Sen. McConnell: Democrats Angrier at AG Barr for Doing His Job Than at Putin

May 7, 2019 Updated: May 7, 2019

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declared “case closed” on special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation in a floor speech on May 7, accusing Democrats of making baseless speculations and claims, as they “grieve” the result.

“This investigation went on for two years. It’s finally over,” McConnell said.

He said many Americans were waiting to see how their elected officials would respond to the conclusions.

Republican Leader, Mitch McConnell, verbally assaulted in Kentucky Restaurant on Oct, 19, 2018.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) talks to reporters after the Senate voted to confirm Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, on Oct. 6, 2018. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

“With an exhaustive investigation complete, would the country finally unify to confront the real challenges before us? Would we finally be able to move on from partisan paralysis and breathless conspiracy theorizing? Or would we remain consumed by unhinged partisanship, and keep dividing ourselves to the point that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and his agents need only stand on the sidelines and watch as their job is done for them?” he said.

McConnell added, “Regrettably, I think the answer is obvious.”

While Republicans have been encouraging lawmakers to move on from the Russia probe, some Democrats appear to refuse accept the conclusions and are instead pressing for more information and oversight about the handling of the report.

McConnell criticized the Democrats for drawing out the political battle, in hope that they could find evidence of criminality by the Trump campaign.

“For two years many of the president’s opponents seemed to be hoping the worst conspiracy theories were actually true. They seemed to be hoping for a national crisis for the sake of their own politics,” he said.

He said as a result of the special counsel’s conclusions—which found no collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign and provided no sufficient evidence to bring an obstruction of justice charge—the Democrats have now entered “the five stages of grief,” including denial of the report’s conclusions and anger toward Barr’s handling of Mueller’s report.

“The Democrats are angry—angry that the facts disappointed them. Angry that our legal system will not magically undo the 2016 election for them. And they’ve opted to channel all their partisan anger on to the attorney general,” McConnel said. “They seem to be angrier at Bill Barr for doing his job than they are at Vladimir Putin.”

“Why are they angry? Did the attorney general fire the special counsel? Or force him to wind down prematurely? No. Did he sit on the Mueller report? Keep it secret? No. He reported out his bottom line legal conclusions and then released as much as possible for the world to see. Did he use redactions to mislead the public? No. Working with the special counsel team, he released as much as possible within standard safeguards,” he added.

After McConnell’s speech, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) condemned McConnell, calling his speech an “astounding bit of whitewash” and “entirely unconvincing.”

In this file photo, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), speaks to the media on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Molly Riley/AP Photo)
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), speaks to the media on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Molly Riley/AP Photo)

“He doesn’t want to move on. He wants to run away,” Schumer said.

Democrats have criticized Barr for weeks, ever since the attorney general’s release of an initial four-page memo that provided the conclusions of the special counsel’s findings.

Mueller’s report was eventually released on April 18, concluding that neither the Trump campaign, nor anyone associated with it, conspired with Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election. Moreover, on the issue of obstruction of justice, Barr said the special counsel did not provide a prosecutorial judgment, nor did it provide enough evidence to substantiate that the president obstructed justice.

Attorney General William Barr
Attorney General William Barr testifies before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on “the Justice Department’s investigation of Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election” on Capitol Hill in Washington, on May 1, 2019. (Aaron Bernstein/Reuters)

House Democrats have refused to accept the findings of the Mueller report and have launched hearings and investigations into the obstruction of justice claims that many of them have openly admitted they hoped would lead to the impeachment of President Donald Trump.

They have also criticized Barr for his handling of the release of the report, accusing him of siding with the president, while repeatedly calling for the full unredacted report despite knowing that compliance would result in Barr violating the law.

On May 6, House Democrats scheduled a vote for May 8 to decide whether to hold Barr in contempt of Congress for not turning over a fully unredacted report as demanded.

Follow Janita on Twitter: @janitakan