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08th-Apr-2019

US Attorney General pressed for evidence clearing Trump

By AFP, Washington

Two weeks after he exonerated President Donald Trump in the Russia meddling investigation, Attorney General Bill Barr faces mounting pressure to show the full evidence behind his decision.
Allegations this week that the US Justice chief downplayed serious evidence of illegal obstruction by Trump in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's final report are fueling demands that he release the entire, unexpurgated document to Congress.
News reports, citing unnamed members of Mueller's staff, said Barr ignored the summaries Mueller's team prepared for public release, and instead issued his own on March 24, in which he peremptorily cleared the president of any wrongdoing.
And Barr now says he will not release key evidence given to Mueller's grand jury, a special panel used by prosecutors in politically-sensitive cases. Democrats suspect the evidence could be damning to the president - setting up a legal and political showdown.
The Democrat-led House Judiciary Committee this week prepared to subpoena the full report, a move Barr and the White House will almost certainly contest.
And on Thursday Jerry Nadler, the committee chairman, demanded Barr turn over all communications between his office and Mueller's, following the reports Mueller's staff were unhappy with the way Barr presented their conclusions.
Barr's distillation "appears to minimize the implications of the report as to the president," said Nadler.
"Releasing the summaries - without delay - would begin to allow the American people to judge the facts for themselves," Nadler wrote.
At stake is the president's ability to put the Russia probe behind him and look to 2020 for reelection.
Trump, who declared a "complete and total exoneration" when Barr announced Mueller's conclusions, said this week that Democrats "are fighting hard to keep the Witch Hunt alive."
"This is the highest level of Presidential Harassment in the history of our Country!" he tweeted.
On Tuesday, members of Congress might get their first chance to press Barr in public about the Mueller report, when he appears before the House Appropriations Committee in a hearing nominally focused on the Justice Department Budget.
In his four-page summation of the 22-month investigation on March 24, Barr said that Mueller found no evidence of collusion between Trump's campaign and Russia in the 2016 election, and that there was insufficient evidence to charge Trump with obstruction.
Yet Barr also conceded that Mueller did compile evidence of obstruction, and quoted the special counsel as saying that: "While this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him."