Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) forced Attorney General William Barr to repeatedly defend President Trump from evidence presented in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s 448-page report that he attempted to obstruct justice on multiple occasions.
Klobuchar, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, brought up during Wednesday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Trump’s thinly veiled threats against his former fixer and personal attorney Michael Cohen, his interactions with former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and his orders to former White House counsel Don McGahn.
“This is a man in the highest office in the most powerful job in our country, and he is basically—I’m trying to think how someone would react if the President of the United States is implying, getting out there that your family members have committed a crime. You don’t consider that any attempt to change testimony?”
Trump, on more than one occasion, publicly floated vague accusations about Cohen’s father-in-law and wife. “Do you consider that evidence to be an attempt to convince a witness to change testimony?” Kobuchar asked Barr.
“No, I don't think that that could pass muster,” he responded.
Klobuchar continued: “The report found that the president’s personal counsel told Paul Manafort that he would be taken care of. That you don’t consider obstruction of justice?”
“No, not standing alone,” said Barr. “On both the same reasons.”
“You look at the totality of the evidence,” Klobuchar continued. “The report found that the president's personal counsel told Michael Cohen if he stayed on message about the Trump Tower Moscow Project, the president had his back.”
Barr responded: “The counsel acknowledged that it is unclear whether he was reflecting the president's statements on that.”
So Klobuchar tried again: “The report found that after Manafort was convicted, the president himself called him a brave man for refusing to break.”
“Yes,” said Barr. “And that is not obstruction because the president’s—the evidence, I think what the president’s lawyers would say is that the president's statements about flipping are quite clear and express and uniformly the same, which is by flipping he meant succumbing to pressure on unrelated cases to lie and compose in order to get lenient treatment. That is not—it’s a discouraging flipping in that sense, it’s not obstruction.”
Klobuchar fired back: “He tells McGahn to deny reports that the president ordered him to have the counsel fired. If you don’t see that as obstruction and directing him to change testimony, do you think that would create a false record to impair the integrity of evidence?”
“It fails,” Barr responded. “The evidence would not be sufficient to establish any of the three elements there.”
He continued: “The government has to prove things beyond a reasonable doubt, and as the report shows, there is ample evidence on the other side of the ledger that would prevent the government from establishing that.”