William Barr led off his press conference with high praise for Robert Mueller. Will Mueller reciprocate when his redacted report goes public? The Attorney General insists that the special counsel found “no evidence” that any American colluded with Russian intelligence to influence the election — although Barr also declared that those Russian efforts were very real indeed.
Barr says "the special counsel found no evidence that any American, including anyone associated with the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government or the IRA in this illegal scheme [to influence the 2016 election]." https://t.co/lzOeQfzsdc pic.twitter.com/Pp10JUgxOh
— CBS News (@CBSNews) April 18, 2019
Barr was very, very, very, very, very insistent on that point:
Make that six times in first five minutes. https://t.co/Vf3ezORIbd
— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) April 18, 2019
“That’s the bottom line,” Barr declared. Talk about the endurance of hope over experience.
Barr then moved on to obstruction, which has become the focus of Donald Trump’s opposition since the collapse of the collusion hypothesis. Barr explaining that the report focused on ten episodes of Trump’s behavior, on which Barr admits that he and Rod Rosenstein do not necessarily see eye-to-eye with Mueller. However, Barr insists that the track record of cooperation from Trump demonstrated that he had no obstructive intent, especially considering the “unprecedented” circumstances in which Trump found himself:
Quite a statement here from the attorney general, who is essentially saying Trump had good reason to be frustrated with the Mueller investigation. pic.twitter.com/tw89n3Bgg8
— Andrew Desiderio (@AndrewDesiderio) April 18, 2019
Expect Democrats in Congress to push back hard on all ten episodes, most of which apparently took place publicly. They’ll push back hard on this, too:
Barr says White House counsel was also given access to the report in past few weeks, despite AG saying last month he had no plan to submit the report to WH.
— Josh Gerstein (@joshgerstein) April 18, 2019
Barr explained that quite a bit of the material could have been subject to executive privilege. White House counsel only saw the redacted material being released to Congress, and that “no material” was further redacted as a result. Barr also notes that the White House made no executive-privilege claims either, just as they had made no moves to thwart or impede the special-counsel investigation.
After getting asked about the obstruction punt, Barr says that Mueller didn’t feel restricted by OLC opinion on indicting a president. Mueller told Barr and Rosenstein “several times” that he judged obstruction on a clear basis and could not reach a decision on it.
Barr also clarified how much some members of Congress will see of the unredacted report. The only redacted portions that will remain shielded in that private edition, Barr says, will be grand-jury testimony. The other three categories — classified information, derogatory information, and ongoing investigations — will be left unredacted. That’s probably what a court would have ordered anyway.
That sets up the release in about an hour or so from now. If Barr’s bluffing, he’s taking it to the wire. More likely, this signals that neither side will get what it really wants out of the Mueller report.
Update: Someone’s happy with the presser: