Attorney General William Barr will release a redacted version of the Mueller report on Thursday. He’s doing all he can to protect the president from whatever damaging revelations it may contain.
The New York Times reported Wednesday night that the Justice Department had “numerous conversations” with the White House about the contents of the report, allowing the president’s legal team to prepare a response. The DOJ also announced that Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein would hold a press conference Thursday at 9:30 a.m. to discuss the report, hours before it would be made public. During that press conference, which Trump promoted, Barr reiterated the points he made in the four-page letter outlining the widely criticized “principal conclusions” he submitted barely 48 hours after submitted the report last month. He concluded his time onstage by denying that it was an “impropriety” for him spin the contents of the report before the public has a chance to read it.
Democrats were outraged. “We cannot take Attorney General Barr’s word for it,” tweeted House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY), who has been leading the party’s drive to secure the full, unredacted report. “We must read the full Mueller report, and the underlying evidence. This is about transparency and ensuring accountability.”
Nadler also posted a letter requesting Special Counsel Mueller appear before the House Judiciary Committee. When asked whether he would permit Mueller to testify, Barr said that he
It is clear Congress and the American people must hear from Special Counsel Robert Mueller in person to better understand his findings. We are now requesting Mueller to appear before @HouseJudiciary as soon as possible. pic.twitter.com/Mmo6PA4KPt
— (((Rep. Nadler))) (@RepJerryNadler) April 18, 2019
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) agreed. “AG Barr has confirmed the staggering partisan effort by the Trump Admin to spin public’s view of the #MuellerReport – complete with acknowledgment that the Trump team received a sneak preview,” she tweeted. “It’s more urgent than ever that Special Counsel Mueller testify before Congress.”
So did Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Kamal Harris (D-CA). Gillibrand called Barr’s press conference “a complete farce and an embarrassing display of propaganda on behalf of President Trump.” Harris wrote that the press conference “should concern us all, filled with political spin and propaganda,” adding that Barr “acted more like the president’s defense attorney than our nation’s Attorney General.”
.@KamalaHarris: "The Attorney General’s press conference today should concern us all, filled with political spin and propaganda. He acted more like the president’s defense attorney than our nation’s Attorney General." pic.twitter.com/l3lhH7h8zh
— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) April 18, 2019
The previous night, Nadler held an impromptu press conference to respond to the Justice Department’s efforts to run interference for the president. “The attorney general appears to be waging a media campaign on behalf of President Trump,” he said. “The facts of the report speak for themselves. The attorney general has taken unprecedented steps to spin Mueller’s nearly two-year investigation.”
Democratic Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler: “The attorney general appears to be waging a media campaign on behalf of Pres. Trump…
Rather than letting the facts… speak for themselves, the AG has taken unprecedented steps to spin Mueller’s nearly two-year investigation.” pic.twitter.com/qjCgYdVakZ
— Anderson Cooper 360° (@AC360) April 18, 2019
“The central concern here,” Nadler added, “is that Attorney General Barr is not allowing the facts of the Mueller report to speak for themselves, but is trying to bake in the narrative about the report to the benefit of the White House. He’s doing this just before the holiday weekend so it’s extraordinarily difficult for anybody to react.”
As Nadler notes, the timing of the report’s release, the day before Good Friday, does not appear to be a coincidence. “The reality is this is a 24-hour to 72-hour news cycle and nothing more,” a source close to the White House told Yahoo News of the report’s holiday release. “If there’s no collusion or obstruction charge, there’s probably nothing in there that people will be talking about past the weekend.”
Nadler wasn’t the only Democrat to rebuke the Justice Department’s last-minute distraction ploy. Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called the press conference “an indefensible plan to spin the report.”
Democratic Leaders this morning slamming Atty Gen Barr handling of the Mueller Report. @SpeakerPelosi and @SenSchumer says it's been "regrettably partisan" and "slanted," They say Barr's news conference this morning is "an indefensible plan to spin the report."
— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) April 18, 2019
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) tweeted that Barr “is presiding over a dog and pony show” while demanding he release the report without commenting. “You have ZERO credibility,” wrote Jeffries.
So-called Attorney General is presiding over a dog and pony show.
Here is a thought.
Release the Mueller report tomorrow morning and keep your mouth shut.
You have ZERO credibility.https://t.co/fKFeexUKkX
— Hakeem Jeffries (@RepJeffries) April 17, 2019
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) felt similarly. “This is not justice,” he wrote. “Just PR.”
Just been informed by DOJ that we’ll receive Mueller’s report only after Barr gives a press conference.
Once again, Barr wants to shape the public’s perception of the report.
This is on top of reports DOJ secretly briefed the White House.
This is not justice. Just PR.
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) April 17, 2019
Schiff, Nadler and three other Democratic congressional committee chairs later issued a statement demanding Barr cancel the press conference. “He should let the full report speak for itself,” they wrote. “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.”
President Trump weighed in early Thursday morning. “PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT,” he tweeted.
This post has been updated.