Earlier this year, following his bungled roll-out of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in 2016, Attorney General William Barr claimed he had “no objection” to Mueller testifying before Congress.
Now, Barr has changed his tune.
On Monday, the attorney general said he was “disappointed” that the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees subpoenaed Mueller, who will be testifying before Congress on July 17.
“I was disappointed to see him subpoenaed because I don’t think it serves an important purpose dragging Bob Mueller up if he in fact is going to stick to the report,” Barr told reporters. “It seems to me the only reason for doing that is to create some kind of public spectacle.”
Barr claimed that he changed his position based on seeing Mueller’s own reaction to the possibility of speaking before Congress.
“I said all along that I would not object to [Mueller] going up to testify, but after I said that, he indicated that he was not interested in testifying,” Barr added. “And he held a press conference and issued a press statement making it clear that his testimony really was the report itself and he really wasn’t going to go beyond the report.”
While Mueller is no longer a member of the Justice Department, Barr said it would “back” Mueller if the former special counsel opted to ignore the congressional subpoena.
“If Bob decides he doesn’t want to be subject to [congressional testimony], then the Department of Justice would certainly back him,” Barr said.
Barr added that the Justice Department would try to block any further attempts from Congress to compel other members of Mueller’s team to talk.
House Democrats reacted sharply to Barr’s comments — not least because they presented an about-face from his prior claims of neutrality.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), chair of the House intelligence committee, tweeted on Monday evening that it was “no surprise Barr doesn’t welcome Mueller’s testimony,” pointing to Barr’s prior attempts to mislead the public about the contents of Mueller’s report, which was made public in April.
It’s no surprise Barr doesn’t welcome Mueller’s testimony:
Barr misled the public about Mueller’s report, and wants his own deception to stand.
The public has a right to hear the truth, from Mueller himself, about Trump’s misconduct and ongoing national security risks. https://t.co/aoDG7BWrcg
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) July 8, 2019
“Barr misled the public about Mueller’s report, and wants his own deception to stand,” Schiff tweeted Monday evening, adding, “The public has a right to hear the truth, from Mueller himself, about Trump’s misconduct and ongoing national security risks.”
But Barr’s bungling of the Mueller report’s release — which Barr spun in defense of President Donald Trump, despite its descriptions of at least 10 possible instances of obstruction involving Trump — isn’t the only thing that’s angered House Democrats. Barr has time and again ignored congressional subpoenas to discuss actions he took related to that investigation on behalf of the Trump administration.
As a result, the House oversight committee took the near-unprecedented step last month of voting to hold Barr in contempt of Congress.
The House Judiciary Committee is also still considering holding a similar vote on Barr, stemming directly from Barr’s unwillingness to discuss his role in the roll-out of the Mueller report — a role Mueller will almost certainly be asked about next week.