Graham’s the chair of the Judiciary Committee and has already said that he has no interest in Mueller testifying *except* for this purpose. Because of the recent uproar about the letter Mueller sent to Barr last month and Barr’s testimony this week, the special counsel is being invited to make his own feelings clear.
If he declines the invitation, as I’m guessing he will, are we collectively done with the “Barr whitewashed Mueller” storyline? We have the full report, minus a few redacted passages. We have Barr claiming that he offered Mueller the chance to review his summary of the report before it was published and that Mueller declined. Now we have Graham offering Mueller a chance to finally set the record straight about Barr’s summary. Did he consider it misleading? Did he in fact decline an opportunity to review it in advance? Were his concerns about the summary later assuaged by the release of the full report, including Mueller’s own summaries?
Given that Mueller hasn’t been shy about expressing his misgivings to Barr about that part of the process, going so far as to put them in writing for posterity, what inference should we draw about how he believes Barr has handled all this if he decides he won’t accept Graham’s invitation to speak up?
I posted the exchange between Barr and Blumenthal on Wednesday but here it is again if you missed it at the time:
Attorney General William Barr: "The letter's a bit snitty and I think it was probably written by one of his staff people." pic.twitter.com/puMDPHuEVW
— CSPAN (@cspan) May 1, 2019
Barr’s claim that one of Mueller’s staffers was probably responsible for the “snitty” tone of the letter was laughable. The point of Mueller sending Barr a letter rather than calling him up was obviously to memorialize his objections to Barr’s summary for the historical record. He would have been aware of the risk of the letter eventually leaking too and so wouldn’t have fired it off absentmindedly. The “snittiness” was clearly deliberate and well considered, and Barr knows it. Patterico makes a good point too in a withering post today calling Barr out for various misleading elements in his testimony: Barr actually contradicted himself in trying to explain why his previous testimony, when he claimed that Mueller’s staff had expressed no concerns to him about his summary, wasn’t perjury.
Charlie Crist asked him a while back: hey, we’re seeing all these reports about Mueller’s staff being upset about your letter. Do you know what their concerns are? Barr said he didn’t, even though he had Mueller’s letter in hand and knew exactly what their concerns were. When confronted with this two days ago, Barr said: Crist’s question was about what Mueller’s staff was complaining about, not what Mueller himself thought. And so I didn’t mention the letter because it was from Mueller and not his staff! Except that, in the same hearing, he said that he thought Mueller’s letter was “snitty” and had probably been written by someone on his staff.
Well, if that’s what he thought, then when he was asked by Crist about whether he knew what the concerns of Mueller’s staff were, he knew exactly what they were from the letter. Meaning he was not honest with Crist, and his explanation for that dishonest answer makes no sense. I’ll add that he also testified that when he talked to Mueller, Mueller kept talking about the concerns that “they” (clearly meaning Mueller and his staff) had. Not “he.” “They.”
If he thought that a staffer had written Mueller’s letter and was responsible for its “snitty” tone, why did he tell Crist a few weeks ago that he had no idea how Mueller’s staff felt about his summary?
Assuming Mueller does write back to Graham, I wonder if he’ll end up taking the no-harm-no-foul approach to Barr’s summary. E.g., “After the summary was first published I was concerned that the full report might never be released and the public would be left with the Attorney General’s brief synopsis of our findings. Now that the full report is available and the public has been able to read the summaries my own office prepared, my concerns about that have eased.” Although if he does take that position, he’ll be left with two questions. One: Why did he think Barr might not release the full report? (Did he fear the White House might assert executive privilege?) And two: Why does he think Barr declined to release the special counsel’s own summaries before the full report was released? Was the AG trying to tilt public opinion at the outset in Trump’s favor — essentially writing the most Trump-friendly “headline” possible for the report, to borrow Patterico’s analogy, and counting on the fact that most people wouldn’t read the full “story” once it was available?