Barr: We gave Mueller's office a chance to review my summary of the report in advance -- but they declined

Barr’s before the House today testifying about the DOJ’s budget, not Russiagate, but of course the elephant in the room was discussed when the hearing began. The newsiest part came when he told the committee that a redacted version of the Mueller report will be released within a week, in keeping with his timetable to produce it by mid-April. But this is newsy too:

Why would Team Mueller decline an opportunity to approve Barr’s summary of their work? Five days ago the New York Times and Washington Post reported that members of Mueller’s staff were irritated that Barr chose to produce his own summary rather than use the summaries they had prepared. If Barr went to Mueller beforehand and asked him for input on the letter he was drafting, that should have clued Mueller in to the fact that Barr wasn’t going to use the special counsel’s own summaries. And it would have given Mueller and his staff a chance to object, or at least to petition Barr to include passages from their summaries in his own letter.

Instead, according to Barr, Mueller passed. How come?

Did Mueller believe that, under the regs, it simply wasn’t his place to consult with the AG on his summary of the report — even if the AG invited him to? Or is this a case of misplaced trust, with Mueller believing that Barr would fairly represent his findings in the AG’s summary only to discover that he hadn’t? Again, *if* it’s true that the special counsel’s office believed Barr would release its own summaries of the report instead of his own, the fact that Barr asked Mueller to review the AG summary was a big hint that they were mistaken. They could have spoken up right then.

Maybe Mueller figured there was no harm in letting Barr issue his own summary. The public will soon get to see Mueller’s summaries as well as redacted versions of his findings when the full report is released. If Barr’s summary turns out to have accurately represented those findings, great. If it doesn’t then Barr will have to explain why. Plus, reviewing Barr’s work would have placed Mueller in an awkward position. Unless Barr grossly distorted his findings, which is unlikely, he would have had to decide whether a fight with Barr right at the start of the process was worth the risk of alienating the AG. Barr gets to decide whether to release the full report and what to redact from it, after all. Possibly Mueller thought that contentiousness between the AG and the special counsel might make Barr leery of providing any further information to the public and to cancel the report’s release. And since Mueller seems to be a stickler about leaking, he might not have been willing to slip the report to a newspaper himself.

Since doing things by the book and reassuring Barr that he had nothing to fear from Team Mueller pointed to the same outcome — just let Barr release his own summary, without objection — that’s what he did. Although it’s possible the truth is even simpler: Since Mueller famously refused to reach a conclusion about whether Trump obstructed justice, maybe he thought that singing off on Barr’s summary would be interpreted to mean that he endorsed Barr’s determination that Trump hadn’t obstructed. The only way for Mueller to remain fully agnostic on that subject was to keep his fingerprints off of Barr’s letter.

Here’s another bit from this morning’s hearings. How were you able to read and summarize a 400-page report in 48 hours, Barr was asked? I had more than 48 hours, he countered, because it was clear for weeks before I received the report which way Mueller was leaning on collusion and obstruction. Which matches the reporting on this. Exit question: Has Trump seen the report yet? Barr pointedly wouldn’t say. And *Trump* has been less rosy about Mueller’s office in his public comments lately than he was immediately after Barr’s summary was issued. Maybe he read it and realized that his claims of “total exoneration” aren’t quite true after all.