I’m as baffled as Ed is by the NYT and WaPo reports this morning. Paint me a picture in which it’s somehow to Bill Barr’s and Trump’s benefit to mislead the public early on about what the Mueller report actually says. What does a short-term cover-up achieve for them given the high likelihood that that cover-up will be exposed? Instead of damning revelations about the president’s obstruction of justice, we’ll end up with damning revelations about the president’s obstruction of justice plus a half-assed attempt by the new AG to try to suppress those revelations to protect his boss. It would be a pure exercise in making a bad situation worse. It makes no sense.
The explanation, I guess, is that they’re trying to control “first impressions” of the report and lead people into false conclusions about what it really says. How firm do you think those impressions would remain, though, once the media went into an unholy feeding frenzy about what the report really says and Barr’s scandalously corrupt attempt to whitewash it?
To make it worth Barr’s while to publish a distorted summary of what the Mueller report says, two things must be true:
1. Barr will excise all portions of the report itself that might seriously damage Trump and/or prove how distorted the summary was; and
2. Literally no one in the know will ever call him out on this, starting with Mueller and the dozens of people who worked for him. The Mueller team is going to sit by silently and simply let its work of two years be forever suppressed.
Unlikely. Hence my theory that today’s news is a “warning shot” of sorts that the Muellerites are willing and able to speak up *if* Barr tries to get cute with the redactions to the report. What might have spurred their concerns about that is unclear but it’s hard to believe this is really related to his summary, since the complaints about him refusing to release Team Mueller’s own summaries from the report could have and logically should have been made much sooner. Why did it take 12 days after Barr issued his letter for Mueller sources to complain that it was misleading or that Barr should have used their summaries instead? That’s a story that would have made more sense in the 48 hours following the release of the document than it does today, nearly two weeks later.
My guess is that some disagreement has emerged behind the scenes between Barr and Mueller in finalizing the redacted report about what should be excluded and what shouldn’t. Grumbling about Barr’s summary to the media is Team Mueller’s way of showing Barr that they intend to undermine him publicly if the redacted report doesn’t accurately represent their findings.
Law prof Jed Shugerman raises a fair question, though: Why didn’t Barr use Team Mueller’s own summaries from the report instead of writing his own? Supposedly the Mueller summaries contained sensitive information that needs to be carefully redacted, but it’s hard to believe Mueller’s staff would have made that mistake if in fact the summaries were written in the belief that they might be released to the public, as WaPo’s sources claimed. If the idea is that Barr deliberately suppressed the summaries, though, then we’re back to our initial question: How does it do him more good than harm to do that knowing that Mueller’s staff is in a position to expose it and that House Democrats would relish punishing him and Trump for it? Maybe Barr held back the report’s summaries for no grander reason than that he felt obliged under the DOJ’s regulations to issue his own summary of the report and expected that Mueller’s summaries would be included in pertinent part in the final redacted report released to the public.
Or maybe this is the answer:
NEW: DOJ rebuts NYT/WAPO stories saying that they could not release the Mueller summaries to Congress b/c they were marked saying they could contain grand jury material. pic.twitter.com/lT4Kiblf0T
— Saagar Enjeti (@esaagar) April 4, 2019
That still wouldn’t answer the question of why Mueller’s people are leaking against Barr now, however. Obviously there’s some contention between the two sides. What is it?