William Barr, 68, appeared on Capitol Hill yesterday to talk about budget matters but faced complaints about his letter of March 24 in which he said that the special counsel Robert Mueller had cleared the Trump presidential campaign of conspiring with Russian Federation, and that there was evidence both for and against obstruction of justice.
Nita Lowey, the Democratic chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, said she was taken aback that Barr had reduced Mueller's report to a four-page letter in just two days. Barr's statement mentions $16 million for a vetting program for those who wish to enter or remain in the United States, something he says will help the government "identify terrorists, criminals and other nefarious actors".
Republican Rep. Robert Aderholt of Alabama asked Barr during Tuesday's hearing if the Justice Department is investigating "how it came to be that your agency used a salacious and unverified dossier as a predicate for FISA order on a US citizen?"
The House Appropriations Committee is not among those examining Trump, his finances and his foreign contacts, and only one member of the subcommittee that questioned Barr also sits on any of those panels that are. "This report is too important to all of us".
"If you seek both transparency and for the American public to learn the full contours of the Special Counsel's investigation, public testimony from Special Counsel Mueller himself is undoubtedly the best way to accomplish this goal", Collins wrote in his letter Monday.
Democrats have criticised that bare-bones description, and some on Mueller's team have told associates that they are frustrated with the limited information made available about their work.
"The process is going along very well", Barr said, "and my original timetable of being able to release this by mid-April stands".
Attorney General William Barr testified on Capitol Hill today and dodged questions about the Mueller Report.
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Barr also dismissed accusations that he was hasty to release the March 24 letter outlining the conclusions of the report.
"From a prosecutor's standpoint", he said, "the bottom line is binary, which is charges or no charges".
Explaining the rapid turnaround for his letter, Mr Barr said: "The thinking of the special counsel was not a mystery to the Department of Justice prior to the submission of the report".
He has backed away from calls to release the full report and has resumed denouncing the investigation.
Barr said he is barred by laws and federal rules from releasing information gathered by Mueller's grand jury that might affect continuing criminal investigations and about peripheral figures who were not charged with crimes.
"We will distinguish between the various categories", he said.
Nadler has argued that Congress is entitled to grand jury information, citing previous cases that include the Clinton and Watergate investigations. If Nadler tries to use his power to issue a subpoena, that could lead to a court case. He added, "My intention is not to ask for it at this stage".
Barr is scheduled to testify on the report itself at separate hearings before the Senate and House judiciary committees on May 1 and May 2. "We would harm people", the California Republican said Tuesday. Barr has said he does not plan to submit the report to the White House for review. "I do not believe it would be in the public's interest for me to attempt to summarize the full report or to release it in serial or piecemeal fashion".