Attorney General William Barr has now released two letters that manage to both clarify and grossly muddle what we understand about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of President Donald Trump’s intersection with Russia.
Barr used the first, eight days ago, to “summarize the principal conclusions set out in the Special Counsel’s report”: Mueller’s findings didn’t produce enough evidence to show that Trump and his aides criminally conspired or coordinated with Russia in the country’s efforts to sabotage the 2016 presidential campaign. Mueller didn’t “fully exonerate” Trump nor did he decide whether the president obstructed justice, according to Barr, although Mueller apparently compiled ample evidence of obstruction (without, however, interviewing Trump). Mueller left Barr with a legal vacuum and Barr took it upon himself to fill the void by making his own call in a four-page note summarizing a 400-page document: Trump hadn’t obstructed.
Barr’s conclusion, and Mueller’s decision not to indict the president or any of his family members, touched off a week of debate about whether the media had been overzealous and prosecutorial in its coverage of the investigation.