Donald Trump

CD197: Constitutional Crisis

The United States system of government depends on the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial branches keeping each other accountable, but what happens when two of the branches refuse to police the third? We might soon find out. In this episode, by examining the Attorney General William Barr’s response to the release of the Mueller report, learn about recent events which foreshadow our system of government being tested in ways it hasn’t been tested before.
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Recommended Congressional Dish Episodes

CD191: The “Democracies” of Elliott Abrams

CD143: Trumps Law Enforcers

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Additional Reading

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Sound Clip Sources


Press Conference: Speical Counsel Robert Mueller Statement on Russian Investigation, May 29, 2019.

  • 4:10 Special Counsel Robert Mueller: The order appointing me special counsel authorized us to investigate actions that could obstruct the investigation. We conducted that investigation, and we kept the office of the acting attorney general apprised of the progress of our work. And as set forth in the report, after that investigation if we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime we would have said so. We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime. The introduction to the Volume II of our report explains that decision. It explains that under long-standing department policy, a president can not be charged with a federal crime while he is in office. That is unconstitutional. Even if the charge is kept under seal and hidden from public view, that too is prohibited. The Special Counsel’s Office is part of the Department of Justice, and by regulation it was bound by that department policy. Charging the president with a crime was, therefore, not an option we could consider.
  • 5:40 Special Counsel Robert Mueller: First, the opinion explicitly explicitly permits the investigation of a sitting president because it is important to preserve evidence while memories are fresh and documents available.
  • 6:10 Special Counsel Robert Mueller: And second, the opinion says that the Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing. And beyond department policy, we were guided by principles of fairness. It would be unfair to potentially — it would be unfair to potentially accuse somebody of a crime when there can be no court resolution of the actual charge.

Hearing: Attorney General William Barr Contempt Resolution, House Judiciary Committee, May 8, 2019.

  • 14:40 Rep. Jerrold Nadler (NY): I urge my colleagues to think about how the department’s latest position and their insistence on ignoring our subpoena effects our committee, over time. Our fight is not just about the Mueller report, although we must have access to the Mueller report. Our fight is about defending the rights of Congress as an independent branch to hold the president, any president, accountable.
  • 15:20 Rep. Jerrold Nadler (NY): The chairman of the oversight and Reform Committee has been sued in his personal capacity to prevent them from acquiring certain financial records from the Trump organization.
  • 15:30 Rep. Jerrold Nadler (NY): The president has stated that his administration will oppose all subpoenas, and in fact, virtually all document requests are going unsatisfied. Witnesses are refusing to show up at hearings. This is unprecedented. If allowed to go unchecked, this obstruction means the end of congressional oversight. As a coequal branch of government, we should not and cannot allow this to continue, or we will not be a coequal branch of government.

Hearing: William Barr Testifies on Mueller Report, Senate Judiciary Committee, May 1, 2019.

  • 7:50 Sen. Lindsay Graham (SC): I would like to do more to harden our infrastructure because the Russians did it. It wasn’t some 400 pound guy sitting on a bed somewhere. It was the Russians, and they’re still doing it. And it can be the Chinese, it could be somebody next. So my takeaway from this report is that we’ve got a lot of work to do to defend democracy against the Russians and other bad actors. And I promise the committee we will get on. Would that work? Hopefully in a bipartisan fashion.
  • 9:20 Sen. Lindsay Graham (SC): This is what Strzok said on February 12th, 2016 “Now he’s in charge of the Clinton email investigation”.
  • 11:25 Sen. Lindsay Graham (SC): “Trump is a fucking idiot”.
  • 17:05 Sen. Diane Feinstein (CA: First Special Counsel Mueller’s report confirms that the Russian government implemented a social media campaign to mislead millions of Americans.
  • 32:50 Attorney General William Barr: The special counsel investigated whether anyone affiliated with president Trump’s campaign conspired or coordinated with these criminal schemes. They concluded that there was not sufficient evidence to establish that there had been any conspiracy or coordination with the Russian government or the IRA.
  • 33:40 Attorney General William Barr: Now we first heard that the special council’s decision not to decide the obstruction issue at at the March 5th meeting when he came over to the department and we were frankly surprised that they were not going to reach a decision on obstruction. We asked them a lot about the reasoning behind this and the basis for Special Council Mueller stated three times to us in that meeting in response to our questioning that he emphatically was not saying that, but for the OLC’s opinion, he would have found obstruction.
  • 34:40 Attorney General William Barr: Once we heard that the special counsel was not reaching a conclusion on obstruction, the deputy and I discussed and agreed that the department had to reach a decision. We had the responsibility to assess the evidence as set forth in the report and to make the judgment. I say this because the special counsel was appointed to carry out the investigative and prosecutorial functions of the department and to do it as part of the Department of Justice. The powers he was using, including the power of using a grand jury and using compulsory process exists for that purpose. The function of the Department of Justice in this arena (which is to determine whether or not there has been criminal conduct). It’s a binary decision. Is there enough evidence to show a crime and do we believe a crime has been committed?
  • 35:30 Attorney General William Barr: We don’t conduct criminal investigations just to collect information and put it out to the public, we do so to make a decision.
  • 35:40 Attorney General William Barr: And here we thought there was an additional reason, which is this was a very public investigation and we had made clear that the results of the investigation we’re going to be made public, and the deputy and I felt that the evidence developed by the special counsel was not sufficient to establish that the president committed a crime, and therefore it would be irresponsible and unfair for the department to release a report without stating the department’s conclusions and thus leave it hanging as to whether the department considered there had been criminal conduct.
  • 38:13 Attorney General William Barr: We prepared the letter for that purpose. To state the bottom line conclusions. We use the language from the report to state those bottom line conclusions. I analogize it to announcing after an extended trial what the verdict of the trial is, pending release of the full transcript.
  • 38:40 Attorney General William Barr: We were not trying to summarize the 410 page report.
  • 44:05 Sen. Lindsay Graham (SC): Very quickly, give us your reasoning why you think it would be inappropriate to proceed forward on obstruction of justice in this case.
    Attorney General William Barr: Well, um, generally speaking, an obstruction case, uh, typically has two aspects to it. One, there’s usually an underlying criminality that…
    Sen. Lindsay Graham (SC): Let’s stop right here.
    Attorney General William Barr: Yeah
    Sen. Lindsay Graham (SC): Was there an underlying crime here?
    Attorney General William Barr: No.
  • 48:00 Sen. Lindsay Graham (SC): Do you think the President’s campaign in 2016 was thoroughly looked at in terms of whether or not they colluded with the Russians?
    Attorney General William Barr: Yes.
    Sen. Lindsay Graham (SC): And the answer is no according to Bob Mahler.
    Attorney General William Barr: That’s right.
    Sen. Lindsay Graham (SC): He couldn’t decide about obstruction, you did. Is that correct?
    Attorney General William Barr: That’s right.
  • 1:02:08 Sen. Chuck Grassley (IA): In volume two of the report, the special council declined to make a traditional prosecutorial decision. Instead, the special council laid out 200 or so pages relating to a potential obstruction analysis and then dumped that on your desk. In your press conference you said that you asked the special council whether he would have made a charging decision or recommended charges on obstruction, but for the office of legal console’s opinion on charging sitting presidents, and that the special counsel made clear that was not the case. So Mr. Barr, is that an accurate description of your conversation with the special council?
    Attorney General William Barr: Yes, he, he reiterated several times in a group meeting that he was not saying that, but for the OLC opinion he would have found obstruction.
    Sen. Chuck Grassley (IA): Yeah. If the special console found facts as sufficient to constitute obstruction of justice, would he have stated that finding?
    Attorney General William Barr: If he had found that, then I think he would state it. Yes.
    Sen. Chuck Grassley (IA): Yeah.
  • 1:03:45 Sen. Chuck Grassley (IA): Do you agree with the reasons that he offered for not making a decision and Volume II of his report and why or why not?
    Attorney General William Barr: Well, I’m not really sure of his reasoning. I really could not recapitulate his analysis, which is one of the reasons in my March 24th letter. I simply stated the fact that he did not reach a conclusion and didn’t try to put words in his mouth. Um, I think that if he felt that he shouldn’t have gone down the path of making a traditional prosecuted decision, then he shouldn’t have investigated. That was the time to, uh, pull up.
    Sen. Chuck Grassley (IA): Okay.
  • 1:37:53 Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): When did you first learn of the New York Times and Washington Post stories that would make the existence of this letter public? The ones that came out last night?
    Attorney General William Barr: I think it could have been yesterday, but I’m not sure.
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): When they contacted you to ask for any comment?
    Attorney General William Barr: They didn’t contact me.
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI)*: Contact to DOJ and ask for any comment?
    Attorney General William Barr: I can’t actually remember how it came up, but someone mentioned it.
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): So you…at some point you knew that the Mueller letter was going to become public and that was probably yesterday?
    Attorney General William Barr: I think so.
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): Okay. When did you decide to make that letter available to us in Congress
    Attorney General William Barr: This morning.
  • 1:37:53 Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): When did you first learn of the New York Times and Washington Post stories that would make the existence of this letter public? The ones that came out last night?
    Attorney General William Barr: I think it could have been yesterday, but I’m not sure.
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): When they contacted you to ask for any comment?
    Attorney General William Barr: They didn’t contact me.
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI)*: Contact to DOJ and ask for any comment?
    Attorney General William Barr: I can’t actually remember how it came up, but someone mentioned it.
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): So you…at some point you knew that the Mueller letter was going to become public and that was probably yesterday?
    Attorney General William Barr: I think so.
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): Okay. When did you decide to make that letter available to us in Congress
    Attorney General William Barr: This morning.
  • 1:40:30 Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): The…
    Attorney General William Barr: As I said, I wasn’t interested in putting out summaries. Period.
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): Well, you know, we can…
    Attorney General William Barr: Frankly…
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): This is another hairsplitting exercise because Bob Mueller, (who I think we all agree is fairly credible) actually described your letter as a summary. So you can say it wasn’t a summary, but Mueller said it was a summary and I don’t think…
    Attorney General William Barr: I wasn’t interested in summarizing the whole report. As I say, I was stating that the bottom line conclusions of the report…
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): Your letter said it’s intended to describe the report, I quote your words…
    Attorney General William Barr: Yeah, describe the report meaning volume one [inaudible]
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): When you describe the report in four pages and it’s a 400 page report, I don’t know why you’re cowboying about whether it’s a summary or not.
    Attorney General William Barr: Because I state in the letter that I’m stating that the principle conclusions.
  • 1:41:13 Attorney General William Barr: You know, Bob Mueller is the equivalent of a US attorney. He was exercising the powers of the attorney general subject to the supervision of the attorney general. He’s part of the Department of Justice. His work concluded when he sent his report to the attorney general. At that point, it was my baby.
  • 1:42:59 Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): Um, the interesting thing to me is that it goes on to say that because of the OLC opinion, we have to give the president an extra benefit of the doubt because he is denied his day in court where he could exonerate himself. That seems like a fallacy to me because if you are the president of the United States, you can either waive or readily override the OLC opinion and say, “I’m ready to go to trial.” “I want to exonerate myself.” “Let’s go.” Could you not?
    Attorney General William Barr: How is this relevant to my decisions?
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): It’s relevant…
    Attorney General William Barr: Because I assumed that there was no OLC opinion.
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): Well, we have a report in front of us that says that this influenced the outcome. And in particular it says it influenced the outcome because it deprived the president of his ability to have his day in court. And my point to you is that the president could easily have his day in court by simply waving or overriding this OLC opinion that has no judicial basis. Correct?
    Attorney General William Barr: Well, I don’t…I don’t think that there was anything to have a day in court on. I think that the government did not have a prosecutable case,
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): but part…well Mueller obviously didn’t agree because he left that up to you.
    Attorney General William Barr: Well…
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): He said that he could neither confirm nor deny that there was a prosecutable case here. He left that to you and when he did, he said, and you apparently have agreed that this OLC opinion bears on it, and then it would be unfair to the president to put them to the burden of being indicted and not having the ability to be charged himself…
    Attorney General William Barr: I don’t want to characterize…have Bob’s thought process on this.
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): I’m not asking you to characterize it. It’s in his report. He’s put it in writing.
    Attorney General William Barr: I’m not sure what he means by that in the report.
  • 1:54:13 Sen. John Kennedy (LA): Tell me again briefly why Mr. Mueller told you he reached no conclusion…or he couldn’t make up his mind or whatever. I’m not trying to put words in your mouth.
    Attorney General William Barr: I really couldn’t recapitulate it. I… it was unclear to us.
  • 2:31:25 Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): The special council specifically said (at the same time I’m quoting), “If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. He said it again at page 182, and yet in your summary and in the press room conference that you did, you in effect cleared the president on both so-called collusion.
    Attorney General William Barr: Yeah. The difference is that I use the proper standard. Um, that statement you just read is actually a very strange statement.
    Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): For four of the specific obstruction episodes, Robert Mueller concluded that it was substantial evidence on four on the three necessary elements of obstruction.
    Attorney General William Barr: Well, you’re…you’re on. You’re a prospect…
    Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): I have to finish my question with all…
    Attorney General William Barr: You haven’t let me finish my answer.
    Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): Well, uh, let me just finish the…
    Chairman Lindsay Graham (SC): We can do both.
    Attorney General William Barr: Alright, good.
    Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): Uh, you ignored in that press conference and in the summary that Robert Mueller found substantial evidence and it’s in the report, and we have a chart that shows the elements of that crime. Intent, interference with an ongoing investigation and the obstructive act.
  • 2:38:35 Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): You started by citing this thing in Volume II about how the report says that they could not be sure that they could clearly say that he did not violate the law. As you know, that’s not the standard we use in the criminal justice system. It’s presumed that if someone is innocent and the government has to prove that they clearly violated the law. We’re not in the business of exoneration. We’re not in the business of proving they didn’t violate law.
    Attorney General William Barr: I found that whole act very…
    Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): …exonerated him in your press conference and in your four page summary
    Attorney General William Barr: How did that start? I didn’t hear the beginning of the question?
    Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): You in effect exonerated or cleared the president?
    Attorney General William Barr: No, I didn’t exonerate. I said that we did not believe that there was sufficient evidence to establish an obstruction offense, which is the job of the Justice Department and the job of the Justice Department is now over. That determines whether or not there’s a crime. The report is now in the hands of the American people. Everyone can decide for themselves. There’s an election in 18 months. That’s very democratic process, but we’re out of it and we have to stop using the criminal justice process as a political weapon.
  • 2:50:30 Sen. Mazie Hirono (HI): You lied to Congress. You told Representative Charlie Krist that you didn’t know what objections Mueller’s team might have to your March 24th so-called summary. You told Senator Chris Van Hollen that you didn’t know if Bob Mueller supported your conclusions, but you knew you lied, and now we know.
  • 2:51:10 Sen. Mazie Hirono (HI): I expected you would try to protect the president, and indeed you did. In 1989…this isn’t something you hadn’t done before. In 1989, when you refuse to show Congress and OLC opinion that led to the arrest of Manual Noriega. In 1992, when you recommended partners for the subjects of the Iran Contra scandal and last year when you wrote the 19 page memo, telling “Donald Trump as president”, can’t be guilty of obstruction of justice, and then didn’t recuse yourself from the matter. From the beginning, you are addressing an audience of one. That person being Donald Trump.
  • 3:00:40 Attorney General William Barr: How did we get to the point here where the evidence is now that the president was falsely accused of colluding with the Russians and accused of being treasonous and accused of being a Russian agent. And the evidence now is that was without a basis and two years of his administration, uh, have been dominated by the allegations that have now been proven false. And you know, to listen to some of the rhetoric, you would think that the Mueller report and found the opposite.
  • 3:18:14 Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): In your March 24th summary, you wrote: “After reviewing the special council’s final report, deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and I have concluded that the evidence is not sufficient to establish that the president committed an obstruction of justice offense.” Now the special council’s investigation produced a great deal of evidence. Um, I’ve led to believe it included witnesses, notes and emails, witnesses, congressional testimony, witnesses, interviews, um, which were summarized in the FBI 302 forms, former FBI Director Columbia’s memos and the president’s public statements. My question is, in reaching your conclusion, did you personally review all of the underlying evidence?
    Attorney General William Barr: Uh, no. We took a… we excepted…
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): Did…Did Mr Rosenstein…?
    Attorney General William Barr: No, we accepted the statements in the report as the factual record. We did not go underneath it to see whether or not they were accurate. We accepted it as accurate and made our…
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): So you accepted the report as the evidence?
    Attorney General William Barr: Yes.
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): You did not question or look at the underlying evidence that supports the conclusions in the report?
    Attorney General William Barr: No.
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): Did, uh, Mr Rosenstein review the evidence that underlines and supports the conclusions in the report…to your knowledge?
    Attorney General William Barr: Not to my knowledge. We accepted the statements in the report.
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): Did anyone in your…
    Attorney General William Barr: The characterization of the evidence is true.
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): Did anyone in your executive office review the evidence supporting the report?
    Attorney General William Barr: No.
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): No.
  • 3:20:17 Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): As the Attorney General of the United States, you run the United States Department of Justice. If in any US attorney’s office around the country, the head of that office, when being asked to make a critical decision about in this case the person who holds the highest office in the land and whether or not that person committed a crime. Would you accept them recommending a charging decision to you if they’d had not reviewed the evidence?
    Attorney General William Barr: Well, that’s a question for Bob Mueller. He’s the U.S. Attorney. He’s the one who presents the report.
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): But it was you who made the charging decisions there. You made the decision not to charge the president
    Attorney General William Barr: No, in the pross memo and in the declination memo…
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): You said it was your baby. What did you mean by that?
    Attorney General William Barr: It was my baby to let, to decide whether or not to disclose it to the public.
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): And whose decision was it,? Who had the power to make the decision about whether or not the evidence was sufficient to make a determination of whether there had been an obstruction of justice?
    Attorney General William Barr: Prosecution memos go up to the supervisor. In this case, it was the…you know, the Attorney General, the Deputy Attorney General, who… who decide on the final decision, and that is based on the memo as presented by the US Attorney’s office.
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): I think you’ve made it clear that you’ve not looked at…we can move on. I think you’ve made it clear Sir that you’ve not looked at the evidence and we can move on.
  • 3:22:25 Attorney General William Barr: You know I haven’t been the only decision maker here. Now let’s take the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein who was approved by the Senate 94 to 6 with specific discussion on the floor that he would be responsible for supervising the Russian investing.
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): I’m glad you brought up that. That’s a great topic.
    Attorney General William Barr: He has 30 years experience and we had a number of senior prosecutors in the department involved in this process, both career and non-career.
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): Yes, I’ve, I’ve, I’ve, I’ve read a lot . I have another question and I’m glad you brought that subject up because I have a question about that. Earlier today in response to Senator Graham, you said quote “that you consulted with Rosenstein constantly” With respect to the special council’s investigation report, but Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein is also a key witness and the firing of FBI Director Comey. Did you consult with…? I’m not finished.
    Attorney General William Barr: Yeah?
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): Did you consult with DOJ Ethics officials before you enlisted Rod Rosenstein to participate in a charging decision for an investigation? The subject, of which; he is also a witness.
    Attorney General William Barr: My understanding was that he had been cleared already to participate in it.
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): So you had consulted with them and they cleared it?
    Attorney General William Barr: No, I think they cleared it when he took over the investigation. Did you consider?..
    Attorney General William Barr: That’s my understanding? I am…I
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): You don’t know whether he’s been cleared of a conflict of interest?
    Attorney General William Barr: You would be participating if there was a conflict of interest.
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): So you’re saying that it did not need to be reviewed by the career ethics officials in your office?
    Attorney General William Barr: I believe, well I believe it was reviewed and I…
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): and what role should find…?
    Attorney General William Barr: I would also point out that this seems to be a bit of a flip flop because when the president’s supporters were challenging Rosenstein
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): I think in this case that you’re not answering the question directly.
    Attorney General William Barr: What?
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): Did the ethics officials in your office, in the Department of Justice, review the appropriateness of Rod Rosenstein being a part of making a charging decision on an investigation, which he is also a witness in?
    Attorney General William Barr: Yeah. So as I said, my understanding was he had been cleared and he had been cleared before I arrived.
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): In making a decision on the Mueller report?
    Attorney General William Barr: Yes.
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): And, and the findings of whether or not the case would be charged on obstruction of justice? Had he been cleared on that?
    Attorney General William Barr: He was, he was the acting Attorney General on the Mueller investigation.
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): Had he been cleared?
    Attorney General William Barr: He had been, I am…
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): By your side recommendation?
    Attorney General William Barr: I am informed before I arrived, he had been cleared by the ethics officials.
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): Of what?
    Attorney General William Barr: Serving as acting Attorney General on the Mueller case.
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): How about making a charging decision on obstruction of justice?
    Attorney General William Barr: That is what the acting…
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): With the lack of offenses, which include him as a witness?
    Attorney General William Barr: Yeah. He, that’s what the acting Attorney General’s job is.
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): To be a witness and to make the decision about being a prosecutor?
    Attorney General William Barr: Well. No. But the big charging decisions.
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): I have nothing else. My time has run out.
  • 3:45:15 Sen. Patrick Leahy (VT): And President Trump. I am correcting my earlier statement, never allowed anybody to interview him directly under oath. Is that correct?
    Attorney General William Barr: I think that’s correct.
    Sen. Patrick Leahy (VT): Even though he said he’s ready to testify. Thank you.
  • 3:45:42 Attorney General William Barr: The absence of an underlying crime doesn’t necessarily mean that there would be other motives for obstruction. Although, it gets a little bit harder to prove and more speculative as to what those motives might be. But the point I was trying to make earlier, is that in this situation of the president, (who has constitutional authority to supervise proceedings), if in fact a proceeding was not well founded. If it was a groundless proceeding, if it was based on false allegations, the president does not have to sit there constitutionally and allow it to run its course. The president could terminate that proceeding and it would not be a corrupt intent because he was being falsely accused and he would be worried about the impact on his administration. That’s important, because most of the obstruction claims that are being made here or, episodes, do involve the exercise of the president’s constitutional authority. And we now know that he was being falsely accused.
  • 3:52:05 Attorney General William Barr: Right after March 5th, we started discussing what the implications of this were and how we would…
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): And you made the decision when?
    Attorney General William Barr: Uh, probably on Sunday the 24th.
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): That’s the day the letter came out?
    Attorney General William Barr: Yes. We made the decision…
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): And make the decision until the letter came out?
    Attorney General William Barr: No. No.
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): You must have told somebody how to write the letter, you couldn’t…
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): When did you actually decide that there was no obstruction?
    Attorney General William Barr: The 24th.
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): Okay.
  • 3:52:35 Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): When did you get the first draft of the Mueller report?
    Attorney General William Barr: The, the first?.. It wasn’t a draft. We got the final.
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): The first version of it that you saw?
    Attorney General William Barr: Well, the only version of it I saw.
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): Okay, the only version for you Sir. When you do first?
    Attorney General William Barr: The 22nd
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): The 22nd
  • 3:52:50 Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): Now you told Senator Harris that you made your decision on the obstruction charge, you and Rosenstein, based on the Mueller report. Did I correctly infer that you made that decision then between the 22nd and the 24th?
    Attorney General William Barr: Well, we had had a lot of discussions about it before the 22nd but then the final decision was made on the 24th
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): and you didn’t…
    Attorney General William Barr: We had more than two and a half days to consider this. LLC had already done a lot of thinking about some of these issues even before, uh, the…we got the report.
  • 4:03:30 Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): This letter was an extraordinary act. A career prosecutor would rebuking the Attorney General of the United States memorializing in writing. Right? I know of no other incidents of that happening. Do you?
    Attorney General William Barr: Uh, I don’t consider Bob at this stage, a career prosecutor. He’s had a career as a prosecutor.
    Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): Well, he was a very eminent…
    Attorney General William Barr: Who was the head of the FBI for 12 years? Um…
    Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): He’s a career…He’s had a, he’s… law enforcement professional?
    Attorney General William Barr: Right? Yup.
    Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): I know of no other instances of…
    Attorney General William Barr: But he was also political appointee and he was a political appointee with me at the Department of Justice. I don’t, I, you know, the letters a bit snitty and I think it was probably written by one of his staff people.
    Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): Did you make a memorandum of your conversation?
    Attorney General William Barr: Huh?
    Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): Did you make a memory?
    Attorney General William Barr: No, I didn’t need anyone else around them. What?
    Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): Did anyone, either you or anyone on your staff memorialize your conversation with Robert Mueller?
    Attorney General William Barr: Yes.
    Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT):Who did that?
    Attorney General William Barr: Uh, there were notes taken of the call.
    Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): May We have those notes?
    Attorney General William Barr: No.
    Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT):Why not?
    Attorney General William Barr: Why should you have them?

Hearing: Attorney General Barr News Conference on Mueller Report Release, Department of Justice, April 18, 2019.

  • 4:00 Attorney General William Barr: As the Special Counsel’s report makes clear, the Russian government sought to interfere in our election. But thanks to the Special Counsel’s thorough investigation, we now know that the Russian operatives who perpetrated these schemes did not have the cooperation of President Trump or the Trump campaign – or the knowing assistance of any other Americans for that matter.
  • 9:30 Attorney General William Barr: Special Counsel did not make a traditional prosecutorial judgment regarding this allegation. Instead, the report recounts ten episodes involving the President and discusses potential legal theories for connecting these actions to elements of an obstruction offense. After carefully reviewing the facts and legal theories outlined in the report, and in consultation with the Office of Legal Counsel and other Department lawyers, the Deputy Attorney General and I concluded that the evidence developed by the Special Counsel is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.
  • 10:30 Attorney General William Barr: 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. 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. And as the Special Counsel’s report acknowledges, there is substantial evidence to show that the President was frustrated and angered by a sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents, and fueled by illegal leaks. Nonetheless, the White House fully cooperated with the Special Counsel’s investigation, providing unfettered access to campaign and White House documents, directing senior aides to testify freely, and asserting no privilege claims. And at the same time, the President took no act that in fact deprived the Special Counsel of the documents and witnesses necessary to complete his investigation. Apart from whether the acts were obstructive, this evidence of non-corrupt motives weighs heavily against any allegation that the President had a corrupt intent to obstruct the investigation.
  • 18:00 Attorney General William Barr: But I will say that when we met with him, Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and I met with him, along with Ed o’Callaghan, who is the principal associate deputy, on March 5th. We specifically asked him about the OLC opinion and whether or not he was taking a position that he would have found a crime but for the existence of the OLC opinion. And he made it very clear several times that that was not his position. He was not saying that but for the OLC opinion, he would have found a crime. He made it clear that he had not made the determination that there was a crime.”
  • 19:30 Attorney General William Barr: And we don’t go through this process just to collect information and throw it out to the public. We collect this information. We use that compulsory process for the purpose of making that decision. And because the special counsel did not make that decision, we felt the department had to. That was a decision by me and the deputy attorney general.
  • 20:15 Attorney General William Barr: Well, special counsel Mueller did not indicate that his purpose was to leave the decision to Congress. I hope that was not his view, since we don’t convene grand juries and conduct criminal investigations for that purpose. He did not – I didn’t talk to him directly about the fact that we were making the decision, but I am told that his reaction to that was that it was my prerogative as attorney general to make that decision.

Hearing: Justice Department Fiscal Year 2020 Budget Request, House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, April 9, 2019.

  • 1:07:10 Rep. Charlie Crist (FL): Reports have emerged recently, General, that members of the Special Council’s team are frustrated at some level with the limited information included in your March 24th letter, that it does not adequately or accurately necessarily portray the report’s findings. Do you know what they’re referencing with that?
    Attorney General William Barr: No, I don’t. I suspect that they probably wanted more put out.

Hearing: Michael Cohen Testimony, House Oversight Committee, February 27, 2019.

  • 4:01:34 Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (CA): On January 17 of this year, the Wall Street Journal published a story stating that you hired John Gauger, the owner of a consulting company who works for Liberty University in Virginia, to rig at least two online polls related to Donald Trump. Did you hire him? Michael Cohen: Those were back in I believe 2015? Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (CA): 2014. Michael Cohen: 2014. Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (CA): 2014. So you did hire him? Michael Cohen: Yes. I spoke with Mr. Gauger about manipulating these online polls. Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (CA): And did he use bots to manipulate the poll? Michael Cohen: He used algorithms and if that includes bots then the answer’s yes. Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (CA): Yes. That’s accurate. Did the president have any involvement Michael Cohen: Yes. Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (CA): In directing you to do this? Michael Cohen: Yes. Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (CA): What were the results of the poll Michael Cohen: Exactly where we wanted them to be. In the CNBC poll, we came in at number nine. And the Drudge Report, he was top of the Drudge Report as well.
  • 4:50:20 Michael Cohen: So there was a contract that I ended up creating Mr Trump’s behalf for a Ukrainian oligarch by the name of Victor Pinchuk. And it was that Mr. Trump was asked to come into participate in what was the Ukrainian American Economic Forum. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to go, but I was able to negotiate 15 minutes by Skype where they would have a camera, very much like a television camera, very much like that one. And they would translate Mr. Trump to the questionnaire and then he would respond back. And I negotiated a fee of $150,000 for 15 minutes. I was directed by Mr. Trump to have the contract done in the name of the Donald J. Trump foundation as opposed to Donald J. Trump or services rendered.

Hearing: FBI Oversight, Senate Judicary Committee, May 3, 2017.

Witnesses:

  • James Comey: FBI Director

Sound Clips:

  • *2:27:00: Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): So potentially the President of the United States could be a target of your ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign’s involvement with Russian interference in our election. Correct? FBI Director James Comey: I just worry… I don’t want to answer that because it seems to be unfair speculation. We will follow the evidence. We’ll try and find as much as we can and we’ll follow the evidence where it leads.

Cover Art

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Music Presented in This Episode

Intro & Exit: Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio)

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