Leslie Marshall: Barr testimony important because Congress must follow-up on Mueller report | Radio Talk Show Host Leslie Marshall
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Leslie Marshall: Barr testimony important because Congress must follow-up on Mueller report

Leslie Marshall: Barr testimony important because Congress must follow-up on Mueller report

Attorney General William Barr will be questioned Wednesday by the Senate Judiciary Committee about the report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller examining Russia’s interference in our 2016 presidential election and about how Barr released of information dealing with the report.

Democrats are eager to get answers. One topic they are sure to bring up is a story published by The Washington Post Tuesday night that said Mueller complained to Barr in a letter in late March that Barr’s memo to Congress describing the Mueller report’s conclusions “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance” of the report. The Post reported that Mueller later discussed his concerns with Barr in a phone call.

Since Republicans are the majority party in the Senate they control the Judiciary Committee. Republican senators are expected to focus their line of questioning about the 2016 campaign and whether the Trump campaign was the victim of government “spying.”

And of course, Republicans will bring up Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and the controversy over her use of a private server to handle her government emails when she was secretary of state. This might make the Trump base happy, but it won’t resonate with voters who are undecided or unhappy with President Trump.

Barr is scheduled to testify Thursday before the Democratic-controlled House Judiciary Committee, but that testimony may not take place.

Democrats want answers and should seek to get them. Politically, it might help them in 2020 with people in their base, who want to see Trump impeached or at least see a full and thorough investigation of his conduct. 

If the attorney general does testify, Democrats will seek to question his credibility, especially because he laid the groundwork for President Trump to claim he had been “totally exonerated” by Mueller, even though the Mueller report specifically pointed out that the special counsel and his team did not exonerate the president.

“While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,” the Mueller report states.

But will Barr even show up Thursday for the House hearing?

There has been pushback from the Trump administration. The Justice Department said Barr will not testify if committee Democrats stand firm in their demand that he answer questions from committee lawyers, in addition to answering questions from House committee members.

The Democratic-controlled House is limited in what it can do to get the attorney general to testify.

The House could send members of its security force to arrest and detain Barr under the “inherent contempt” doctrine, but this hasn’t been done since 1935. The House could hold Barr in criminal contempt under a law that makes it a crime to fail to comply with a congressional subpoena. Or the House could seek a civil contempt citation from a judge.

As of now, Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., is threatening to subpoena Barr.

Should the Democrats push hard on this and will it help or hurt them politically?

Though some are reluctant, the Democrats must do their due diligence. It is their congressional responsibility to the people of the United States and their constitutional duty.

Congress is tasked with oversight of the executive branch, including reviewing and monitoring the performance of federal agencies, their programs, activities and policy implementation.

With the Mueller report citing numerous potential areas of obstruction of justice by President Trump and what seems to clearly be witness tampering, the Democrats can’t just leave the report with the cliffhangers that Mueller described.

The following statements in the Mueller report are among those that require congressional follow-up:

1)  “If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state.”

2)  “The President’s efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests.”

3)  “The conclusion that Congress may apply the obstruction laws to the President’s corrupt exercise of the powers of office accords with our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law.”

4)  “… the Constitution does not categorically and permanently immunize a President for obstructing justice.”

Democrats want answers and should seek to get them. Politically, it might help them in 2020 with people in their base, who want to see Trump impeached or at least see a full and thorough investigation of his conduct.

For those who say it could hurt Democrats if they harp on the Mueller investigation for too long, I would remind them of the two years Republicans in Congress spent investigating the deadly terrorists attack on the U.S. Embassy and a CIA annex in Benghazi, Libya in 2012, when Hillary Clinton was secretary of state.

Republicans dragged out their investigation for two years. Democrats demanded to shut it down and said it was a waste of taxpayer money – a never-ending witch hunt (sound familiar?) The Benghazi investigations cost taxpayers about $7 million.

In October 2015 House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said the Benghazi investigation had successfully driven down Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers. In the 2016 elections, Republicans held the majorities in the House and Senate and won the White House. So probing for two years didn’t hurt them politically at all.

In polls when voters were asked to name issues most important to them in deciding who to support in 2020, not a single respondent mentioned the Russia investigation. And Democrats know this.

The Democratic candidates running for President in 2020 have not made the Mueller investigation or Russian meddling the focal point of their campaigns.

So with these investigations and moving forward toward the 2020 general election, Democrats will need to walk and chew gum at the same time. Yes, they have to do their due diligence and constitutional duty with regard to oversight, but they also need to put forth legislation and campaign on key issues.

In the 2018 midterm elections, the Democrats won back a majority in the House running on big issues like health care, immigration and gun control. They should keep this their focus.

Democrats should do what the American people elected them to do and focus on getting a larger majority in the House, capturing a  majority in the Senate and most of all, winning back the White House. They need to appeal to voters who are unhappy with President Trump, his unpopular policies – like eliminating ObamaCare – and the campaign promises he hasn’t delivered on.

Trump can’t stop talking about the Mueller investigation, constantly defending himself and attacking the Mueller team, the media and Democrats. If Democrats want to be successful in 2020, let the voters get sick of Trump talking about the Mueller probe.

Leslie Marshall joined Fox News Channel as a contributor in 2009; providing analysis on both political and social issues from a liberal point of view. A nationally syndicated talk host, whose program, “The Leslie Marshall Show” can be heard on radio, stream, “Tune In,” “The Progressive Voices Radio Network,” and “The Armed Forces Radio Network.”