Attorney General William Barr admitted he didn’t look at the underlying evidence before concluding Trump didn’t obstruct justice in the Russia probe

  • Attorney General William Barr said Wednesday he did not review the underlying evidence in the special counsel probe investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.
  • Barr said he accepted Robert Mueller’s report as is, which he argued is standard procedure at the Justice Department.
  • California Sen. Kamala Harris questioned whether that was the right decision given Barr’s conclusions that the president did not obstruct justice.
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WASHINGTON – Attorney General William Barr said Wednesday neither he nor Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein reviewed the underlying evidence in the special counsel’s investigation into whether President Donald Trump committed obstruction of justice related to accusations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

In response to questioning from Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris of California, Barr said he instead trusted the report presented to him by former FBI Director Robert Mueller, who headed the special counsel probe.

Read more: Attorney General William Barr dodges when asked whether Trump or anyone in the White House has suggested he investigate someone

“We accepted the statements in the report as the factual record,” Barr said. “We did not go underneath it to see whether or not they were accurate. We accepted it as accurate.”

Barr noted that this is pretty standard procedure at the Justice Department as well.

“This is not a mysterious process and the Department of Justice, we have [prosecution] memos and declination memos everyday coming up,” he said. “And we don’t go and look at the underlying evidence. We take the characterization of the evidence as true.”

Harris quoted Barr’s summary of Mueller’s report in which the attorney general said that the “evidence developed during the Special Counsel’s investigation is not sufficient” to charge Trump with obstruction. Given the statement, Harris questioned the reason for Barr not reviewing the underlying evidence.

“As the attorney general of the United States, you run the United States Department of Justice,” Harris said. “If in any US attorney’s office around the country, the head of that office, when being asked to make a critical decision – in this case the person who holds the highest office in the land and whether or not that person committed a crime – would you accept them recommending a charging decision to you if they had not reviewed the evidence?”

Barr responded, “Well that’s a question for Bob Mueller. He’s the US attorney. He’s the one who presents the report.”

The Mueller investigation concluded that neither Trump nor anyone in his campaign colluded with the Russians, but left open the prospect that the president obstructed justice. Barr ultimately made the determination not to pursue obstruction charges.