WASHINGTON — Attorney General William Barr’s testimony Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee was jaw-dropping.
It also was predictable — given Barr’s initial (incomplete) summary of the Mueller report, his news conference before the full report’s release and his criticism of the Mueller probe even before he became attorney general.
And now with Barr declining to testify today before the House Judiciary Committee, it all raises the question: What do Democrats do next?
House Democrats could subpoena him, as NBC’s Alex Moe and Rebecca Shabad write.
And if he refuses the subpoena, they could hold him in contempt and censure him. Some 2020 Democrats even believe he should be impeached.
But their real next move is likely having Robert Mueller testify. Moe and Shabad report that House Judiciary Dems are looking at May 15 as a possible date.
Seven highlights of Barr’s hearing
Just to put all of the news of Barr’s Senate testimony yesterday into one place, here are our seven highlights:
- He said a president could replace an independent counsel if he thought in the investigation was unfair: "If the president is being falsely accused, which the evidence now suggests that the accusations against him were false, and he knew they were false, and he felt that this investigation was unfair, propelled by his political opponents, and was hampering his ability to govern, that is not a corrupt motive for replacing an independent counsel," Barr said.
- He admitted he didn’t review the underlying evidence in the Mueller report on whether Trump committed obstruction of justice: "We accepted the statements in the report as the factual record," Barr said in an exchange with Kamala Harris. "We did not go underneath it to see whether or not they were accurately accepted as accurate."
- He indicated he didn’t read the full Mueller report or even its executive summaries: “Polling data was shared, sir,” said Cory Booker. “It’s in the report; I can cite you the page.” Barr responded, “With who?” (Answer: Paul Manafort shared polling data with Konstantin Kilimnik – revealed on page 7 of Mueller’s executive summary of Russia’s interference in the 2016 campaign.)
- He dodged Kamala Harris’ question on whether the president or anyone at the White House asked him or suggested to him to open an investigation into anyone: “I’m trying to grapple with the word ‘suggest.’ I mean, there have been discussions of matters out there that… they have not asked me to open an investigation,” he said.
- He said the Mueller report was his “baby” after Mueller submitted it: "At that point, it was my baby... It was my decision how and when to make it public."
- He said Mueller’s concern to him about his March 24 summary was inaccurate media reporting: “And I called Bob and said, you know, what's the issue here? Are you -- and I asked him if he was suggesting that the March 24th letter was inaccurate, and he said no, but that the press reporting had been inaccurate.” (But here’s Mueller’s letter complaining about Barr’s summary: It “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this office’s work and conclusions.”
- And/but he called Mueller’s letter “snitty”: “The letter’s a bit snitty, and I think it was written by one of his staff people.”
2020 Vision: Bennet is in it
On CBS this morning, Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., said he’s running for president.
On the 2020 campaign trail today: Jay Inslee, in San Francisco, holds a climate discussion… And Pete Buttigieg raises money in Minnesota.
Data Download: The number of the day is … 57 percent
That’s the share of voters who say that Donald Trump committed crimes before he became president, according to a new Quinnipiac poll.
Just 28 percent of voters disagree (which includes a not-all-that-overwhelming majority of Republicans, at 60 percent.)
The same poll finds that voters are split down the middle — 46 percent to 46 percent— on the question of whether he has committed crimes SINCE becoming president.
The Lid: Three is the magic number
Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we looked at Democrats’ Senate recruiting woes.
Shameless Plug: The Toddcast!
The three of us also taped an episode of The Chuck Toddcast to talk about 2020, Bill Barr and Chuck’s favorite TV show. (Warning: Yes, there are Game of Thrones spoilers.) Check it out here.
ICYMI: News clips you shouldn’t miss
Emails obtained by NBC News show that the government admitted privately that it had ‘no way to link’ separated migrant kids to their parents.
The Congressional Budget Office finds that Medicare for All would probably lower administrative costs but increase wait times and access to care.
Hillary Clinton told our own Rachel Maddow that she’s “living rent free inside of Donald Trump’s brain.”
Trump’s advisers are split on what do to about his attacks on Biden.
Joaquin Castro isn’t running for Senate in Texas.
Pete Buttigieg met with Hillary Clinton this week.
Other news that’s out there…
Trump agenda: Co-opter in chief
James Comey writes in the New York Times: “How Trump Co-opts Leaders Like Bill Barr”
Here’s why AG Bill Barr says he won’t testify before the House Judiciary Committee.
Barr and Mueller are friends. So why are their views of his report so different?
Republicans are not thrilled with Trump’s infrastructure deal with Democrats.
What’s next in Venezuela?
Tiger Woods is headed to the White House.
2020: Conflict of interest?
Joe Biden is facing a conflict-of-interest story that’s getting fuel from Trump allies.
Our own Ben Kamisar sums up the 2020 candidates’ responses to Barr’s testimony.
Did the 2020 candidates who questioned Barr yesterday land any punches?
Eric Holder is renewing his calls to get 2020 candidates involved in redistricting fights.
Beto O’Rourke has signed a pledge not to take fossil fuel money.