Attorney General William Barr refused to say whether he briefed the White House on special counsel Robert Mueller's report.
The attorney general appeared Tuesday morning before the House Appropriations Committee to discuss a variety of issues, and Democratic lawmakers pressed him for details on the report -- and asked how he could have summarized hundreds of pages in a matter of hours.
"The thinking of the special counsel was not a mystery to the people at the Department of Justice prior to his submission of the report," Barr told Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY). "He had been interacting, he and his people had been interacting with the deputy attorney general and lawyers supporting the deputy attorney general in his supervision of the special counsel. In that context, there had been discussions, so there was some inkling as to some of the thinking of the special counsel."
Mueller's report was delivered around midday on March 22, Barr said, and he told Lowey that he worked along with deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein and their staffs on their summary for the rest of that day, and the next two.
"Did the White House see the report before you released your summarizing letter?" Lowey said. "Has the White House seen it since then? Have they been briefed on the contents beyond what was in your summarizing letter to the Judiciary Committee?"
Barr refused to answer her questions, and said his opening statement before the committee, along with three letters he has submitted, would be all he was willing to say about the report until he released it in redacted form next week.
"I was willing to discuss the historic information of how the report came to me and my decision on (March 24)," Barr said, "but I've already laid out the process that is going forward to release these reports hopefully within a week. I'm not going to say anything more about it until the report is out and even has a chance to look at it."
President Donald Trump has claimed Mueller's report exonerated him, but Barr has said that wasn't accurate, although the attorney general said Mueller did not conclude the president had committed a crime.
"Can you tell us who is factually accurate," she asked, "and will the release report include details on the obstruction issue and why, as you noted, the president is not exonerated, or will that information be redacted?"
Barr said he'd already explained what information would be redacted, and he said lawmakers would just have to wait until he released that report.
"I will be in a position, as I said, in a week to release the report," he said. "People can then read the report. I've already promised the Judiciary Committees that I would appear as soon as they're able to schedule a hearing after the report is released. So I'm not going to discuss it any further until after the report is out."
Lowey pressed him again to explain how the president could claim exoneration so soon after the 400-page report was submitted, but Barr sidestepped the question.
"As I say, it's hard to have that discussion without the contents of the report, isn't it?" he said. "That's why I'm suggesting that we wait until the report is out, and I'm glad to talk to people about it after then, and I'm already scheduled to testify about that."