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Rejecting Barr's 'Whitewash' of Mueller Report, Democrats Demand to Hear from Special Counsel Himself

"This is not how a democracy works. The American people need to hear directly from Special Counsel Robert Mueller in open congressional hearings."

Special counsel Robert Mueller leaves after a closed meeting with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee June 21, 2017 at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Democrats and public advocacy groups on Thursday demanded to hear from Special Counsel Robert Mueller himself, even as President Donald Trump continued to claim he was fully exonerated by Mueller's report.

Trump's claims came despite the report's description of numerous instances in which he may have obstructed justice.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer released a joint statement Thursday morning calling for Mueller to testify before Congress "as soon as possible."

"It's clear the White House would prefer to keep the public in the dark, and that Barr was specifically chosen for this reason." —Indivisible"Attorney General [William] Barr's regrettably partisan handling of the Mueller report, including his slanted March 24 summary letter, his irresponsible testimony before Congress last week, and his indefensible plan to spin the report in a press conference later this morning—hours before he allows the public or Congress to see it—have resulted in a crisis of confidence in his independence and impartiality," Pelosi and Schumer said.

The Democratic leaders decried Barr's Thursday morning press conference—held before the report was made public—at which Barr vehemently defended the president and noted that Trump had grown "frustrated and angered by his sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency." The statement also revealed that the White House had been given access to the report before it was made public.

"We believe the only way to begin restoring public trust in the handling of the Special Counsel's investigation is for Special Counsel Mueller himself to provide public testimony in the House and Senate as soon as possible," Pelosi and Schumer said. "The American people deserve to hear the truth.”

Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) issued their own calls for a public testimony by Mueller after the redacted report was released to Congress and the public—inviting the Special Counsel to testify before their respective committees, which have been investigating Trump's 2016 campaign.

"The Committee must be kept 'fully and currently informed' of the intelligence and counterintelligence findings of your investigation," Schiff wrote to Mueller on behalf of the House Intelligence Committee, which he chairs. "This requires that the Committee receive comprehensive testimony from you about the investigation's full scope and areas of inquiry."

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) also called for a public testimony by Mueller.  

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The grassroots political action group Indivisible released its own "redacted" statement," leaving visible only the phrase "Congress must investigate."

"It's clear the White House would prefer to keep the public in the dark, and that Barr was specifically chosen for this reason," the group added in the blacked-out text. "We fully support House Democrats utilizing their oversight and investigative powers to continue to get to the truth and to make it clear that no one is above the law."

Even with a number of pages redacted, however, the Mueller Report pointed to 10 instances it examined to determine whether Trump had obstructed justice. While the report did not establish a criminal conspiracy or collusion between Trump's 2016 campaign and Russians who interfered with the U.S. election, Mueller concluded that Trump had not been fully exonerated of wrongdoing.

"If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would do state," the report reads. "Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment."

Common Cause President Karen Hobert Flynn denounced Barr's press conference and the redacted report as a "whitewash" by the attorney general, who she accused of "behaving more like a White House aide attempting to do damage control than the nation's top law enforcement official."

"This is not how a democracy works," Flynn said. "The American people expect and deserve to know the whole truth about the Russian attacks on the 2016 presidential election, and they need to hear directly from Special Counsel Robert Mueller in open congressional hearings."

The Campaign Legal Center (CLC) issued a statement also rejecting assertions by Trump and some in the corporate media that the matter of Russia's interference with the 2016 election was resolved—noting that the report confirmed the meddling 19 months before Americans again go to the polls to elect a president.

"Millions of Americans went to the ballot box in 2016 without knowing that a foreign adversary had taken extraordinary steps to pose as American political activists online, purchase political ads, and hack a major party nominee and campaign committee," Travis Potter, president of the CLC, said. "It is time to focus on how we can strengthen our election system to prevent foreign interference through illicit online activity, and to clarify our campaign laws so that the opportunity no longer exists for foreign actors to influence elections."

"American people of all political stripes—regardless of who they voted for in 2016—should look beyond one election outcome and call on Congress to protect our country from any foreign entity that may use the Russian model to intervene in 2020 and beyond," he added.

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