House Democrats Fear Attorney General Barr
Congressional Democrats are threatening to hold Attorney General (AG) Bill Barr in contempt for not releasing the full Mueller report and for declining to appear in front of House Judiciary Committee. Barr has declined to appear as House Democrats want staff, instead of Congressmen, to question Barr. Only twice in history has a cabinet member been questioned by staff (Watergate and Iran Contra), so naturally Barr declined the invitation resulting in Democrats threatening to hold him in contempt.
Barr has stellar reputation, and this is his second tour of duty as AG. He served as AG from 1991-1993 after being confirmed by a unanimous vote, when then Senator Joe Biden called him “heck of an honorable guy”. So, what changed? The starting point is Barr’s testimony on April 10 that “spying did occur” on the Trump campaign and that he is looking into it. In addition to that, there are several events that are scheduled to occur over this summer that is causing House Democrats concern resulting in this diversionary tactic. Here is a list of those events:
FBI involvement in Trump campaign: Last week, The New York Times reported that FBI sent an investigator posing as an assistant to meet with Trump aide in September 2016 under the pretext “to discuss foreign policy issues”. This raises serious questions on an administration from one party spying on a presidential campaign of another party. More importantly, how far up the chain did the approval for this investigation happen?
Leak investigations: During Congressional testimony on May 1, AG Barr said that there are multiple criminal leak investigations underway. If government officials leaked classified information, that would be a felony punishable up to 10 years. The list of leakers may include high profile current and former government officials.
Inspector General (IG) investigation: Michael Horowitz, the highly respected IG has been investigating if the FBI misled the FISC (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court) to obtain warrants to investigate the Trump campaign. As James Comey admitted to Congress, FISA court operates on an honor system. In other words, the FISC typically approves FBI’s request by rubber-stamping it. If it is proven that the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee paid for the Steele dossier, which was then used to obtain warrants to spy on the Trump campaign without further corroboration, that could prove to be abuse of power. This investigation, which started in March 2018, is expected to be completed some time in May or June.
Declassification of Russia probe documents: The President held off on releasing these documents to avoid appearance of interfering with the Mueller investigation. With Mueller investigation now completed, there is nothing holding the administration back from releasing these documents. These documents, once released, will shed light on the extent of the FBI spying of the Trump campaign.
One final point: House Democrats want all documents from the Mueller report even though only 7.25% of this report is redacted (Source: Vox). These redactions were approved by Mueller’s team. In addition to the publicly available Mueller report, Barr has provided 12 senior members of Congress, six Democrats and six Republicans, with a less-redacted version (2% redacted, with only the redactions required by law). At last check, no Democrat has taken the time to read this less-redacted version (Source: Politico). If the real issue is the report, then why is it that none of the Democrats have bothered to read the less-redacted version?