Friday, January 18, 2019; Washington, D.C. – In an interview on Friday's All Things Considered, NPR's Ari Shapiro spoke with Senator Amy Klobuchar about her exchange with Attorney General nominee William Barr around presidential obstruction of justice. It is the senator's first interview since BuzzFeed News reported that President Trump directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about Trump Tower Moscow.
NPR has not independently confirmed the BuzzFeed report.
Excerpts of the interview are available below and can be cited with attribution to NPR. Audio clips are available upon request, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
When asked why she asked Barr about his definition of obstruction of justice, she said:
One was to set up the fact that there were things he hadn't said in the report that could in fact be obstruction including things like offering pardons, which I asked him about or drafting a misleading statement to conceal the purpose of a meeting. But the second reason I asked him was that I thought they were an interesting part of that 19 page memo which basically was meant to undermine part of the Mueller investigation, but in fact there were nuggets in that memo, like him saying that if a President persuaded someone to commit perjury that in fact would be obstruction of justice. So I decided to lead with the things he had actually said in the memo that I thought were helpful, because in case that ever came up, which this report seems to indicate it might, that you would have the nominee for Attorney General actually firmly stating that this was obstruction of justice.
On if the allegations in the BuzzFeed report are true, whether the President has committed a crime:
Well, I am a former prosecutor, Ari, and I never opine on whether something is a crime or not until I actually see the evidence. And as you have made clear this is simply a report at this point, and also, we have heard reports that there is some other corroborating evidence, there may be things from within the Trump Organization. There may be texts or other documents. I also don't know if that's true. But again, all of this combined, if it were true it would be the most serious allegation we have seen yet to involve the White House and the President.
When asked if true whether she believes Congress needs to begin impeachment proceedings, she said:
I believe this is the most serious allegation ever, but if the House were to start impeachment hearings, we would get the evidence. We would get the case. And so I am careful about what I say because of that, but I believe two things have to keep happening and that it would be impossible to move forward unless this happens. One, the House now will be able to start having hearings themselves, and that's why they're having Michael Cohen come and testify on I believe February 7th, that's very important. I would hope that anything they do wouldn't interfere with director Mueller's investigation. The second is we have to allow Mueller to complete his investigation and get that report. So those are two very important ingredients to what happens next.
When asked how Barr equivocated when he said he does want to make the Mueller report public consistent with the law, she said:
Except he equivocated, if you look, and that's what I've been spending the day looking at some of his answers, I mean he at times would say "well,I have to look at the rules," "well, you would have to see what happens" and people said "well is it possible you would just let the conclusion come out and not the evidence? Or, would you allow the conclusion to come out?" The rules make it very clear, that that report is in the Attorney General's hands and then the Attorney General decides whether it's released to the public. And I am glad he said he wanted to see it, but he put a lot of wiggle room in place that would allow him to redact major portions.
Allyssa Pollard, NPR Media Relations
Email: mediarelations (at) npr.org