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Attorney General Barr Testifies On Mueller Report

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Until the report itself was released, almost everything the public knew about what was inside special counsel Robert Mueller's long-awaited report was filtered through one man, Attorney General William Barr.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

First there was the four-page summary. Then an hour before the report was released, Barr held a press conference to say again that the report had cleared the president of obstruction of justice. Now today that same man, Barr, faced a barrage of questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee on his handling of the report.

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LINDSEY GRAHAM: Do you solemnly swear that the testimony you're about to give to this committee is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you God?

WILLIAM BARR: Yes.

CHANG: Barr sat down at the committee room table shortly after the release of a letter written by Mueller to Barr. Illinois Senator Dick Durbin read from the letter.

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DICK DURBIN: The summary letter the department sent to Congress and released to public late in the afternoon March 24 did not fully capture the context, nature and substance of the office's work and conclusions.

CORNISH: Again and again Democrats questioned the attorney general about the discrepancy between his characterization of the special counsel's report and the concerns Mueller detailed in his letter.

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BARR: I talk directly to Bob, and Bob told me that he did not have objections to the accuracy.

DURBIN: Attorneys don't put things in writing unless they're pretty serious about them.

CHANG: And again and again, Barr, often looking impatient and irritated, defended his interpretation of Mueller's findings.

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BARR: After a, you know, months-long trial, if I wanted to go out and get out to the public what the verdict was pending preparation of the full transcript and the prosecutor comes up and taps me on the shoulder and says, well, verdict doesn't really fully capture all my work; how about that great, you know, cross-examination I did, or how about that third day of trial where I did that; this doesn't capture everything, my answer to that is, I'm not trying to capture everything. I'm just trying to state the verdict.

CORNISH: And while Democrats hit William Barr with questions about his conclusions, Republicans repeatedly returned to subjects like Hillary Clinton's emails, whether or not the Trump campaign was spied on and the questions of bias at the Justice Department during the 2016 election, as Texas Senator John Cornyn did here.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOHN CORNYN: We now need to know what steps the Obama, FBI, Department of Justice and intelligence community - what steps they took to undermine the political process and put a thumb on the scale in favor of one political candidate over the other. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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