Return to Transcripts main page
HALA GORANI TONIGHT
Venezuela's Guaido Says, We'll Have Protests Every Day; Demonstrators Clash with Police in Paris; UK Defence Secretary Sacked Over Huawei Leak; Barr Testifies Before the Senate. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired May 1, 2019 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:00] HALA GORANI, CNN HOST: I'm Hala Gorani live in London. In a moment we'll be joining our live coverage of the U.S. Attorney General
William Barr being grilled before the Senate committee over his summary of the Special Counsel's report on Trump and Russia. So we will get right
back to that.
First, though, I want to bring you the main headlines this hour. In Venezuela, Caracas streets are filled with people both for and against the
government of President Nicolas Maduro. There's been tear gas fired, and reports of skirmishes but these appear to be isolated cases and we are not
hearing of the violence that injured dozens of people yesterday.
Opposition leader and National Assembly President Juan Guaido addressed his supporters a while ago. He's calling for a general strike and protests
every day until new elections are held. Also among the top headlines close to 300 people have been arrested in Paris as police continue to clash with
protestors in some of those yellow vest demonstrators.
Police have used riot gear and tear gas in an effort to push back on these Mayday protests. The crowd includes the yellow vests who are angry for
French President Emmanuel Macron for not doing more they say to help the working class. Mr.
Macron has announced more than $5 billion in tax cuts, but protestors say it's not enough.
Also among our top stories, the U.K. Defence Secretary has been fired. Gavin Williamson was asked to leave the government over his role in leaking
information from the National Security Council about Huawei. A spokesperson said, Prime Minister Theresa May had lost confidence in
Williamson's ability to serve in her cabinet. The Minister for Women and Equality, Penelope Mordaunt, has been given the role instead.
Now to our ongoing coverage of the U.S. Attorney General's testimony on Capitol Hill.
(LIVE TESTIMONY OF WILLIAM BARR BEFORE THE SENATE)
[14:02:09] HIRONO: But you seem to think that if it's not a crime then there's no problem, nothing to see here, nothing to worry about.
So, with apologies to Adam Schiff, do you think all of the things that President Trump did are OK? Are they what the President of the United
States should be doing? For example, do you think it's OK for a president to fire a FBI Director to stop him from investigating links between his
campaign and Russia? It may not be crime, but do you think it's OK?
BARR: Well, I think the report is clear that ...
HIRONO: No, I'm not talking about the report and the analysis of whether a crime occurred. I'm asking you. This is not a crime, but do you think it's
OK for the president to do what he did, to fire the special counsel to keep them from investigating.
BARR: I do think it's OK for the president to do what he did and I don't think the evidence supports the proposition to get it -- to stop the
HIRONO: So, I guess you think it's OK? Do you think it's OK for our president to ask his White House Counsel to lie?
BARR: Well, I'm willing to talk about what's criminal.
HIRONO: No, we've already acknowledged that you think it was not a crime. I'm just asking whether you think it's OK, even if it's not a crime, do you
think it's OK for the president to ask his White House Counsel to lie?
BARR: Which ...
HIRONO: Look, if you're just going to go back to whether or not it's a crime ...
BARR: No, which event are you talking about? Which event are you talking about?
HIRONO: ... you're telling me that it's OK. Let me ask you the last question that I have in 17 seconds. Do you think it's OK for our president
to offer pardons to people who don't testify against him? To threaten the family of someone who does? Is that OK?
BARR: What -- when did he -- well for a pardon to someone ...
HIRONO: I think you know what I'm talking about. Please, please Mr. Attorney General, give us some credit for knowing what the hell is going on
around here with you.
GRAHAM: Not really. To this line of questioning. We're going ...
HIRONO: So ...
GRAHAM: Listen, you've slandered this man every way you can ...
BARR: Yes, what is sort of want to know is how get to this point?
HIRONO: I do not think that I am slandering anyone.
BARR: So, how do we get to the point where the ...
GRAHAM: All I can say ...
HIRONO: Mr. Chairman, I am done. Thank you very much.
GRAHAM: And you slandered this man from top to bottom. So if you want more of this you're not going to get it. If you want to ask him question you
HIRONO: You certainly have your opinion and I have mine.
BLACKBURN: Thank you Mr. Chairman. Thank you General Barr for being here today, we really appreciate your time. I want to talk with you just a
little bit about some of your bottom line conclusions because I think there's one that we need to kind of circle back to a little bit.
And I've listened to a lot of the conversation here today, one of the things we've not discussed is what seems to be the culture at DOJ and the
FBI, and I know there are a lot of good people that work there and we're grateful for their service.
But ever organization has a culture, and whether it's a corporate culture or a church or schools or whatever, and what seems to have happened at the
FBI is there is a CD, cynical, political culture within a group that developed, and these individuals collectively seem to think that they could
work within the power of their jobs and their roles with the federal government.
There was an elitism and an arrogance there, and it speaks to a very unhealthy work culture within that agency. And I will tell you this. When I
talk to Tennesseans, they talk a lot about what they want to see with the Department of Justice and the FBI post all of this and a restoration of
trust and integrity and accountability.
And really in Tennessee, they'll talk to me about four - four things. They talk a lot about healthcare, jobs in the economy, they're going to talk
about getting federal judges confirmed, and about reigning in government and holding it accountable.
And there's been a lot of hysteria this is something that grew within the ranks of the FBI. What are you doing and what is your plan for rebuilding
that trust and integrity so that the American people can say, "when the FBI does its job, when the DOJ does its job, we know that it's a job done
BARR: I don't think there - there is a bad culture in the FBI and I don't think the problems that manifested themselves during the 2016 election are
endemic to the institution. I think the FBI is doing its job. I mean, just this recent case out in California where they interdicted this, you now,
would-be bomber, they do great work around the country every day, and I agree with Senator Kennedy who said, you know, it's the premiere law
enforcement institution in the world.
I believe that - and I say to the extent there was overreach I don't want to judge people's motives and come to conclusion on that, but to the extent
there was overreach what we have to be concerned about is, you know, a few people at the top getting it into their heads that they know better than
the American people and...
BLACKBURN: And that is the problem, and that is what we hope that you are...
BLACKBURN: ... you're addressing. Let's go back to this because to repeat - to the report to produce it I think that Mr. Mueller assembled what would
be called a dream team, 19 all-star lawyers - a Watergate prosecutor, a deputy solicitor general, a fluent Russian speaker who cloaked (ph) for two
Supreme Court Justices, former head of the Imran Investigative Task Force, Chief of the Public Corruption Unit in the Manhattan U.S. Attorneys Office,
federal prosecutors who have taken down mob bosses, the mafia, and ISIS terrorists. Do you consider these lawyers to be the best and the brightest
in the field?
BARR: Not necessarily.
BLACKBURN: Are they the warriors you would want on your side in the courtroom?
BARR: I mean, you know, there are a lot of great lawyers in the Department of Justice. You know, he assembled a very competent team.
BLACKBURN: Are they meticulous investigators who will hunt down every witness and every piece of evidence?
BARR: I think they are tenacious investigators.
BLACKBURN: Are they devoted to finding the truth?
BLACKBURN: Are they masters at taking down hardened criminals foreign and domestic?
BLACKBURN: If there were evidence to warn a recommendation for collusion charges against the president, do you believe that the special counsel team
would have found it?
BLACKBURN: And if there were evidence to warrant your recommendation for obstruction of justice charges against the president, do you believe the
Mueller team would have found it?
BARR: I think they had a exhaust that canvassed the evidence exhaustively. They didn't reach a decision on. But the question you've (ph) just been
asking raises a point I wanted to say when Senator Hirono was talking, which is how did we get to the point here where the evidence is now that
the president was falsely accused of colluding with the Russians and accused of being treasonous and accused of being a Russian agent? And the
evidence now is that was without a basis. And two years of his administration have been dominated by allegations that have now been proven
false. And, you know, to listen to some of the rhetoric, you would think that the Mueller Report had found the opposite.
BLACKBURN: And, you know, Mr. Attorney General, I will tell you that is what Tennesseans say. They say, "how did we get here? How is there this
allowance and acceptedness (ph) of saying, "that's OK," because it's not. And people want to see government held accountable. They want agencies to
act with accountability to the American people and they don't want to ever see this happen again.
It doesn't matter if a candidate is a democrat, a republican, or an independent. They never want to see this happen again because they know
that this was pointed at using the power that they had to try to tilt an election or to achieve a different outcome. And the American people want
equal justice, they want respect for the rule of law, and they want fairness from the system.
I have one other question dealing with social media. Tennessee republic party had a ten_gop account that was set up by the Russians, and, you know,
either I think as we look at social media, either they were willing to turn a blind eye and allow these accounts to go up because they knew they were
being paid in rubles on some of these accounts and/or there was just negligence.
So my hope is that with all the bad actor states, whether it is Russia or Iran or North Korea or China that you all have a game plan for dealing with
these platforms in a way that you're going to reign them in for the 2020 election. I yield back.
GRAHAM: Thank you. Senator Booker.
BOOKER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Barr, as I take a step back at this, I just really think we're at a very sobering moment in American history that
there is a considerable amount going on when you actually take time and read this whole report that shows that we're sort of at a crossroad and I
fear that we're descending into a new normal that is dangerous for our democracy on a number of levels. And I fear, unfortunately and I hope we
have a chance to discuss this, that you've not only put your own credibility into question but seem to be giving sanction to behavior
through the language you used in that press conference you held, the language used in your summary that stimulated Mueller to write such a
strong rebuking letter.
I fear that you're adding normalcy to a point where we should be sounding alarms as opposed to saying that there's nothing to see here. And so one -
this 448 page report that has a deep litany of lies and deceit and misconduct of the President of the United States instructing people to lie
and be deceitful, evidence of people trying to cover up behavior that on its face is morally wrong, whatever the legal standard is. I - I found it
number one, by saying that this kind of obstructive conduct was acceptable, not only acceptable but you're sentence literally saying that the American
people should be grateful for it, that is beginning of normalization that I want to explore.
But the second thing I want to explore, and we'll explore this but I want to make my two statements at the top, one that's problematic and in general
the second problem I have is that you seem to be excusing a campaign that literally had hundreds of contacts with a foreign adversary that I think
there is a conclusion amongst - a bipartisan conclusion that there was a failure to even report those contacts, that we engaged in behaviors that
the folks knew that were wrong that they tried to actively hide.
They seemed, seemed to capitalize on this foreign interference. I mean in our country we know it is illegal for a campaign and wrong for a campaign
to share polling data with an American super PAC but we have here documented a level of coordination with a foreign adversary sharing polling
data. And - and we're seem to be and your conduct seems to be trying to normalize that behavior and that's why I think we are in such a serious
moment that could - that is eroding the cultures of this democracy and the security of this democracy. So let's just get into some of this
You said, quote, "We know that the Russian operatives that perpetrated these schemes did not have the cooperation of President Trump or the Trump
campaign. That is something that all Americans can and should be grateful to have confirmed." The things I just mentioned, a willingness to meet with
Russian operatives in order to capitalize on information. I don't think that's something that should be grateful. I - I find your choice of words
alarming. I think it calls into question your objectivity when you look at the actual context of the report.
And so should the American people really be grateful that a candidate for president sought to benefit from material and information that was stolen
by a foreign power in an effort to influence an election?
BARR: Well I'm not sure what you mean by "seek to benefit." There's - there's no indication that they engaged in either the conspiracy to act or
that they engaged in the action with the respect to the dissemination that was criminal.
BOOKER: Well again, sir, you're using the word conspiracy which is a legal term. In that press conference you used President Trump's words,
obstruction over and over again.
BARR: Obstruction is a legal term.
BOOKER: Well - well sir, you pulled into his words and I'm asking you specifically - I'm sorry, collusion was the word I was looking for. You
used the word, "no collusion" over and over again. And you said the American people should be grateful that the president sought to benefit
from material and information, but you know that he did seek to benefit from that material. Donald Trump, Jr., in his own email seemed to celebrate
that he might have access to information from a foreign adversary. Is that correct? Is that something the American people should be grateful for?
BARR: Apparently according to the report he was -yes, apparently he was interested in seeing what this Russian woman had in the way of, quote,
BOOKER: And did not report it as I think everybody who is in politics knows it's something you should do. Should the American people be grateful that
in the face of our attack on our democracy by a foreign adversary that the President of the United States made several documented attempts to thwart
an investigation into the links between his campaigns and Russia? You use that word, "grateful" again that the American people should be grateful. Is
that something we should be grateful for?
BARR: I'm not sure what - what you're talking about.
BOOKER: Sir, I'm talking about the attempts that this president made, that Mueller pointed to at least 10 attempts to thwart an investigation into the
links between his campaign and Russia. Should we be grateful for those 10 well documented attempts by Mueller?
BARR: Are you talking about the obstruction part of the report?
BOOKER: I'm talking about the second volume but let me continue. Should the American people be grateful that Trump had more than 215 documented
contacts between Russian-linked operatives and then lied about them and tried to hide them? Is that something the American people should be
grateful for, any president - this one or any down the road?
BARR: As I mentioned earlier, during the campaign foreign governments make and foreign citizens frequently make a lot of attempts to contact different
campaigns. If were right now to go and look at for example Hillary Clinton's campaign during the same time frame, then you would see a lot of
foreign governments like Chinese trying to establish...
BOOKER: And that's I guess what I'm trying to say to you, sir, is that we right now have a new normal in our country. We have a document that shows
over 200 attempt - connections between a presidential campaign and a foreign adversary. Sharing information that would be illegal if you did it
with super PAC, we know that.
BARR: What information was shared?
BOOKER: Polling data was shared, sir. It's in the report. I can cite you the page.
BARR: With who?
BOOKER: And I - and I guess my point is is that your willingness to seem to brush over this and - and use words like "the American people should be
grateful," what's in this report, nobody should be grateful. Concerted efforts for deception for misleading inappropriate action after
inappropriate action that - that is clear and then on top of that at a time when we all recognize that we had a foreign power trying to undermine our
election, you the chief law enforcement officer not only undermines your own credibility as independent actor when there's ongoing investigations
still, using the word - the president's own words, having it criticized by Mueller himself. But the challenge we now have is that we are going into an
area where you seem to not even be willing to be in the least bit critical in your summarizations. I - I believe that calls in your credibility and
again, my time is up.
GRAHAM: Senator Tillis.
TILLIS: Thank you Mr. Chairman. Attorney General Barr, thank you for being here. In the last sentence on page one of your four-page memo it states
that the special counsel issued more than 2,800 subpoenas, executed nearly 500 search warrants, obtained more than 230 orders for communication
records, issued almost 50 orders authorizing the use of pen registers, made 13 requests of foreign governments for evidence and interviewed
approximately 500 people. That seems like a pretty extensive investigation to me. It took about 22 months, right?
TILLIS: And it was summarized in about a little over a 400 page document. Volume 2 was just under 200 pages as I recall. I've read volume 2 word for
word and I've read most of volume 1. The new normal that seems to be created here is even after all of this investigation and you haven't found
any conduct worthy of indictment that you can just bounce back for political reasons and indict somebody. That's a rhetorical statement or a
question not a statement.
Now I want to go back to the other part that I find interesting here. The "New Times" already issued a headline that says, "Mueller Pushed in Letter
for Barr to Release the Report's Summary." So now the narrative, because I've had a lot of people in the press coming out and the narrative is,
"well doesn't this undermine the - the attorney general because Mueller wanted the executive summaries issued?"
Now I want to go back to what you said in your opening statement. You said that I believe using your words, the body politic was - it was unrestful.
You had gotten the report. You didn't get the 6(e) information. You had to do the redacting. You knew that that was going to take time. It would have
been helpful if you'd gotten that when the report was transmitted to you and it took however long it took.
You issued the summary; you used the analogy of - of announcing the verdict and waiting for the transcript. Did you ever at any point say, "You know
what I really want to do is issue this letter and then let the news media play with it for three or four weeks and then we'll get the redacted
version out?" Did that ever cross your mind?
BARR: No, we were pushing ...
TILLIS: To get it done as soon as possible?
BARR: ... to get the report out as soon as possible.
TILLIS: At - at any point in time when the president had the opportunity to issue their own advice on redactions or assert executive privilege over the
course of the weeks that you were doing the review of the report, did you ever get advice from the president or from anybody in the White House to
assert executive privilege or to redact any portion of the document?
TILLIS: None. And so the narrative between the letter and the redaction process was we're going to get a report that's 80 percent redacted. Now
would you give me the numbers again on the version that's available to the leadership of Congress - the numbers again? I think you said 1/10 of 1
percent - we're skipping over volume 1 and we're spending time on volume 2.
TILLIS: Did I hear you say that the legislative leaders have access to all but 1/10 of 1 percent of the entire report?
BARR: Approximately, yes.
TILLIS: So guys, you can go out and spin this any way you want to but the data is there. There was no underlying crime and there was insufficient
evidence to indict the president on obstruction of justice. You said something else that's interesting me in the report about that we found no
evidence that was sufficient to indict. But then they went on to say nor can we exonerate.
And what is the special counsel in the business of exonerating a subject of an investigation?
BARR: They're not.
TILLIS: They're not. So why would somebody put something like that in the report?
BARR: I don't know.
TILLIS: And so would it - it would follow if that's uncommon that you would not have actually have included that in a summary before the full context
of the report could be produced. Is that a fair statement?
BARR: That's a fair statement but I did put in the sentence about not - I did put in the sentence about non exoneration.
TILLIS: Yes. I - I think that - that the thing that frustrates me, number one, I should have started by saying this the vast majority of people in
the Department of Justice and FBI are extraordinary people. The Chairman is right. Starting with Strzok and Page and everybody else leading up before
the investigation, I hope they're being investigated. I have a - I have a question for you. The scope of the OIG, where does - do you understand or
do you know what the scope of that report will be? Will it be purely on this investigation or would it extend to other acts that may have in some
way influenced this investigation?
BARR: Well I don't want to be too specific. I talked to Mike Horowitz a few weeks ago about it and it's focused on the FISA, the basis for the FISA and
the handling of the FISA applications but by necessity it looks back a little bit earlier than that. The people I have helping me with my review
will be working very closely with Mr. Horowitz.
TILLIS: Now I want to go back again because we have other people talking and I'm sure it's going to come up again. I'm clear in this report there
was no underlying crime. Is that correct?
BARR: Yes, that's the conclusion of the report.
TILLIS: And there was insufficient evidence or - or insufficient evidence to assert that the president obstructed justice and a lot of that evidence
was in the public eye because we talked about tweets and public statements and a number of other things that we're trying to use to assert for
evidence for obstruction of justice.
It seems odd to me that people on this committee that pound and pound over and over again that you're innocent until proven guilty, with the extent of
this report, with the number of resources nearly $30 million when the facts don't lead to the outcome that you wanted, the one the marketing department
wanted to use this as a political tool for the next 20 months, it seems odd to me that we'd go down the path of saying that well in spite of all the
work, we're going to indict him anyway and if we can't indict him then we're going to impugn your integrity and call you a liar. I find that
behavior on this committee despicable. Thank you.
GRAHAM: Senator Harris.
HARRIS: Thank you Mr. Chairman: Attorney General Barr, has the president or anyone at the White House ever asked or suggested that you open an
investigation of anyone?
BARR: I wouldn't - I wouldn't ...
HARRIS: Yes or no?
BARR: Could you repeat that question?
HARRIS: I will repeat it. Has the president or anyone at the White House ever asked or suggested that you open an investigation of anyone? Yes or no
BARR: The president or anybody else?
HARRIS: Seems you'd remember something like that and be able to tell us.
BARR: Yes, but I'm trying to grapple with the word suggest. I mean there have been discussion of - of matters out there that they've not asked me
open an investigation, but...
HARRIS: Perhaps they've suggested?
BARR: I don't know, I wouldn't say suggest.
BARR: I don't know.
HARRIS: Inferred? You don't know. OK. In your March 24th summary, you wrote that, quote, "after reviewing the special counsel's final report...
BARR: I will say no...
HARRIS: Sir, I'm asking a question. In your March 24th summary you wrote that, quote, "after reviewing the special counsel's final report, Deputy
Attorney General Rosenstein and I have concluded that the evidence is not sufficient to establish that the president committed an obstruction of
justice offense. Now the special counsel's investigation produced a great deal of evidence. I'm lead to believe it included witness's notes and
emails, witness's Congressional testimony, witness's interviews which were summarized in the FBI 302 forms, former FBI Director Comey's memos and the
president's public statements. My question is in reaching your conclusion did you personally review all of the underlying evidence?
BARR: No we took - we accepted statements ...
HARRIS: Did Mr. Rosenstein?
BARR: We accepted the statements in the report as factual record. We did not go underneath it to see whether or not they were accurate. We accepted
it as accurate and made our...
HARRIS: So you accepted the report as the evidence?
HARRIS: You did not question or look at the underlying evidence that supports the conclusions in the report?
HARRIS: Did Mr. Rosenstein review the evidence that underlines and supports the conclusions in the report, to you knowledge?
BARR: Not to my knowledge, we accepted the statements in the report...
HARRIS: Did anyone in your --
BARR: -- characterization of the evidence is true.
HARRIS: Did anyone in you executive office review the evidence supporting the report?
HARRIS: No. Yet you represented to the American public that the evidence was not quote "sufficient" to support an obstruction of justice of facts...
BARR: The evidence presented in the report -- this was not -- this was not a mysterious process, in the Department of Justice we have pros memos (ph)
and declination memos everyday coming up, and we don't go and look at the underlying evidence --
HARRIS: Sir, would you support--
BARR: -- to take (ph) the characterization of the evidence as true.
HARRIS: As the Attorney General of the United States, you run the United States Department of Justice, if in any U.S. attorneys office around the
country, the head of that office when being asked to make a critical decision about -- in this case, the person who holds the highest office in
the land and whether or not that person committed a crime, would you accept them recommending a charging decision to you if they had not reviewed the
BARR: Well, that's a question for Bob Mueller. He's the U.S. Attorney, he's the one who presents the report.
HARRIS: But it was you who made the charging decision, sir. You made the decision not to charge the President.
BARR: No. In a pros memo (ph) and then a declination memo--
HARRIS: You said it was your baby -- what did you mean by that?
BARR: It was my baby to -- to decide whether or not to disclose it to the public.
HARRIS: And who's decision was it. --who had the power to make the decision about whether or not the evidence was sufficient to make a determination of
whether there had been an obstruction of justice?
BARR: Prosecution memo's go up to the supervisor, in this case it was the attorney general -- the deputy attorney general who decide on the final
decision, and that is based on the memo as presented by the U.S. attorneys office.
HARRIS: I think you've made it clear that you've not looked at the evidence --
BARR: I've seen a lot of prosecutions --
HARRIS: We can move on. I think you have made it clear, sir --
BARR: --prosecution identification (ph) ---
HARRIS: -- You've made it clear sir that you've not looked at the evidence and we can move on. Will you agree to consult career DOJ ethics officials
about whether you're refusal from the 14 investigations that have been discussed by my colleagues as necessary?
BARR: I don't see any basis for it, I already consulted with them and --
HARRIS: You have consulted with them about the 14 other investigations?
BARR: About the Mueller case.
HARRIS: Have you consulted with the career DOJ ethics officials about the appropriateness of you being involved or recusing yourself from the 14
other investigations that have been referred out --
BARR: On what base?
HARRIS: Conflict of interest, clear conflict of interest.
BARR: What's my conflict of interest?
HARRIS: I think the American public has seen quite well that you are biased in this situation and you've not been objective and that would arguably be
the conflict of interest.
BARR: You know, I haven't been the only decision maker here, now let's take the Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, who was approved by this
Senate 94 to 6 with specific discussion on the floor that he would be responsible for supervising the Russian investigation?
HARRIS: I'm glad you brought up that, that's a great topic ---
BARR: OK, he has 30 years of experience and we had a number of senior prosecutors in the department involved in this process, both career and non
HARRIS: Yes, I've read the process, sir--
BARR: -- who all agree (ph) --
HARRIS: -- I have another question. And I'm glad you brought that subject up because I have a question about that. Earlier today in response to
Senator Graham you said quote, that you consulted with Rosenstein constantly, unquote, with respect to the special counsel's investigation
and report. But Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein is also a key witness in the firing of FBI director Comey. Did you consult with --
BARR: Well that's --
HARRIS: -- I'm not finished.
HARRIS: Did you consult with DOJ ethics officials before you enlisted Rod Rosenstein to participate in a charging decision for an investigation the
subject of which he is also a witness.
BARR: My understanding was that he had been cleared already to participate in it, but --
HARRIS: So you had consulted with them, and they cleared it?
BARR: No, I think they cleared it when he took over the investigation, that's my understanding.
HARRIS: Did you consult --you don't know whether he's been cleared of a conflict of interest?
BARR: He wouldn't be participating if there was a conflict of interest.
HARRIS: So you're saying that it did not need to be reviewed by the Career Ethics Officials in your office, does the Chairman think that's appropriate
BARR: I believe -- I believe it was -- well I believe it was reviewed, and I would also point out --
HARRIS: And what was --
BARR: This seems to be a bit of a flip flop, because when the president supporters were challenged --
HARRIS: Sir, this flip flop, I think in this case --
BARR: And Rosenstein --
CONGRESS: Is that you're not answering the question directly.
HARRIS: Did the Ethics Officials in your office -- in the Department of Justice, review the appropriateness of Rod Rosenstein being a part of
making a charging decision on an investigation which he is also a witness in?
BARR: Yeah my -- so as I said, my understanding was he had been cleared and he had been cleared before I arrived.
HARRIS: In making a decision on the Mueller report.
HARRIS: And the findings of whether or not the case would be charged on obstruction of justice. He had been cleared on that?
BARR: He was -- he was the acting Attorney General on the Mueller investigation.
HARRIS: Had he been cleared, to make --
BARR: He had been -- I am --
HARRIS: By your side, a decision --
BARR: I am informed -- I am informed that before I arrived he had been cleared by the FX (ph) Officials.
HARRIS: Of what?
BARR: Of serving as Acting Attorney General on the Mueller case.
HARRIS: How about making a charging decision on obstruction of justice, the underlying offenses --
BARR: That is what the (inaudible) --
HARRIS: Which include him as a witness.
BARR: That's what the acting Attorney General's job is.
HARRIS: To be a witness, and to make the decision about being a prosecutor?
BARR: Well, no but to make charging decisions.
HARRIS: I have nothing else, my time as run out.
BARR: Thank you.
GRAHAM: Senator -- let's see, we've got Senator Cruz. I'd like to do short second rounds, I've got to go to another hearing at 2:40. We're going to
take four votes, but to my colleagues on the other side, I would like to do a very short second round and wrap it up. Oh, I'm sorry Senator Crapo, I
CRAPO: OK, thank you. Attorney General Barr, I know you've gone through almost everything that could've been asked so far today, and I'm going to
go over a few things that you already talked about. But I appreciate your willingness to get in to it with me.
First I want to talk about the letter of March 27, that's been talked about a lot from Mr. Mueller. First, could you tell me who released that letter
to the public?
BARR: Who released it to whom?
CRAPO: Yes, I mean how did it get released? Was that a decision that you made to release that letter?
BARR: I think the Department provided it this morning.
CRAPO: OK, excuse me -- I mean to "The Washington Post" how did "The Washington Post" get the letter?
BARR: I don't know.
CRAPO: That's what I thought. So let's talk about the letter for a moment. You indicated that --
BARR: I assume "The Washington Post" got it from the Department of Justice.
CRAPO: Yes, well I think we need to find that out, but we can get in to that later -- if you're not aware then let's move on to other aspects of
the issue. You indicated that you did not feel you needed to release as much as Mr. Mueller thought you needed to release, at the outset you gave a
summary of the conclusions. And he apparently wanted to see a -- the summaries of each section that he had put together released, correct?
CRAPO: All right, could you go over again the reason why you responded to him when he asked you to release portions of the report before he released
it in its entirety?
BARR: Yes. This was on the conversation on Thursday, the day I got his letter. And I said that I didn't want to put out -- it was already several
days after we had received the report and I had put out the four page letter on Sunday.
And I said, "I don't want to put out summaries of the report that would trigger all kinds of frenzy about what was said in the summaries. And then
when more information comes out it would recalibrate to that." And I said, "I just want to put it out one time, everything together." And I told him
that was the game plan.
CRAPO: All right, and I just think it's important to point that out again, because there's been a lot of spin about the letter and what it was that
was being requested, and what your response to that was.
CRAPO: I think it was important to help get that -- get out again and get clarified. The reason I asked who released the letter is because there have
been a lot of releases of documents from the FBI that were basically leaks, and I was just curious as to whether that letter was a leak. I'm not asking
you that to (inaudible) --
BARR: I think what happened -- I mean, I hope my people (ph) jump me if I'm wrong on this, but I think the fact of the -- I mean, the information about
Mueller's concerns were leaked, and I think some news organizations were starting to ask about that --
CRAPO: And so then the letter was released --
BARR: And that in that context, I think the letter was provided -- is that accurate?
CRAPO: So there were leaks, at least about the concerns in (ph) the conversations that you had had.
BARR: Yes, yes.
CRAPO: That gets me back to the broader question of leaks that I want to get in to now. And you've had a number of people -- Senators have asked you
about the perceived bias at the FBI. I heard your responses earlier that you believe the culture at the FBI is strong and solid, and I agree with
I do believe however, that it's been pretty clearly shown in a number of different ways that there are some individuals at the FBI at high levels,
who in the past few years have not been holding up the standards of the FBI that the American people expect of them.
I'm sure you're familiar with the report of the DOJ's Inspector General Michael Horowitz where he looked at bias in the FBI, and in fact he found
it. And he indicated in a hearing in this room before us, that he did in fact find that there was bias at the FBI. And -- but he said that he wasn't
able to prove that the bias effected the employees work product.
Because -- in questions that I asked him he said I found that there was clearly bias, but in order to prove whether that effected the work output
of those who were bias, I had to ask them whether it impacted it, and they of course said no -- and I didn't have other evidence to prove otherwise.
This gets back to a conversation you had earlier about whether the FBI's business, or whether his business was to prove a negative, or whether it
was to find some actionable conduct.
My reason in going through this with you is that I want to get at what we can do -- well first of all whether you agree that there is a problem of
bias in the FBI, in some parts or of some individuals of the FBI and whether you are undertaking activities to address that?
BARR: You know, I --
[14:40:12] BARR: Well, you know, I --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Well, it has been a dramatic day on Capitol Hill. You've been listening to the U.S. attorney general who's
been testifying for the first time since he released the redacted version of the Mueller report. William Barr is facing some tough questions from
democratic lawmakers after a bombshell revelation.
We now know that Robert Mueller, the special counsel, wrote Barr a letter back in March saying the attorney general had mischaracterized the report's
findings. You'll remember that he issued a four-page summary that was widely circulated and reported.
And only several weeks later, did he issue or release the redacted version of the report. Barr is defending his actions Capitol Hill, including his
decision to clear President Donald Trump of criminal obstruction of justice.
Barr says Mr. Trump fully cooperated with the investigation. Listen to this earlier exchange.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT): Do you think it's fully cooperating to instruct a former aide to tell the attorney general to un-recuse himself, set down
the investigation and declare the president did nothing wrong?
BARR: I don't think -- well, obviously since I didn't find it was obstruction, I felt that the evidence could not support --
LEAHY: I'm asking, is that fully cooperating? I'm not asking you whether that's obstruction. Is that fully cooperating?
BARR: Yes, he fully cooperated.
LEAHY: So by instructing a former aide to tell the attorney general to un- recuse himself and shut down the investigation, and declared the president did nothing wrong, that's fully cooperating.
BARR: Well, firstly, asking sessions to un-recuse himself, we do not think is obstruction.
LEAHY: And declaring the president did nothing wrong. I'm not asking you about obstruction. Is that fully cooperating?
BARR: Well, I don't know that declares the president did nothing wrong, although the president, in terms of collusion, did nothing wrong. Isn't
LEAHY: Collusion is not a crime. It's the obstructing. But is that fully cooperating to say that?
BARR: Well, I don't see any conflict between that and fully cooperating with the investigation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: Well, let's take you live to Washington. Stephen Collinson joins me now.
And, Stephen, how did Barr defend himself after the revelation that Mueller had sent him a letter saying -- and I'm going to quote from the letter
itself, so I don't paraphrase him. "The summary letter the department sent to Congress and released to the public late in the afternoon of March 24th,
did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this office's work and conclusions."
He was asked about this. What did he say?
STEPHEN COLLINSON, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, he said a couple of things, Hala, which will do nothing to get rid of the skepticism, but a lot
of people in Washington have, primarily Democrats, that he's acting as the president's lawyer not the attorney general. He basically said that it was
his job to decide what the outcome of the report would be and how to present it to the American public.
And he maintained that Mueller wasn't angry about the substance of his letter merely the media coverage of his letter to Congress explaining the
decisions not to put charges against the president. That is really inconsistent with what Mueller said in the letter.
In the letter, the special counsel basically argued to the attorney general an extraordinary step that the way that he presented this report caused the
public to have doubt about the probity of the investigation, which is the whole point of having a special counsel in the first place.
So I think those clips you saw there show the way that Mueller -- the way that Barr was obfuscating, dodging, and involved in very confrontational
moments there with Democrats in the committee.
GORANI: And a lot of things would be cleared up if we could hear from Robert Mueller. Will he testify on Capitol Hill, and if so, when?
COLLINSON: I think that is the clear conclusion of what's going on over the last four hours. That Mueller now really has to testify. Barr said
during the hearing that he doesn't have any objection to Mueller testifying. Whether that is the case when it's a formal request to
presumably very soon from the Democrats on the House side of the Congress. We'll see.
But I think, really now, it is inevitable that all of these questions have been posed. And the fact that Mueller wrote a letter, he knew that that
was going to come out in public. I think you could look at that and see it was almost a request for Mueller -- from Mueller to be allowed to go and
testify and present his own case on Capitol Hill.
GORANI: Also on April 20th, Barr was asked whether or not he believed that Robert Mueller supported the conclusion that he came to in that four-page
summary. And this letter is dated March 27th. So that's kind of an interesting timeline of events, it came before he claimed that Mueller --
he did not know that Mueller disagreed or agreed with his conclusion.
[14:45:18] COLLINSON: Right. And there, you have the real bombshell of this situation over the last day or so. Democrats are saying that Barr
lied to Congress when he gave that undertaking, because he already knew from the letter that Mueller was dissatisfied with the way he presented his
report in his report.
Now, he tried to quibble with the substance of the question that was asked him back last month to sort of suggest the way of wriggling out of it that
he didn't lie to Congress. But you have a number of Democrats that are not calling for Barr to be brought back to the committee. They're saying that
he should be impeached, because there is nothing that the attorney general needs more than a reputation of being the neutral arbiter of justice.
He's not supposed to be in the pocket of the White House. A lot of went on today is going to just cement that perception in the eyes of many of Barr's
critics and Trump's critics that not only was he picked exactly to produce the kind of recommendations after the Mueller report that he did, that he's
now trying to cover that up.
GORANI: Also, he was asked why -- I mean, he got the report. He wrote the summary pretty quickly, that four-page summary, and then kind of sat on it
for a few weeks. What did he say about that?
COLLINSON: Well, that is -- the argument about that is that Barr basically was able to set the political narrative of this report. First of all, he
comes out and gives that letter to Congress giving what he says where the principle findings of Mueller's report. That is the letter that Mueller is
Then that three-week period went by before he presented it. When he presented it, he gave a press conference and still didn't put out the
redacted version of the report for another hour and a half. That allowed the White House to get in and say look, the president has been cleared.
He's been completely vindicated. So you have this established political narrative.
Barr was saying that he didn't want to put out Mueller's request more details of the report after that first letter, because it would be
piecemeal and it would be misleading, which is an odd thing to say really when you look at what he wrote in the letter. And if you read the report,
it doesn't seem to be completely true to what Mueller was saying and then he was saying there was so much in the report that needed to be
declassified, involved grand jury testimony, that it took that three-week period for it all to happen.
But, you know, Barr could have done this differently. He could have waited until that declassification period had gone by before he said anything. He
said the public interest was so acute in this case that he was under pressure to come out with the conclusions.
But, you know, for anybody that's not completely bought into Donald Trump's version of this case, and the way this played out, that seems to be a
difficult conclusion to come to.
GORANI: All right. Thank you very much. Stephen Collinson there with the analysis on what we heard hours of testimony by the attorney general of the
United States, William Barr, asked about his decision to release in a redacted form, the Mueller report, why it took him several weeks and also,
to defend himself in the light of that Mueller letter claiming that he'd mischaracterized his findings in that four-page summary.
OK. Another big story we're following right now, another dramatic day in Venezuela. Caracas streets are filled with people both for and against the
government of President Nicolas Maduro. Opposition leader, Juan Guaido, is calling for a general strike and for protests every day. These are live
images coming to us from Caracas.
He is asking Juan Guaido for people to support him until new elections are held. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUAN GUAIDO, VENEZUELAN OPPOSITION LEADER (through translator): We have all of us, we have to continue -- we are going to continue in the streets
when we see that they say protest all the time. From now on, every day, we're going to have protests, every day.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
GUAIDO (through translator): Today, we're going to be on the streets. So all of us who want change, whoever wants to support the armed forces, until
we reach our objective.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: Well, tear gas was fired at some protestors, but will this be a repeat of yesterday's violence when scores of people were hurt?
Nick Paton Walsh is on the ground in Caracas joining us live with a vantage point there overlooking the city.
What was it like today? Juan Guaido was hoping for some mass protests, what happened today?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I don't think he got that really. I don't think that yesterday's events, the
injuries, the loss of life, necessary translated into the surge in people on the streets. I've seen central Caracas, at this time, significantly
more crowded. In fact, the protest crowds we have seen have marched calmly away.
[14:50:13] What's interesting, Hala, in the last half an hour or so is in the general direction of where a lot of the trouble was earlier yesterday
morning. We've heard some louder blast what could be the most likely be tear gas. And what also it might possibly too have been some sort of more
sinister gunfire noises.
Very hard to tell if that is not -- standoff between protesters here and the Bolivian National Guard that often turned out there. Or if we're
seeing something else playing out.
But I have to say Juan Guaido himself, the self-declared interim president (INAUDIBLE) in that particular role, has himself acknowledged. They didn't
get enough defectors from the Venezuelan military out yesterday to necessarily turn the tide. Appealing to more to come out, appealing for
the army to be together, saying that it's not about one side confronting the other.
And we saw that occurred yesterday. So is the lesson of yesterday that perhaps Venezuela is not so keen to see those sort of scenes again? We
simply don't know. But an awful lot, I think of the rhetoric today has come from outside of Venezuela.
As you know, yourself, Mike Pompeo, U.S. secretary of state, has said this sort of incremental, but extraordinary words that, quote, military action
is possible. If that's what's required, that's what the United States will do.
Now, have always said that all options are on the table. But at a time like this, they're necessarily --
GORANI: All right. We have some technical issues there with Caracas in Venezuela. But our senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh
there discussing the situation with us in Caracas and across Venezuela, where we have protests, but not perhaps as big as Juan Guaido, the
opposition leader, and the president of the National Assembly was hoping.
Nick, I believe you can hear me again. Talk to me a little bit more about what happens next because --
WALSH: I can. Absolutely.
GORANI: Because here you have Juan Guaido who's calling on his supporters to come out and -- on mask until new elections are held. From the vantage
point of the Maduro government, he tried to overthrow him and mount a coup. Are they going to arrest him?
WALSH: Not at this point. And actually, it seems almost --
GORANI: All right. All right. We're going to fix whatever technical problem we have there. But as you can imagine, coms are patchy with
Venezuela these days. These are live images, I believe, coming to us from the streets of Caracas. Thankfully, no violence on the level that we saw
yesterday in Venezuela. And smaller crowds, perhaps from the opposition leader was hoping for.
We'll have a lot more from Venezuela and other breaking news after a quick break. Stay with CNN.
[14:55:06] GORANI: Close to 300 people have been arrested in Paris. The police are continuing to clash with protestors there. They've used riot
gear and tear gas trying to push back some of those mayday protestors. The crowd includes the yellow vests, angry at French president, Emmanuel
Macron. They've been protesting every Saturday for months now.
Mr. Macron has announced some tax cuts, but protestors say it's not enough, that he's working for the elites and that they are angry. And Ben Wedeman
is live in Paris. You were amongst the protestors today.
Ben, what happened? I'm seeing tear gas and a couple -- 300 arrests, I believe?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that is all over, however, Hala. The demonstration ended at the Place d'Italie. A
fairly peacefully compared to how it started earlier in the day in Montparnasse. It was quite violent. A lot of tear gas being fired,
stones, and paving -- pavement being thrown back at the police.
Now, we understand it's 280 people who were brought in for questioning. The actual number of people who currently detained as a result of the
clashes today is not unclear. The numbers in Paris, according to the police, around 28,000 people participated in these workers' day marches.
And around France as a whole, it was more than 160,000. At a certain point, it certainly did get quite violent. In fact, according to the
French interior ministry -- minister, many police officers were injured and at one point, protestors tried to attack a hospital. They tried to get
into the emergency ward and were only stopped by the nurses in that instance.
And we in fact, did see one of the police officers on the ground with some sort of injury. It wasn't all talked together clear what exactly it was.
But as I said, now the protests have come to an end -- certainly, we did see a lot of police in the streets. According to the interior ministry,
they plan to deploy 7,400 police and security forces members. That compared to a mere 1,500 the year before. Hala?
GORANI: All right. Ben Wedeman in Paris, thanks very much.
Stay with CNN. There'll be a lot more of our breaking news coverage, including the latest on the William Barr testimony on Capitol Hill, what is
happening in Venezuela, and the rest of the day's top headlines.
We'll be right back.