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By Rebecca Shabad
WASHINGTON — Congressional Democrats on Thursday highlighted portions of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 campaign that appeared to contradict President Donald Trump’s assertion that it represents “total exoneration,” pointing to examples within the document that they said demonstrate that the president had obstructed justice.
About an hour after Attorney General William Barr at a Thursday morning event framed the conclusions in the 448-page report in a light sympathetic to the president, the redacted document was finally delivered by the Department of Justice to congressional committees on CDs, then made public on the department’s website.
“Even in its incomplete form, the Mueller report outlines disturbing evidence that President Trump engaged in obstruction of justice and other misconduct,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., told reporters in New York.
“Contrary to the attorney general’s statement this morning that the White House ‘fully cooperated’ with the investigation, the report makes clear that the president refused to be interviewed by the special counsel and refused to provide written answers to follow-up questions; and his associates destroyed evidence relevant to the Russia investigation,” Nadler said.
“The responsibility now falls to Congress to hold the president accountable for his actions,” added Nadler, who said that he plans to issue a subpoena for the full report.
Asked if holding Trump accountable means impeachment, Nadler said, “That’s one possibility — there are others.”
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., who has previously downplayed the idea of impeaching Trump, tweeted Thursday that she plans to sign onto an impeachment resolution that has been introduced by Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich.
“While I understand the political reality of the Senate + election considerations, upon reading this DoJ report, which explicitly names Congress in determining obstruction, I cannot see a reason for us to abdicate from our constitutionally mandated responsibility to investigate,” she tweeted.
She continued by saying Mueller’s report “squarely puts this on our doorstep.”
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said Thursday that Barr “did a grave disservice to the country by misrepresenting significant parts of the Mueller report.”
The report, he told reporters in Burbank, California, outlines “multiple attempts” by Trump to interfere with the investigation — including false statements and urging others to lie — that it spelled out and “corroborated” previously reported contacts that Trump campaign officials made with the Russians during the 2016 race, and that it left the issue of obstruction for Congress to consider.
“Whether these acts are criminal or not,” Schiff said, “they are unquestionably dishonest, unethical, immoral and unpatriotic and should be condemned by all Americans … the facts that are established by this report are damning.”
House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., said in a statement that the full report should be subpoenaed, adding that it’s “crystal clear from the report” that the Justice Department’s policy against indicting a sitting president “played a key role in Special Counsel Mueller’s analysis — in fact, it is the very first point in the obstruction section of his report.”
Democratic leaders Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said in a joint statement that the report does not match what Barr has said about its conclusions and that he “deliberately distorted” significant portions of the report, “misleading” the public in four ways.
They said Barr had led them to believe that an opinion from the Office of Legal Counsel “did not play a significant role” in Mueller’s refusal to make a decision on obstruction. But the Mueller report, they said, shows that the opinion “played a major role.”
Additionally, the Democratic leaders said that while Barr said that Trump did not obstruct justice, “Special Counsel Mueller’s report cites several instances of presidential action that appear to undercut that finding.”
They also said that the report confirms that members of the Trump campaign were aware of Russian attempts to meddle in the election, “but instead of reporting this to the federal authorities, like any patriotic American would have done, the Trump campaign and President Trump himself openly encouraged it for the purposes of winning a presidential election.”
They added that the report “paints a disturbing picture of a president who has been weaving a web of deceit, lies and improper behavior and acting as if the law doesn’t apply to him.”
Nadler sent a letter to Mueller on Thursday requesting that he testify about the report before Congress “as soon as possible” or “in any event, no later than May 23, 2019,” tweeting that lawmakers “need to hear directly from special counsel Mueller and receive the full, unredacted report with the underlying evidence.”
Schiff sent a similar letter to Mueller on Thursday just after its release, requesting “comprehensive testimony from you about the investigation’s full scope and areas of inquiry, its findings and underlying evidence, all of the intelligence and counterintelligence information gathered in the course of the investigation, and the status of any ongoing counterintelligence investigation.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a statement that she would ask its chairman, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., to invite Mueller to testify before their panel, citing the report’s list of “10 instances where President Trump tried to obstruct the investigation.”
Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., a 2020 presidential contender, also said Mueller must testify as soon as possible. “Congress & the American people need to hear directly from the person who authored the report,” he said.
Shortly after the redacted report’s release Thursday, some Democrats highlighted areas that suggested important information was being concealed.
Rep. Don Beyer, D-N.J., tweeted a photo of several pages of the report that were almost completely blacked out with redactions.
Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., tweeted, “This doesn’t strike me as ‘total exoneration,’” posting a highlighted image of the report that said investigators had “identified numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump campaign.”
Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., tweeted a similar conclusion.
Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., who has filed articles of impeachment against Trump, said in a statement that his filing had been “based exclusively on evidence of Obstruction of Justice. The portions of the Mueller report released today buttress that conclusion.”
Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., who announced a White House bid over the weekend, called on Barr to resign. “Russia attacked us. The #MuellerReport details a multiplicity of contacts b/w Russia & @realDonaldTrump’s team and that Trump & his team ‘materially impaired’ the investigation.'” he tweeted. “Yet, OUR Attorney General acts as Trump’s defense attorney. He can’t represent both. Barr must resign.”
House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., tweeted: “Disappointing to see Attorney General Barr acting more like the president’s general counsel than Attorney General of the United States. … This just shows that the American people ought to hear directly from Robert Mueller about the contents of this report.”
Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., tweeted that Barr’s press conference had been an “obvious attempt to control the media cycle before the public has an opportunity to review” the report. “Mr. Barr is acting today as the President’s personal attorney rather than as the highest-ranking law enforcement official in the nation,” he continued.
Presidential contender Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., tweeted that it was “a disgrace to see an Attorney General acting as if he’s the personal attorney and publicist for the President of the United States.”
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., another Democratic presidential candidate, said on Twitter that the Barr event had been “a farce and an embarrassing display of propaganda on behalf of President Trump. Barr works for the people, not the president. They deserve to know Mueller’s full findings because nobody — especially not the president — is immune from accountability.”