Nancy Pelosi says William Barr committed a crime by lying to Congress

Attorney general "was not telling the truth to the Congress of the United States. That's a crime," Pelosi said

Published May 2, 2019 1:25PM (EDT)

William Barr; Nancy Pelosi (AP/Getty/Salon)
William Barr; Nancy Pelosi (AP/Getty/Salon)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday accused Attorney General William Barr of committing a crime by lying to Congress during testimony last month.

"What is deadly serious about it is the attorney general of the United States of America was not telling the truth to the Congress of the United States. That's a crime," the California congresswoman told reporters at her weekly press conference.

"He lied to Congress. He lied to Congress," Pelosi continued. "If anybody else did that, it would be considered a crime. Nobody is above the law — not the president of the United States, not the attorney general."

Pelosi's comments were an apparent reference to testimony that Barr gave in April during a House Appropriations Committee hearing. That was when the attorney general said he was not aware of any concerns raised by special counsel Robert Mueller's team over Barr's now-notorious four-page summary of Mueller's 448-page report detailing a nearly two-year-long investigation into foreign interference in the 2016 presidential election and President Trump's alleged obstruction of justice.

Barr's response last month appeared to contradict the revelation earlier this week that Mueller himself wrote a formal letter to the attorney general on March 27, in which the special counsel expressed concern that Barr's summary "threatened to undermine . . . public confidence" in the Russia investigation and did not fully capture his probe's "context, nature, and substance."

At that House hearing in early April, Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., asked Barr about news reports that some members of Mueller's team had expressed frustration that Barr had cleared Trump of obstruction of justice in his initial letter to Congress. Several news organizations had already reported that some on the special counsel's team believed the evidence against Trump was stronger than Barr had suggested.

"Reports have emerged recently, general, that members of the special counsel's team are frustrated at some level with the limited information included in your March 24th letter, that it does not adequately or accurately necessarily portray the report's findings. Do you know what they are referencing with that?" Crist asked Barr at the time.

Barr responded, "No, I don't. I think, I think, I suspect that they probably wanted, you know, more put out."

Democrats grilled Barr over his earlier comments Wednesday during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, in which the attorney general took questions from lawmakers for more than five hours on Mueller's investigation.

Pelosi noted on Thursday that the House Judiciary Committee will take the lead on how the Democrats will move forward. She quoted the warning issued by the panel's chairman, Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., at a scheduled committee hearing on Mueller's report held on Thursday morning. Barr had been scheduled to appear at that hearing, but announced on Wednesday night that he would not.

"If he does not provide this committee with the information it demands and the respect it deserves, Mr. Barr’s moment of accountability will come soon enough," Nadler said.

Pelosi, who said she had "lost sleep last night" over Barr's testimony on Wednesday, still appeared exceedingly cautious on Thursday when answering the question of whether her party plans to open impeachment proceedings against the president.

"Impeachment is the easy way out for some of these people because they know it ends at the Senate's edge," she said, a reference to the fact that it would require 67 votes in the Senate to convict Trump and remove him from office, a highly implausible outcome. "How sad is it for us to see the top law enforcement officer in the country misrepresenting, withholding the truth from the Congress of the United States."

By Shira Tarlo

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