The testimony of U.S. Attorney General William Barr regarding Special Counsel Robert Mueller was misleading and has damaged public confidence in the nation’s leading attorney, Professor Anil Kalhan said during an interview on Australia’s ABC Radio that aired May 2.
Barr was questioned during a Senate Judiciary Committee on May 1 about testimony he’d given in April, when he denied knowing how Mueller viewed the four-page letter he had written in March summarizing principal conclusions of the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential race and its interactions with the Trump campaign. A letter Mueller sent in March that criticized the four-page letter that became public in recent days contradicts Barr’s April testimony.
Kalhan said the April testimony seemed misleading.
“The nature of the questioning was such that at best, he was not being forthcoming, but at worst it really did seem that he was affirmatively being untruthful to Congress,” Kalhan said. “And people have been prosecuted for lying to Congress. Michael Cohen just pleaded guilty for lying to Congress.”
The four-page letter contradicts Barr’s claims that he wanted to release a full report with redactions to maintain transparency, Kalhan said.
“If he really wanted to wait to release the report, there was nothing to require him to issue that summary, have a press conference, spin it—spin the investigation, and quite frankly use the president’s own talking points when doing so, and certainly not to mislead the members of Congress in his sworn testimony,” Kalhan said.
Were it not for a longstanding Justice Department policy against prosecuting a sitting president, Kalhan said, there is no question that Trump would be charged with obstruction of justice, based on Mueller’s findings.
Mueller’s report notes that Trump had urged former White House Counsel Don McGahn to have the special counsel removed from office, a matter that Barr parsed ridiculously in his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 1, Kalhan said.
“Barr said he wasn’t trying to fire Mueller, he was trying to get him dismissed as special counsel because of a conflict of interest. That’s not obstruction of justice, because some other special counsel who would be appointed,” Kalhan said. “That's a way of splitting hairs in a way that’s too clever by half.”
Barr’s behavior has raised serious questions, Kalhan added.
“He has done real damage to the public confidence in him as result of his conduct in those hearings, and I think members of Congress are going to be quite concerned about this,” Kalhan said.