2020 candidates slam Attorney General Barr, call on Mueller to testify as report sends ripples through Democratic field

Win McNamee/Getty Images
Win McNamee/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) — Democratic presidential candidates were quick to vent their frustration on Thursday at the conduct of Attorney General William Barr, swiftly called on special counsel Robert Mueller to testify before Congress and demanded that the full unredacted report be released to the public.

The ire directed at Barr comes after he held a press conference defending President Donald Trump’s actions and to speak publicly and take questions from journalists before the report from the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election was released.

None of the sitting U.S. senators who have declared a presidential bid voted for Barr’s confirmation.

On Twitter, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., called Barr’s presser a “complete farce,” while Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said it’s “a disgrace to see an Attorney General acting as if he’s the personal attorney and publicist for the President of the United States.”

Sen. Kamala Harris, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Barr’s presser was “full of spin and propaganda,” and called on Mueller to testify before Congress, as did fellow committee member and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.

South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigeg, who has seen his presidential fortunes rise in recent weeks and officially launched his campaign last week, said Mueller’s report “shows a president putting his own interests ahead of the country’s,” and “demonstrates why we need to change the channel in 2020.”

Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, who recently announced that he will run against Trump in the Republican presidential primary in 2020, also called on Mueller to testify publicly, writing in a statement, “It is essential that Special Counsel Bob Mueller come before Congress and address the validity of his report that has been redacted and released.”

“Release Mueller’s full report now,” Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., tweeted.

He also posted a searchable version of the special counsel’s 448-page redacted report.

California Congressman Eric Swalwell, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, told ABC News’ Chief Anchor George Stephanopolous that Mueller’s report makes clear that “the Russians attacked us,” and that there is “a multiplicity of contacts between the Russians and the Trump campaign. Swalwell also called on Barr to resign.

“I think you can be the attorney general of the United States, or the present’s lawyer, but you can’t be both,” he told Stephanopolous.

Rep. Tim Ryan
, D-Ohio, also called on Mueller to testify publicly, while former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee expressed similar displeasure with Barr’s actions.

Former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel’s campaign tweeted that they “won’t be doing tweets about the mueller report because it’s pointless.”

Democrats put spotlight on election security

Whatever the fallout from the Mueller report, the newly empowered Democratic majority in the House has sought to put the spotlight on election security, pushing a number of bills aimed at shoring up the country’s electoral infrastructure.

The party’s first sweeping piece of legislation addressing election security, H.R. 1 or the “For the People Act,” was introduced in January with broad support within the Democratic caucus.

The ambitious bill, introduced by Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md., largely focuses on anti-corruption and campaign finance-related issues and would also give $1.5 billion in new voting technology funding.

It also includes provisions to enable automatic voter registration, mandates that states use paper ballots in elections, better protect against cybersecurity threats and make Election Day a national holiday for federal workers.

In February, the House Homeland Security Committee, chaired by Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., convened a series of panels on various security-related measures including H.R. 1, urging more support for local governments that bear the brunt of conducting and securing the country’s elections.

 “Local election officials are on the front lines of securing our elections, and their success depends on the support they received from federal and state governments,” Thompson said in his opening statement during the hearing.

Republicans on the committee said the provisions in H.R. 1 are too broad and that more funding is not the only solution to the problem.

“I hope that when H.R. 1 stalls in the Senate, which it will, we revisit the issue of election security in a bipartisan manner,” Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala. said during the hearing.

In March, following the bill’s passage, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, “H.R. 1 ensures clean, fair elections and fights voter suppression. It cleans up corruption, returning integrity to Washington D.C. … It honors the vision of our founders, gives hope to the American people that their interests are served.”

Despite its passage in the House, the bill stands little chance of passing the GOP-controlled Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has decried the legislation as the “Democrat Politician Protection Act.”

“I hope the two bodies can find common ground and build on the bipartisan successes of last Congress — but this outlandish Democrat proposal is not a promising start. My colleagues and I will proudly defend your privacy and your elections,” McConnell wrote in a Washington Post op-ed earlier this year.

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