The hours leading up to the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s redacted Russia report on Thursday morning saw Democratic lawmakers underscore demands and objections, prompting accusations by Republicans that Democrats were continuing baseless partisan warfare against President Donald Trump.
As Attorney General William Barr gave a news conference to preview the report he subsequently sent to Capitol Hill and then released to the public — stressing that Trump’s inner circle had been cleared of collusion with Russia — the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee released a letter requesting that Mueller testify before the panel “as soon as possible.”
“It is clear Congress and the American people must hear from Special Counsel Robert Mueller in person to better understand his findings,” New York Democrat Jerry Nadler tweeted.
As Democrats escalated their outrage over Barr's handling of the release of the long-anticipated Mueller report, it was clear that the partisan controversy over the the special counsel's findings would mar relations between Congress and the White House well into the 2020 campaign season.
Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, meanwhile, accused the attorney general of performing public relations duties for the White House by opining on the special counsel’s report ahead of its release.
“AG Barr proved beyond a doubt he is here to defend Trump at all costs, facts be damned. This kind of spin is unworthy of an Attorney General,” Wyden wrote on Twitter. “Every member of Congress needs to see the whole, unredacted report along with all underlying materials. And the materials must be provided to Congress so that members and staff can review them and provide a check on the abuse of the redaction process.”
Republicans were quick to dismiss Democrats’ ire.
“My Democrat colleagues are doing a lot of table pounding today. Because they don’t have the facts. There was no collusion. It’s over,” Rep. Mark Meadows, a North Carolina Republican, tweeted. “They’ll continue selling this hoax. Even when none of the classified evidence they’ve been promising appears to exist. Treat their spin with the skepticism it deserves.”
That view was echoed by the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee.
“No collusion. No obstruction,” Georgia Rep. Doug Collins said on Twitter. “No executive privilege asserted. No redactions proposed or made by anyone outside DOJ [Department of Justice]. No one outside DOJ viewed unredacted report. No cover up when there’s nothing to cover up.”
One lawmaker took a wait-and-see approach to the Mueller report.
“I will withhold my judgment on the Mueller report until I’ve been able to review the document,“ independent Maine Senator Angus King tweeted. “[B]ut the pointed political tone of today’s press conference did not match the transparent, objective approach needed to restore the American people's faith in our justice system.’