler founded written answers to the Internet at present court. I think he wanted additional. But he never saw it. And the president never totally in and you never he never pushed it. The president never takes. Does in fact the mr. Barr from the troubled campaign was receptive. Somebody offers of assistance from Russia. They've had to confront him may never reporting that they invested the FBI does that trouble you. What was a report to the FBI. Is dated receptive to offers of assistance from Russia putting in very receptive. I think the report says you know obviously. It obviously they were they were expecting to benefit from whatever the Russians are certainly strange the are more and report Susan some investigation. Multiple links between trump campaign officials and individual times impression her. Those links included questions are consistent case. In some instances that campaign. Was receptive to new jobs are towards others and not. Why I thought here. Well after a news understand exactly what that refers to what what what communications that referred to you have report I just didn't hatred report. Ends up America. Chapman nervous knowing his. Senator Lil bear with attorney general William Barr up on the hill today for the Senate Judiciary Committee fairly testy moment here between senator Leahy and attorney general. Keenly pointedly asked the attorney general about his testimony and April 9 which we now lose us now know was several days after the attorney general talk directly with Robert Mueller a William Barr was asked why did he tell congress and the American people that he did not know the concerns of Robert's mother's team. There had been reporting that several members of Robert Muller's team were unhappy with William Barr's testimony why didn't he say he did not know if you had spoken directly with Robert Mueller and you heard what William Barr said there in his answer to senator Leahy he said well I talked to Bob Mueller himself not to. The members that were talked about in that reporting. The very nuanced answer and Dan Abrams it sounded to me is that he was splitting hairs they're saying it and talk to members of the team. So I didn't know what they were upset I got off to Bob Mueller himself look it's a very lawyerly answer right and and this is why you know I don't think they're going to be able to truly. Kind of prove. That bar quote unquote lie right because. I think that they'll be an explanation for every one of Bob Barr's comments. About the more investigation and he knew exactly what those questions we're going to be coming at him today that about his testimony just. Several days back I do want to bring in our senior congressional correspondent Mary Bruce because not only was at the exchange with senator Crist of a couple of weeks back. There's also an exchange with senator. But Holland and he said it did Bob Mueller support you're conclusion and Mary you'll remember at the time that William Barr said I don't know whether Bob Mueller supports my conclusion. And you talk to be senator today he said he believes William Barr was deliberately misleading the American people. Yeah yeah yeah. And David the senator tells me that he has no doubt that that was a deceptive answer from the attorney general that the attorney general was misleading and not just congressman the American people but there is. An important distinction here Democrats that I've talked to here this morning say that they believe that the impact of art's comments bars previous testimony was misleading but when I asked if they think that the attorney general outright lied or perjured himself. Well they're they're stopping short of going that far. David the big picture the view from Democrats appear on the hill is that this letter these new questions that have come out of the revelations about Muller's complaints about the way the bar handles. He's in his report. Then it all this does is underscore democrats' concern. That they say that the attorney general is essentially doing the president's bidding that he's trying to protect the president it is why you are seeing bill Barbie grilled so aggressively on his interactions with Mueller on his handling of this report and it's also why you're now seeing a growing number of Democrats here say the bill Barr should resign and that the need to hear directly. From Mueller testified here on the hill as soon as possible David Card. Neighbors went outside that hearing room and just as. Some to suffer you at home why this matters today it is the attorney general William Barr on Capitol Hill answering questions about the decisions he made. After being given to be mulled a report after that two year investigation. Bob Mueller of course finding no collusion with the Russians between the trump campaign but left opened the answer on obstruction of justice William Barr then when an answer that clearing the president. He is the attorney general that is his job and his prerogative to do that if he decides to do so. He'll be questioned today about whether or not that should have been handed to congress instead given some of the language in the mall a report. And of course in the eleventh hour before today's testimony that letter from Robert Mueller now made public. Sent to William Barr just days after that William Barr summary that initial four page summary. Robert Mueller making it very clear he was displeased with how bar summarized his report. We'll continue our reporting on this if there is more major news out of this hearing will break back in live in the meantime our coverage continues. Why did ABC news digital and on abcnews.com. For dance to Celia Marion here thanks to you almost see you later well just about take. This has been a special from BB.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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