‘Constitutional crisis’ over Mueller report

Controversies over the Mueller report and the Trump administration continue in the US.

The vote was 24-16 in favour of holding Barr in contempt.

Reuters Explainer: Can Trump use executive privilege to withhold full Mueller report?

The White House on Wednesday invoked executive privilege to block the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s unredacted Russia report as a U.S. House panel met to vote on holding the U.S. attorney general in contempt of Congress for withholding the document.

The White House’s move escalated a constitutional clash between the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives and Republican President Donald Trump over its powers to investigate him, his administration, his family and his business interests.

Trump is stonewalling Congress on multiple probes, blasting the investigations as “presidential harassment.” In an unusual move, he is even suing to stop the release of some materials that lawmakers want.

There are so few court decisions on executive privilege that it is hard to be certain if Trump can withhold the unredacted report and underlying evidence, said Ross Garber, a lawyer in Washington who focuses on political investigations.

But to prevail in court the White House will eventually need to be more specific about which documents are protected by executive privilege and why, Garber said.

In a letter to Trump on Wednesday, Attorney General William Barr encouraged the president to make a “preliminary, protective assertion of executive privilege designed to ensure your ability to make a final assertion, if necessary, over some or all of the subpoenaed materials.”

Some legal experts have argued that Trump long ago forfeited, or waived, his right to make an executive privilege claim over conversations described by witnesses in Mueller’s investigation and related documents.

Meanwhile:

Democrats versus Barr versus Mueller are not fading away

The Mueller investigation led to the Barr letter which was followed by the release of most of the Mueller report was followed by the release of a Mueller letter to Barr, and now Barr has been questioned in the US senate. And the controversies continue, predictably with many angles being taken by media and politicians.

Washington Examiner: 5 takeaways from the Barr hearing

1. Tension between Attorney General William Barr and Robert Mueller

Barr revealed a split with the special counsel over the pursuit of evidence that President Trump tried to obstruct the probe. Mueller did not draw any conclusion on obstruction, despite gathering the evidence.

“The investigation carried on for a while as additional episodes were looked into,” Barr told the panel. “So my question was, why were those investigated if, at the end of the day, you weren’t going to reach a decision on them?”

Later in the hearing Barr dismissed a March 27 letter from Mueller complaining about Barr’s four-page memo to Congress about the report. “The letter’s a bit snitty and I think it was written by one of his staff people,” Barr told the Senate Judiciary Committee.

2. Barr didn’t review Mueller’s evidence.

Under questioning from Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., a former prosecutor who is running for president, Barr acknowledged neither he nor Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein reviewed the trove of evidencegathered by the Mueller team before he cleared Trump of any wrongdoing.

The Mueller report did not clear Trump of any wrongdoing, but Barr’s letter summarising the findings of the investigation were taken by Trump and others as doing that.

3. Barr is probing leaks to media.

Under questioning from Republicans on the panel, Barr said he is investigating Department of Justice leaks to the media regarding the investigation into alleged Russian collusion with the Trump campaign.

4. Barr is examining the justification for surveillance warrants into Trump campaign.

Barr said he is investigating the basis for the Justice Department’s decision to secretly surveil the Trump campaign beginning in October 2016. Barr said he is working with Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz to determine if a surveillance warrant was properly obtained by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court the month before the election.

5. Senate Judiciary (probably) won’t call Mueller to testify.

Democrats are eager to hear testimony from special counsel Robert Mueller, they said Wednesday. But Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., doesn’t plan to invite him.

“I’m not going to do any more,” Graham said after Barr’s day-long hearing. “Enough already, it’s over.”

But it appears to be far from over.

RealClear Politics – Pelosi: Attorney General Barr Committed A Crime; “He Lied To Congress”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday accused Attorney General William Barr of criminally lying to Congress about special counsel Robert Mueller’s report and Mueller’s letter relating to how Barr has characterized its findings.

“What is deadly serious about it is the attorney general of the United States of America is not telling the truth to the Congress of the United States. That’s a crime,” the Speaker told reporters.

Asked again about the accusation, Pelosi said: “He lied to Congress. If anybody else did that, it would be considered a crime. Nobody is above the law.”

Asked whether Barr should go to jail, the speaker said: “There’s a process involved here.”

There’s something for everyone to cherry pick from.

US Attorney General’s letter to Congress on Mueller report

The US Attorney General William Barr’s summary letter to Congress on the Mueller investigation has been released.

“The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in it’s election interference activities”.

Mueller handed responsibility on whether to proceed on possible obstruction of justice to the Attorney General.

The Special Counsel states that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him”.

 

https://judiciary.house.gov/sites/democrats.judiciary.house.gov/files/documents/AG%20March%2024%202019%20Letter%20to%20House%20and%20Senate%20Judiciary%20Committees.pdf