WASHINGTON — House Democrats began calling on Attorney General Bill Barr to resign Thursday after he held a press conference ahead of the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report that Democrats criticized as political spin on the president’s behalf.
At the press conference, Barr said that while Mueller had found multiple instances of potential obstruction of justice on Trump’s part, the attorney general concluded there was not enough evidence to support finding Trump had broken the law. While Mueller wrote that his report did not "exonerate" the president on the issue of obstruction, he found that Trump and his team had not illegally conspired with Russia. During the press conference Barr repeatedly used Trump's own language in his defense, including at one point saying the report had found "no collusion."
Following the release of the report, California Rep. Eric Swalwell, a Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee and a presidential candidate, was the first to demand Barr’s resignation, as other House Democrats spent Thursday lamenting Barr’s remarks.
“OUR Attorney General acts as Trump’s defense attorney. He can’t represent both. Barr must resign,” Swalwell tweeted.
Shortly after Swalwell called for Barr’s resignation, another House Democrat, Rep. Norma Torres of California, tweeted using the hashtag “#LapDogBarrMustResign,” a sign that the floodgates into calls for Barr’s resignation may be opening.
A third California Democrat, Rep. Barbara Lee, joined them later in the afternoon, tweeting that "Barr needs to resign."
Democrats coalesced around the argument that Barr had tried to skew perceptions of Mueller’s report at his press conference.
"Turns out Bill Barr lied through his teeth this morning," declared Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island on Thursday afternoon.
California Rep. Maxine Waters, chair of the House Financial Services Committee, echoed that sentiment, saying Barr has "proven himself to be a very capable liar and fraud."
"I never had any confidence in Barr, but two things are clear after his press conference: Mueller must testify before Congress and Barr must be cast out of government along with this President and his accomplices," Waters said in a statement Thursday evening.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Twitter that Barr "confirmed the staggering partisan effort by the Trump Admin to spin public’s view of the #MuellerReport — complete with acknowledgment that the Trump team received a sneak preview."
Though short of calling on him to resign, Democrats criticized Barr’s presentation compared to what was actually in the Mueller report. Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer later released another joint statement, saying "one thing is clear: Attorney General Barr presented a conclusion that the president did not obstruct justice while Mueller's report appears to undercut that finding."
Texas Rep. Veronica Escobar accused Barr of “gaslight[ing]” America.
"I'm still working through the #MuellerReport, but one thing is becoming clear: AG Barr's analysis this morning isn't matching up with what's in the document. The legality and the morality of the President's actions are still very much in question. Americans need to know more," Indiana Rep. André Carson tweeted.
Rep. Jerry Nadler, the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, meanwhile, sent Mueller a letter on Thursday calling on him to testify before the committee by May 23. Many other House Democrats quickly piled on to the call for Mueller to testify in front of Congress, and the House Intelligence Committee followed up with its own letter to Mueller asking for him to testify in front of that committee as well sometime in May.
Barr is already scheduled to appear before the House and Senate Judiciary Committees on May 1 and 2.
Barr was confirmed on Feb. 14 by a 10-vote margin in the Senate, kicking off what has been a muted first two months in office. Though his policies largely reflect those of his predecessor, former attorney general Jeff Sessions, Barr had stood up for Trump in the Russia investigation before he was nominated.
Barr had volunteered a memo in 2018 to senior Justice Department officials before he was in the running for attorney general, arguing that aspects of the department’s investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia in the 2016 election were “fatally misconceived.” Barr also published an op-ed in the Washington Post in 2017 that defended the president’s decision to fire former FBI director James Comey.
Although Trump has insisted the Russia investigation is a “witch hunt” created by Democrats trying to perpetuate a “hoax,” Barr told the Senate Judiciary Committee in January, “I don’t believe Mr. Mueller would be involved in a witch hunt.”
Barr and Mueller previously worked together at the Justice Department, and Barr told senators that the two remained friendly.
But comparing Barr’s comments to the full report that followed, Rep. Bill Pascrell of New Jersey called the revelations “obstruction-y.”