At the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Klobuchar focused her questions on the specific patterns of obstruction of justice outlined in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report to Congress and the public

WASHINGTON – Today, at the Senate Judiciary Committee, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) pressed Attorney General William Barr on patterns of obstruction of justice outlined in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report. Klobuchar also pressed Attorney General Barr, as the nation’s top law enforcement official, to commit to efforts to strengthen election security.

KLOBUCHAR: “The report found that Michael Cohen's testimony to the House—before it—that the President repeatedly implied that Cohen's family members had committed crimes. Do you consider that evidence to be an attempt to convince a witness to change testimony?”

BARR: “No. I don't think that that could pass muster—those public statements he was making—could pass muster as subornation of perjury.”

KLOBUCHAR: “This is a man in the highest office in the most powerful job in our country, and he is basically…I'm trying to think how someone would react if the President of the United States is implying, getting out there, that your family members have committed a crime. You don't consider that any attempt to change testimony?” 

BARR: “Well, you have two different things. You have the question of whether it's an obstructive act and then also whether or not it is a corrupt intent. I don't think general public statements like that—we can show that they would have sufficiently probable effect to constitute obstruction.”

KLOBUCHAR: “Let’s go to private statements. The report found that the President's personal counsel told Paul Manafort that he would be ‘taken care of.’ This is in volume two, page 123-124. That you don't consider obstruction of justice?” 

BARR: “No, not standing alone. On both the same reasons.” 

KLOBUCHAR: “I think that is my point here.”

BARR: “What?”

KLOBUCHAR: “You look at the totality of the evidence. That's what I learned when I was in law school. You look at the totality of the evidence and the pattern here. The report found that the President's personal counsel told Michael Cohen that if he stayed on message about the Trump Tower Moscow project, the President had his back. That’s volume two, page 140.”

BARR: “Right, but I think the counsel acknowledged that it is unclear whether he was reflecting the President's statements on that.”

KLOBUCHAR: “The report found that after Manafort was convicted, the President himself called him ‘a brave man for refusing to break.’”

BARR: “Yes, and that is not obstruction because the President's—the evidence, I think what the President's lawyers would say if this was ever actually joined, is that the President's statements about flipping are quite clear and express, and uniformly the same, which is by flipping, he meant succumbing to pressure on unrelated cases to lie and compose in order to get lenient treatment. That is not -- discouraging flipping in that sense, it's not obstruction.”

KLOBUCHAR: “Look at the pattern here. The report found that after Cohen's residence and office were searched by the FBI, the President told Cohen to ‘hang in there and stay strong.’ The report found after National Security Adviser Michael Flynn resigned, the President made public positive comments about him and then when he cooperated, he changed his tune. During your confirmation hearing I asked you whether a president deliberately impairing the integrity or availability of evidence would be obstruction. You responded yes. This is a different take on Senator Feinstein's question. Would causing McGahn, the White House Counsel, to create a false record when the President ordered him to have the -- when McGahn told him to deny reports, right, he tells McGahn to deny reports that the President ordered him to have the counsel fired. If you don't see that as obstruction and directing him to change testimony, do you think that would create a false record to impair the integrity of evidence?”

In the second round of the hearing, Klobuchar followed up on another line of questioning:

KLOBUCHAR: “Mr. Attorney General, on April 27th, President Trump stated, ‘Mueller, I assume, for $35 million, he checked my taxes and he checked my financials.’ Is that accurate? Did the Special Counsel review the President's taxes and the Trump Organizations' financial statements?”

BARR: “I don't know.”

KLOBUCHAR: “Can you find out if I ask later in a written question?”

BARR: “Yes, or you could ask Bob Mueller when he comes here.”

KLOBUCHAR: “Ok, well I’ll do that too, but I think I’ll also ask you. And then obviously, we would want to see them as underlying information. During my earlier questions, we went through a number of actions by the President that the Special Counsel looked into. My point was that we should be looking into the totality of the evidence and the pattern that the report develops. On page 13 of volume two, the Special Counsel instructs that we do something similar. The report says, and this is a quote, ‘circumstantial evidence that illuminates intent may include a pattern of potentially obstructive acts.’ On this point the report cites three U.S. cases: U.S. v Frankhauser and U.S. v Arnold and U.S. v. Cintolo. Do you agree that obstruction law allows for a pattern of potentially obstructive acts?”

BARR: “Well, intent has to be established by proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Obviously some inferences can be drawn from circumstantial evidence that can contribute to an overall determination of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. But that is one of the problems with this whole approach that suggested in the Special Counsel's report, which is it is trying to determine the subjective intent of a facially lawful act and it permits a lot of selectivity on the part of the prosecutors and it's been shot down in a number of other contexts. So one of the reasons that we are very skeptical of this approach is that – “

KLOBUCHAR: “You mean you and Director Mueller or you the Justice Department.”

BARR: “The Justice Department. Is that in this kind of situation, where you have a facially innocent act and a – that is authorized by the constitution – “

KLOBUCHAR: “Just – “

BARR: “It is hard to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that it is corrupt. “

KLOBUCHAR: “Okay. I just want to get in a few more questions like Senator Whitehouse did. At your confirmation hearing you testified that in the absence of a violation of a statute the President would be accountable politically for abusing the pardon power. How do you reconcile that political accountability is available when the Administration is refusing to comply with subpoenas and exerting executive privilege to stand in the way of that very accountability?”

BARR: “As to a pardon?”

KLOBUCHAR: “No. this was about in your confirmation hearing, you said in the absence of a violation of a statute, the President would be, quote, accountable politically, end quote, for abusing the pardon power if he did.”

BARR: “But your question is abusing any power, not just the pardon power, is that what you're saying?”

KLOBUCHAR: “Mm-hmm.”

BARR: “Well, President –“

KLOBUCHAR: “It is hard to evaluate that – “

BARR: “Presidents have been held accountable before and as have other office holders.”

KLOBUCHAR: “Last question, are the President's actions detailed in this report consistent with his oath of office and the requirement in the Constitution that he take care that the laws be faithfully executed?”

BARR: “Is what consistent?”

KLOBUCHAR: “I said, are the President's actions detailed in the report consistent with his oath of office and the requirement in the constitution that he take care that the laws be faithfully executed?”

BARR: “Well, the evidence in the report is conflicting and there is different evidence and they don't -- they don't come to a determination as to how they're coming down on it.”

KLOBUCHAR: “So you made that decision?”

BARR: “Yes.”

For video of Klobuchar’s round one remarks at the hearing click here. For round two, click here.

Klobuchar is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Department of Justice. Prior to her time in the Senate, Klobuchar served as Hennepin County Attorney.