In what is officially a meeting about the budget of the Justice Department, Attorney General William Barr can expect to face scrutiny and questioning when he appears before the House and Senate Appropriations committees beginning Tuesday, The Inquirer reports. The hearings will be the first time Barr has appeared in such a forum since his receipt of Robert Mueller’s extensive report on his investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Members of both houses of Congress have spoken out and offered resolutions demanding that Barr release the report in full following Barr’s release of an abbreviated summary that highlighted what he considered key elements of Mueller’s findings. President Donald Trump and his allies were quick to celebrate the summary, saying that the report cleared the president of wrongdoing with respect to Russian collusion as well as obstruction of justice. While the House was able to pass a resolution calling for the release of the full report, Republicans within Senate leadership have repeatedly blocked such measures in the Senate.
Currently Barr is in the process of redacting portions of the report before turning it over to Congress, a potentially controversial task which he claims will be complete in mid-April. While Barr has essentially remained out of sight since delivering his summary to Congress, this week’s budget meetings will provide a likely-irresistible opportunity for Democrats in both the House and the Senate to grill the attorney general on the status of the report and the nature of his redactions.
Opponents of the president have suggested that Barr’s summary may have been incomplete at best and dishonest at worst, with Barr having faced scrutiny over how he would handle dissemination of this particular report since even before his nomination.
Breaking News: Some of Robert Mueller’s investigators see their report as more damaging for President Trump than the attorney general indicated https://t.co/V38S13ztTT
— The New York Times (@nytimes) April 3, 2019
During his confirmation, Barr insisted that he would not allow political motivations to influence his actions. But when pressed by Democrats on the specific issue of Mueller’s investigation, he made no clear commitment that he would make the report’s findings public, stoking concerns that he might conceal information damaging to the president or his allies.
As attorney general, Barr is alone in control of the dissemination of the report and even prior to his confirmation and long before the report was complete, many had expressed concern that he would block dissemination of the report altogether.
One source of that concern was a memo written by Barr which interpreted an expansive view of presidential power that essentially allowed a president to unilaterally shut down investigations such as this one with few checks or balances.
The memo’s subject line was “Mueller’s ‘Obstruction’ Theory,” and it was directed to then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, as well as Assistant Attorney General Steve Engel.