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Defending Barr, Rep. Collins calls House Democrats’ demands a partisan ‘stunt’

Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia is ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, which planned to question Attorney General William Barr on Thursday. Judy Woodruff talks to Collins about Barr’s late-breaking decision not to attend the hearing, why Collins believes that Democrats are engaging in a partisan “stunt” over the Mueller report and what questions he would ask of the attorney general.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, given that dispute we have been discussing, let's hear now from two members of the House Judiciary Committee, starting with its Republican ranking member. We just saw him a moment ago. He's Congressman Doug Collins of Georgia.

    Welcome to the "NewsHour" again, Congressman Collins.

    So, this news that the attorney general will not now testify before the Judiciary Committee, what does that say to you?

  • Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga.:

    It says to me exactly what the attorney general has said all week, that this is not — he is not going to participate in a Democratic stunt in which they were trying to appear as if they're trying to do impeachment hearings, when the reality is it's an oversight hearing. He's made this very clear.

    So, really, what we saw today was the chairman and the majority sabotage their own hearing and took away the rights of Republicans and Democrats to actually be able to question Bill Barr, as the Senate was able to today in a very orderly fashion.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What would you want to hear? Do you have questions for the attorney general had he come back before the committee?

  • Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga.:

    I do.

    I think we would ask is, how this — the process came. How did he come to his decisions? I think those are the very good questions. I also have questions on, did he have any conversations with Robert Mueller on how this actually got started?

    Because we see some of the results of Russian meddling and things like that, but we never really got a good understanding from the investigations that we have had on the — what I call the Comey cabal, of the Peter Strzok and others, who actually started all this.

    So how did you get the information on the dossier and things like that? Those are the kind of questions that we could ask, but we can also find out how the interaction between Bill Barr and Bob Mueller actually went down.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, I want to ask you about that, because the — what we now know, with this new revelation that came out last night, that the special counsel was displeased with the way the attorney general characterized his report.

    What does that say to you about the way the Justice Department operates? I mean, does it — does it give you confidence that the attorney general is acting as an honest broker or not?

  • Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga.:

    It gives me complete confidence that he does, because, at the end of the day, what Bob Mueller said was, and in the letter — and the attorney general addressed that today — was that the letter was addressed more of a style and function, that they wanted to get it out as soon as possible.

    Bill Barr, the attorney general, said, we wanted to do the same, but that it was given to him in a form in which he could not do that right away. So he said, here's the conclusions.

    What's interesting and is often under-reported, Judy, is, is that the conclusions were never questioned by Bob Mueller. They never disagreed with what the attorney general said about his conclusions. His was more form and substance to make sure that the report got out, which, by the way, Bill Barr did get out.

    He got it out in a very unredacted form as much as possible, and then made a copy to House and Senate leadership in the Judiciary and the Gang of Eight on both sides, of which there's only two of us who've actually read that.

    If my chairman on the Judiciary Committee actually was concerned about what was in that less redacted report, he would actually go read it, instead of just demanding. He could actually go read it and then ask for more.

    But simply by saying that you are not going to see what the attorney is going to give you shows that this is a politicization and simply down a path of appeasing certain members of his own committee.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But doesn't it appear, Congressman Collins, that what the attorney — or, rather, what the special counsel is concerned about is that with that declaration of — or summary of his main conclusions, that the attorney general, with that first — was able to frame the public's first impression of the Mueller report in a brief, digestible way, but that it didn't reflect the fact that the president — that there were still questions about obstruction of justice, that there — that the special counsel had not reached a decision on that?

  • Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga.:

    Oh, he made that clear, Judy. He said that the that — that they had not come to the discussion on obstruction and that it didn't exonerate him and actually added that in there.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But…

  • Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga.:

    There was a lot of controversy about that line in the original letter.

    But he also made it very clear there was no collusion. The question I have here is, is — what matters the most — and we have the report now. Bill Barr didn't take the report and hide the report. He put the report out, but he also gave us the answers to the report.

    So the question I have is for Democrats and others who are upset about this is, are you more concerned about the outcome or are you more concerned about things that contributed to the outcome? Well, they're both one and the same. The same report led to the conclusions that Bill Barr put out and, by the way, that Bob Mueller put out.

    Let's never forget these conclusions were Bob Mueller's in the beginning.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And I guess — maybe I should have worded it a little more carefully and said that the impression given in that — in that — the conclusions put out by the attorney general gave the sense that the special counsel had really given a clean bill of health to the president on the question of obstruction, when, in fact, it was more complicated than that.

  • Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga.:

    Judy, I just disagree, because when the — when the attorney general put the letter out, he stated that there was no charges of obstruction, but it didn't — and even included a line it didn't exonerate him.

    I'm not sure how you get any conclusion that it was completely clean. It was really for many of us, when I first read that, I said, well, what else — what went into this discussion? And then, when we got the report, we were able to read through that.

    In fact, the obstruction part of this was the least redacted. In fact, only about 2 percent of the obstruction part was redacted at all. So you can see all the public events and see everything has happened.

    Bill Barr actually did a very good job of allowing the American people and Congress to see what Bob Mueller said about obstruction, and that he didn't come, through his legal rationale, to a charge.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And finally, very quickly, Congressman, my colleagues reporting that Democrats on the committees are now probably most likely moving to issue more subpoenas in an effort to get more information from the administration.

    What — how will Republicans respond to that?

  • Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga.:

    Well, they have already approved the subpoenas. We had that part of the show just a few weeks — a couple weeks ago. So they have already approved the subpoenas. I would assume they would go ahead and do that.

    Again, my question is, is, why would you sabotage a hearing when you could actually talk to him tomorrow? Why would you do something when you take the addition of staff, when you could have added a complete time for members of the committee on both sides to have extra time?

    Is it so important to have a staff member so that you can appear to be in an impeachment proceeding? Was it so important to have that staff member ask questions, that you would be willing to sabotage the attorney general voluntarily coming?

    I think that's a disservice to the committee. It's a disservice to the House. It's a disservice to the American people, when Bill Barr today sat for many hours voluntarily, where he would have done the same thing yesterday.

    This is simply a show. It's simply something to make the American people think something that's not really happening.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Representative Collins, who is the ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, thank you very much.

  • Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga.:

    Judy, thank you.

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