Attorney General William Barr said Wednesday that he was “surprised” that special counsel Robert Mueller declined to make a decision on whether President Donald Trump obstructed the Russia probe.
During a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Barr said that he was “absolutely” confident in his decision not to pursue an obstruction case against Trump. Mueller ended his 22-month investigation on March 22 without making a decision on the question of obstruction. Barr said in a letter to Congress on March 24 that Mueller was unable to make a decision on obstruction, and would neither recommend charges against Trump nor exonerate him.
That left the decision to Barr, who decided after consulting with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein not to pursue the obstruction case.
“Were you surprised he was going to let you decide?” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham asked Barr of Mueller during the hearing.
“Yes, I was surprised,” said Barr.
“The other thing that was confusing to me was that the investigation carried on for a while as additional episodes were looked into, episodes involving the president, and so my question was ‘why were those investigated if at the end of the day you weren’t going to reach a decision on them?'” Barr continued.
One basis for Barr’s decision, he said, was that Mueller did not establish that Trump committed an underlying crime to obstruct.
Mueller found no evidence that Trump or the campaign colluded with the Russian government during the 2016 campaign.
“Was there an underlying crime here?” Graham asked Barr.
“No,” he replied.
Later asked whether he is confident in his decision not to pursue an obstruction case against Trump, Barr responded: “Absolutely.”
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