House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff said that Attorney General William Barr has "deliberately" misled the U.S. Congress and the American public after he denied knowing about how special counsel Robert Mueller felt about his summary of the Russia report. Schiff, speaking to "CBS This Morning" on Wednesday, said that Barr's false statements are "serious business" for the Congress.
"After getting now two or three misleading summaries from the Justice Department through the attorney general, I don't think we can rely on the Justice Department to be summarizing what Bob Mueller said in that conversation to Bill Barr," Schiff said.
One incident Democrats have seized upon took place in April, when Barr was pressed by Florida Rep. Charlie Crist about news reports that some in the special counsel's office were dissatisfied with Barr's initial four-page letter on the Mueller report.
"Reports have emerged recently, general, that members of the Special Counsel's team are frustrated at some level with the limited information included in your March 24th letter," Crist asked Barr at a hearing on April 9. "Do you know what they are referencing with that?"
"No, I don't," Barr told him. Butthat Mueller had, in fact, written a letter to the attorney general on March 27th -- days before Crist posed his question to Barr -- in which Mueller told Barr that his four-page letter to Congress "did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance" of Mueller's views on obstruction of justice.
"There is now public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation," Mr. Mueller wrote to Barr in the March letter. "This threatens to undermine a central purpose for which the Department appointed the Special Counsel: to assure full public confidence in the outcome of the investigations."
"I think (Barr's) statement is deliberately false and misleading and yes, most people would consider that to be a lie," Schiff said. "He's a very smart man, he knew exactly he was being asked by Congress and he knew his answer was false."
Schiff now says that Barr should step down in light of the contradicting statements, saying it's "hard for the country to have confidence" in the nation's top litigator "if he's asked a direct question as he was and he gives a directly false answer."
While Barr is likely to face intense grilling by Senate lawmakers on the Judiciary Committee, Schiff said Congress' job at Wednesday's hearing is to "get to bottom of Barr's misrepresentations" as well as the fundamental issue of why Barr felt it necessary to produce his own assessment on the charge of obstruction of justice.
"We suspected before we got the report that Mueller produced his own summary, so why did Barr feel it necessary to create his own summary to help the White House in this way and now we know not only did those summaries exist but Mueller pleaded with him to to release it to the public," said Schiff.
Schiff added that instead of leaving the issue of assessing the obstruction claim to Congress, "he chose to be the personal lawyer for the president instead."