POLITICS

William Barr's Improbable Explanation For Robert Mueller's Letter

The attorney general repeatedly claimed the special counsel was more concerned about media reports than the four-page summary he released in March.

Attorney General William Barr on Wednesday testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that special counsel Robert Mueller wasn’t worried about his summary of findings from the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, a claim Mueller himself has contradicted

Barr told the congressional committee that Mueller was instead concerned about the media’s portrayal of that summary.

“I called Bob and said, ‘You know, what’s the issue here?’ And I asked him if he was suggesting that the March 24 letter was inaccurate,” Barr testified. “And he said no, but that the press reporting had been inaccurate, and that the press was reading too much into it.”

“[Mueller] said that his concern focused on his explanation of why he did not reach a conclusion on obstruction,” Barr added. “And he wanted more put out on that issue. ... He made clear with me that he was not suggesting we had misrepresented his report.”

This has been Barr’s argument since Tuesday night, when a letter Mueller sent the attorney general in March was first reported on.

“In a cordial and professional conversation, the Special Counsel emphasized that nothing in the Attorney General’s March 24 letter was inaccurate or misleading,” Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said Tuesday in a statement. 

Mueller’s letter, released publicly Wednesday, appears to fly directly in the face of those statements. Mueller said he repeatedly asked Barr to release more of his investigation results, including summaries of each volume of the investigation. He also said Barr’s summary “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this office’s work and conclusions.”

Days later, Barr apparently lied about receiving those concerns.

“I don’t know whether Bob Mueller supported my conclusion,” Barr told Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) while answering questions about Mueller’s investigation on April 10, according to Business Insider.

Mueller’s letter also states that the special counsel informed the Justice Department of its concerns about Barr’s summary on the morning of March 25, just hours after the summary went public.

It does not specifically mention any of his concerns about how the media was portraying Barr’s summary of the report. 

“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,” Mueller wrote.

Barr took a shot a Mueller’s letter toward the end of his testimony on Wednesday, calling it “snitty.”

“The letter is a bit snitty, and I think it was probably written by one of his staff people,” Barr said. 

Barr earned Trump’s nomination for attorney general after he criticized Mueller’s investigation into the president, specifically the issue of whether Trump obstructed justice, according a memo reported on by The New York Times late last year.

This article has been updated with additional information about Barr and the Mueller report. 

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