Democratic presidential candidates have slammed Attorney General William Barr for the way he handled the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 elections, saying that his framing of the probe findings amounted to a partisan attempt to protect President Donald Trump.
The development comes after the 448-page, a two-volume report prepared after 22 months of investigations by Mueller was sent to Congress on Thursday on CD-ROM disks and released online.
The report did “not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities” but left enough ammunition for Democrats to pursue charges that the President tried to interfere with it.
The candidates including Senators Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand took turns criticising Barr, first for holding a news conference about the report before anyone could review it and then for the amount of the report that was redacted when it was released, The New York Times reported.
While speaking at a coffee shop in Iowa, Gillibrand was asked: “Should Democrats impeach Attorney General William Barr?”
The New York Senator said it was unclear if Congress had that power (though the Constitution grants it) and added: “He’s (Barr) behaving as the President’s personal lawyer… He’s not behaving as the Attorney General of the US.”
In a statement, Warren accused Barr of acting like a “publicist for the President of the United States” and called his media briefing “a disgrace”.
Harris, the California Senator with Indian and Jamaican descent, said that the briefing had been “filled with political spin and propaganda” that “should concern us all”.
By late Thursday, other candidates like Pete Buttigieg and Julian Castro appeared to have reviewed the report, saying that they found the information in it more alarming than exonerating.
Meanwhile, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders blamed the President for obstructing the investigation and vowed to continue gathering information about his actions.
At a town hall meeting in New Hampshire, former Representative Beto O’Rourke said Trump’s fate would be “decided in November of 2020 and will inform the choice that we make”.
In a video on Twitter, Senator Amy Klobuchar called on Mueller to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee, adding that the public wanted to hear from him about the report directly.
But of the 18 Democrats currently in the field, only Representative Eric Swalwell of California called on Barr to resign.
“You can be the President’s defence attorney or America’s attorney general… But you can’t be both.”