Trump Reacts To Barr Press Conference On Mueller Report

Apr 18, 2019
Originally published on April 18, 2019 12:24 pm
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

We are awaiting the release of special - the release of special counsel Robert Mueller's report sometime later this morning, and we'll be covering that throughout the day. What we do have so far is a press conference that ended just a short while ago.

Attorney General William Barr was talking about the redacted report that we will be getting soon. The attorney general said Russia did indeed interfere in the 2016 election. He did - they said that they did this without the help of any American and without the help of anyone involved in the Trump campaign. Here's how he put it.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

WILLIAM BARR: So that's the bottom line. After nearly two years of investigation, thousands of subpoenas, hundreds of warrants and witness interviews, the special counsel confirmed that the Russian government sponsored efforts to illegally interfere with the 2016 presidential election but did not find that the Trump campaign or other Americans colluded in those efforts.

GREENE: We're joined in the studio in Washington, D.C., by NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson and congressional correspondent Scott Detrow. Hello to you both.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Morning.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Hi there.

GREENE: So, Mara, let me start with you. I'm just looking at President Trump's Twitter feed. And he has a photo of him...

LIASSON: Pretty happy guy.

GREENE: He is. I mean, according - I mean, if you judge by this Twitter, it's like the motif of Game of Thrones. It says, game over, no collusion, no obstruction. For the haters and the radical left Democrats, game over. Should he be celebrating this much?

LIASSON: I think so. Oh - should he be celebrating this much? Well, that depends on your point of view. But if you're asking me, do I - politically, was today a great day for the president? Yes. Bill Barr, when he was on Capitol Hill, said he was trying to land the plane. He was - in other words, he wanted a smooth landing of the Trump - of the Mueller report. And today you saw him land the plane very smoothly for the president.

Not only did the Mueller report, according to Barr, come up with the conclusions that the president wanted - there was no illegal participation by Trump or his campaign in the dissemination of the hacked emails. There was no obstruction of justice - the - there was no evidence of that that the attorney general found even though the - Mueller himself didn't make a judgment on that. But even more important, I think that Barr's language, everything he described was almost filtered through the psyche of Donald Trump.

He used Donald Trump's language - no collusion, no collusion - even though the crimes, that were not found, are conspiracy or coordination. He talked about how the president's had a sincere frustration. That's why he lashed out at the Justice Department. That's why he did things that some people thought might have risen to the level of obstruction. He believed he was under attack by the media. So he really did present this through Donald point - Donald Trump's point of view.

GREENE: I think we actually have some of the sound of the attorney general. I mean, it's a nice bit of tape, but I think it's important to listen to because he's talking about what you were saying - the situation that that Donald Trump was in that may have led to some of the actions that could be interpreted as something close to obstruction of justice, if not obstruction of justice. Let's listen here.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BARR: President Trump faced an unprecedented situation. As he entered into office and sought to perform his responsibilities as president, federal agents and prosecutors were scrutinizing his conduct before and after taking office and the conduct of some of his associates. At the same time, there was relentless speculation in the news media about the president's personal culpability.

Yet, as he said from the beginning, there was, in fact, no collusion. And as the special counsel's report acknowledges, there is substantial evidence to show that the president was frustrated and angered by his sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents and fueled by illegal leaks. Nonetheless, the White House fully cooperated with the special counsel's investigation.

GREENE: Scott Detrow, I mean, there are legal questions here that I - you know, I assume we'll be sorting out, actually, once we see the report, but - what the intent of the president was. But listening to that, I mean, is the attorney general making excuses for the president?

DETROW: Yeah. I think this is going to be a part of the Barr press conference that Democrats especially focus in on. In preliminary responses, you're almost - you're already seeing that. Ron Wyden, a Democratic senator, saying, AG Barr proved beyond a doubt he is here to defend Trump at all costs. This kind of spin is unworthy of an attorney general - a lot of similar reaction.

I mean, I think politically speaking, there was a lot of what Barr said in that part in particular that you could hear a defense lawyer saying. And I think that's something that Democrats are going to have questions about. I mean, even before this press conference, Democrats were very clear that they no longer saw Barr as an honest broker here.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that Barr had created a crisis of confidence with a lot of the steps he took here. Democrats are now saying that that hearing from attorney general Barr is not enough. As soon as this press conference ended, Jerrold Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, put out a letter on Twitter requesting Robert Mueller come and testify before Congress.

He wants to hear from Mueller no later than May 23 - about a month from now. Barr was asked about that at this press conference, and he said he would have no objection to Robert Mueller testifying before Congress.

LIASSON: You know...

GREENE: He said no problem.

LIASSON: You know, David, the other thing that I thought was extraordinary about this was he set a whole new bar for presidential behavior. In other words, it's okay to trash the Justice Department, to kind of undermine your own appointees, you - the judicial branch - because you were frustrated and angered.

Other presidents have been under investigation. And I've never heard - first of all, none of them have ever behaved the way Donald Trump has. But I've also never heard the kind of excuses made for them like Barr did today.

In other words, everything that the president did that kind of undermined people's faith in the own - in his own FBI - dirty cops - conflicted Barr - you know, Mueller was conflicted because of a business deal he did with Donald Trump. I think it had something to do with golf club dues. All of that was explained by Barr as the president was frustrated and angered.

GREENE: Scott Detrow - a couple seconds left - Democrats worry that Barr was going to basically control the narrative before this report even comes out. Is that what's happening here?

DETROW: I think for the next few hours at least. Certainly we do not have the report. We expect it sometime in the 11 o'clock hour. According to Barr, he'll be transmitting it to Congress and posting it publicly. Until then, we just have to take his word for it because no one else in the public has read this report

GREENE: And we'll be continuing to follow all of this. NPR's Mara Liasson and Scott Detrow, thanks to you both.

DETROW: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.