Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal told Attorney General William Barr that history will judge him harshly for his role in the handling of the report of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. That was just the beginning of a testy exchange between the two as Barr testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Blumenthal asked the attorney general if he’s spoken with the White House about the many investigations that have been launched by state jurisdictions out of the Mueller report. Barr replied repeatedly that he didn't recall.
"Wouldn’t you recall whether you gave information to someone in the White House about an ongoing criminal investigation?” asked Blumenthal.
The senator also quizzed Barr about several instances in the report where it appears Mueller’s team caught the president in a lie.
“In your view did President Trump on those occasions and others cited in the report, lie to the American people?" he asked.
"Well, I’m not in the business of determining when lies are told to the American people," said Barr. "I’m in the business of determining whether a crime has been committed.”
Blumenthal said Barr’s credibility with Congress and the American people has been undermined, because of his assertion that Trump had been exonerated by the report on the accusation of obstruction of justice.
In a second round of questioning, Blumenthal quizzed Barr about a letter that Robert Mueller sent to the attorney general, taking issue with the four-page summary of the report that Barr issued ahead of its release.
At Blumenthal's urging, Barr described a phone conversation he had with Mueller, after the letter was sent.
"He said that they were concerned about the way the media was playing this, and felt that it was important to get out the summaries, which would put their work in proper context," he said. "I asked him if he felt that my letter was misleading or inaccurate, and he said no, he felt that the press coverage was."
"But there's nothing in Robert Mueller's letter to you about the press," Blumenthal responded. "His complaint to you is about your characterization of the report."
"This letter was an extraordinary act," Blumenthal went on. "A career prosecutor rebuking the attorney general of the United States, memorializing in writing. I know of no other instance of that happening."
The senator then asked if Barr or his staff had made notes of the call between Mueller and the attorney general. Barr conceded that notes do exist.
"May we have those notes?" asked Blumenthal.
"No," said Barr, "why should you have them?"