Special Counsel Robert Mueller sent Attorney General William Barr a letter last month saying he disagreed with how Barr had framed the conclusions of his report. From the Washington Post:
“The summary letter the Department sent to Congress and released to the public late in the afternoon of March 24 did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this office’s work and conclusions,” Mueller wrote. “There is now public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation. This threatens to undermine a central purpose for which the Department appointed the Special Counsel: to assure full public confidence in the outcome of the investigations.”
The letter made a key request: that Barr release the 448-page report’s introductions and executive summaries, and made some initial suggested redactions for doing so, according to Justice Department officials.
A day after he sent the letter, Barr and Mueller had a 15-minute phone conversation in which they discussed the issue. Barr pressed Mueller on whether there were any inaccuracies in his letter and Mueller reportedly said there were not but was still unhappy with the media coverage of it:
In that call, Mueller said he was concerned that media coverage of the obstruction investigation was misguided and creating public misunderstandings about the office’s work, according to Justice Department officials. Mueller did not express similar concerns about the public discussion of the investigation of Russia’s election interference, the officials said.
When Barr pressed Mueller on whether he thought Barr’s memo to Congress was inaccurate, Mueller said he did not, but felt that the media coverage of it was misinterpreting the investigation, officials said.
Specifically, Mueller was apparently upset that Barr’s letter was being described by the media as a “summary” which explains why Barr himself later expressed frustration that the media called it a summary.
A couple of weeks ago the NY Times reported that some of Robert Mueller’s investigators (none were named) thought the final report was more damaging to Trump than AG Barr’s description of it. I speculated this was sour grapes coming from some of the more partisan members of Mueller’s team. Now it appears the unnamed investigators were just following the boss’ lead. The Times reports the disagreement had been building for some time, with AG Barr upset that Mueller failed to reach a definite conclusion in the report.
Mr. Barr and senior Justice Department officials were frustrated with how Mr. Mueller ended his investigation and crafted his report, according to the two people with knowledge of the discussions and another person briefed on the matter.
They expressed irritation that Mr. Mueller fell short of his assignment by declining to make a decision about whether Mr. Trump broke the law. That left Mr. Barr to clear Mr. Trump without the special counsel’s backing.
But the question now is why this story about the letter is being leaked to both the Times and the Post. If the goal is to get the pro-impeachment crowd worked up again the story seems to be working:
BREAKING: The Attorney General actively engaged in a cover up, was called on it, and continued to cover up the truth about Trump’s obstruction of justice.
— Joe Scarborough (@JoeNBC) April 30, 2019
Yesterday Ed wrote about the NY Times seemingly coming to terms with the fact that there just isn’t a huge groundswell of support for impeachment in most of the country. This story reads like a last-ditch effort to push Democrats to keep pursuing it anyway.
I’m not convinced this is going anywhere. Nancy Pelosi seems to be reading the mood of the country pretty clearly even if some on her left flank don’t like it. Pursuing impeachment on obstruction could backfire given the lack of an underlying crime and the fact that Mueller himself said the evidence could be viewed in different ways. Without real support for such a move, Democrats could pay a price for overreaching in 2020.
Update: Good point.
— Ross Kaminsky (@Rossputin) May 1, 2019