Minnesota Democratic senator and presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar essentially prosecuted Attorney General Bill Barr at Thursday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, using evidence from the Mueller report to score point after point at Barr’s expense.
“I asked you if a president or any person convincing a witness to change testimony would be obstruction of justice, and you said yes,” Klobuchar began. “The report found that Michael Cohen’s testimony to the House, before it, that the president repeatedly implied that Cohen’s family members had committed crimes. Do you consider that evidence to be an attempt to have a witness change its testimony?”
“No. I don’t think that that could pass muster. Those public statements he was making, could pass muster as subornation of perjury,” Barr began, but Klobuchar cut him off
“This is a man in the highest office, in the most powerful job in our country,” Klobuchar said. “I’m trying to think of how someone would react if the president of the United States is implying, getting out there that your family members have committed a crime. So you don’t consider that any attempt to change testimony?”
“Well, you have two different things,” Barr stammered. “You have the question of whether it’s an obstructive act and also whether or not it is a corrupt intent. I don’t think general public statements like that have — we could show that they would have sufficiently probable fact — ”
“Let’s go to some private statements,” Klobuchar said, interrupting Barr’s drone. “The report found that the president’s personal counsel told Paul Manafort that he would be, quote, taken care of. This is in volume two, page 123-124. That, you don’t consider obstruction of justice?”
“Not standing alone. On both the same reasons — ” the attorney general tried, and instead got treated to some remedial law school.
“I think that is my point here,” Klobuchar said, openly laughing at him. “You look at the totality of the evidence, that’s what I learned when I was in law school. You look at the totality of the evidence and the pattern here. Look at this, the report found that the president’s personal counsel told Michael Cohen that if he stayed on message about the Trump Tower Moscow project, the president had his back. That’s volume two, page 140.”
“Right, but I think the counsel acknowledged that it’s unclear whether he was reflecting the president’s statements on that,” Barr replied
“The report found that after Manafort was convicted, the president himself called him a brave man for refusing to break,” Klobuchar threw at him.
“That is not obstruction, because the — the evidence — ” Barr said testily. “I think what the president’s lawyers would say if this were ever actually joined is that the president’s statements about flipping are quite clear and express and uniformly the same. Which is by ‘flipping,’ he meant succumbing to pressure on unrelated cases to lie and compose in order to get lenient treatment on the cases. That is not — it’s a discouraging flipping, in that sense is not obstruction.”
“We’ll look at the pattern here,” Klobuchar went on, burying the hapless attorney general in evidence. “The report found that after Cohen’s residence and office were searched by the FBI, the president told Cohen to ‘hang in there and stay strong.'”
“The court found that after national security advisor Michael Flynn resigned, the president made public positive comments about him, and then when he cooperated he changed his tune,” she went on. “During your confirmation hearing, I asked you whether a president deliberately impairing the integrity or availability of evidence would be obstruction. And you responded yes.” She then turned to the question of former White House counsel Don McGahn.
Trump “told them to deny reports, right?” Klobuchar said. “He tells McGahn deny reports that the president ordered him to have the counsel fired. If you don’t see that as obstruction and directing him to change testimony, do you think that would create a false record to impair the integrity of evidence?”
Barr, by this time looking angry and set upon, began sputtering.
“The evidence would not be sufficient to establish any of the three elements there. First, it’s not sufficient to show an obstructive act because it is unclear whether the president knew that to be false,” he said, his voice rising in anger. “In fact, the president’s focus on the fact that ‘I never told you to fire McGahn, did I ever say fire? I never told you to fire Mcgahn.'”
“I’m getting at something, it’s about impairing the integrity of the evidence,” Klobuchar shot back. I just see it as different.
“The report itself says, there is evidence that the president actually thought and believed that the Timesarticle was wrong,” Barr said, seething. “That’s evidence on the president’s side of the ledger, that he actually thought it was wrong and was asking for its correction.”
“The government has to prove things beyond a reasonable doubt,” he said, falsely equating criminal prosecution with impeachment. “As the report shows, there’s ample evidence on the other side of the ledger that would prevent the government from establishing that.”
“Again, I look at the totality of the evidence,” Klobuchar said, getting in the final word. “And when you look at it, it is a pattern. And that is different than having one incident.”
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