Speaking to the press Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) accused Attorney General William Barr of having committed a "crime" by "not telling the truth" to Congress about Robert Mueller's response to his summary of the principle findings of the special counsel's final report.
"What is deadly serious about it is the attorney general of the United States of America is not telling the truth to the Congress of the United States. That’s a crime," Pelosi told reporters in comments reported by CNBC Thursday. "He lied to Congress," she alleged when asked about her claim again. "If anybody else did that, it would be considered a crime. Nobody is above the law."
While she directly accused the attorney general of commiting a "crime," Pelosi would not give a straight answer about if he should go to prison for his alleged criminal offense, saying only that there's a "process involved."
As CNBC notes, the Justice Department has responded to Pelosi's "deadly serious" accusation, spokeswoman Kerri Kupac calling the speaker's comment a "baseless attack on the Attorney General" that is "reckless, irresponsible and false."
While some Democrats, including Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI), continue to accuse Barr of misrepresenting Mueller's final report — despite Mueller himself reportedly making clear that he did not believe Barr's summary of the report's key findings was "inaccurate or misleading" — Pelosi appears to be referencing Barr's previous statement to the House last month concerning reported "frustration" among the special counsel's team about the information in his summary.
Asked by Florida Democrat Rep. Charlie Crist if he knew what reports that the special counsel’s team was "frustrated at some level with the limited information" in his summary were referencing, Barr said, "No, I don’t. I think I think, I suspect that they probably wanted more put out, but in my view I was not interested in putting out summaries."
Barr's follow-up comments about the special counsel's team wanting him to put more information out, specifically their summaries, aligns with the recently leaked letter from Mueller sent to Barr three days after Barr's summary report to Congress. In a March 27 letter to Barr, Mueller expressed concern about the "new public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation" and asked Barr to release the special counsel's summaries of the report's findings (formatting adjusted):
The summary letter the Department sent to Congress and released to the public late in the afternoon of March 24 did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this Office’s work and conclusions. We communicated that concern to the Department on the morning of March 25. There is new public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation. This threatens to undermine a central purpose for which the Department appointed the Special Counsel: to assure full public confidence in the outcome of the investigations. See Department of Justice, Press Release (May 17, 2017). While we understand that the Department is reviewing the full report to determine what is appropriate for public release — a process that our Office is working with you to complete — that process need not delay release of the enclosed materials.
The Post reports that Barr and Mueller had a phone conversation the next day in which Mueller explained that he was concerned about the media coverage of Barr's summary but also said that he did not believe the summary was "inaccurate or misleading." Barr told Mueller he wanted to wait to release the entire redacted report, which included the summaries, rather than releasing it "piecemeal."
"A day after Mueller sent his letter to Barr, the two men spoke by phone for about 15 minutes, according to law enforcement officials," the Post reports. "In that call, Mueller said he was concerned that media coverage of the obstruction investigation was misguided and creating public misunderstandings about the office’s work, according to Justice Department officials."
"When Barr pressed Mueller on whether he thought Barr’s memo to Congress was inaccurate, Mueller said he did not but felt that the media coverage of it was misinterpreting the investigation, officials said," the Post reports. "In their call, Barr also took issue with Mueller calling his memo a 'summary,' saying he had never intended to summarize the voluminous report, but instead provide an account of its top conclusions, officials said."
A Justice Department spokeswoman addressed Mueller's letter and the follow-up phone call in a statement to the Post. "After the Attorney General received Special Counsel Mueller’s letter, he called him to discuss it," said the spokeswoman. "In a cordial and professional conversation, the Special Counsel emphasized that nothing in the Attorney General’s March 24 letter was inaccurate or misleading. But, he expressed frustration over the lack of context and the resulting media coverage regarding the Special Counsel’s obstruction analysis."
This article has been revised for clarity.