It now turns out that Attorney General William Barr did get some feedback from Special Counsel Robert Mueller about Barr’s controversial summary of the Mueller report. And Mueller was not happy about Barr’s interpretation of what his investigation showed. The Washington Post broke the story:
Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III wrote a letter in late March complaining to Attorney General William P. Barr that a four-page memo to Congress describing the principal conclusions of the investigation into President Trump “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance” of Mueller’s work, according to a copy of the letter reviewed Tuesday by The Washington Post.
The letter and a subsequent phone call between the two men reveal the degree to which the longtime colleagues and friends disagreed as they handled the legally and politically fraught task of investigating the president. Democrats in Congress are likely to scrutinize Mueller’s complaints to Barr as they contemplate the prospect of opening impeachment proceedings and mull how hard to press for Mueller himself to testify publicly.
At the time Mueller’s letter was sent to Barr on March 27, Barr had days prior announced that Mueller did not find a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russian officials seeking to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. In his memo to Congress, Barr also said that Mueller had not reached a conclusion about whether Trump had tried to obstruct justice, but that Barr reviewed the evidence and found it insufficient to support such a charge.
Days after Barr’s announcement, Mueller wrote the previously undisclosed private letter to the Justice Department, laying out his concerns in stark terms that shocked senior Justice Department officials, according to people familiar with the discussions.
[Justice Dept., House Democrats at impasse over Barr hearing]
“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 it made initial suggested redactions for doing so, according to Justice Department officials.
A central issue in the simmering dispute is how the public’s understanding of the Mueller report has been shaped since the special counsel ended his investigation and delivered his 448-page report on March 22 to the attorney general, his boss and longtime friend. The four-page letter that Mr. Barr sent to Congress two days later gave little detail about the special counsel’s findings and created the impression that Mr. Mueller’s team found no wrongdoing, allowing Mr. Trump to declare he had been exonerated.
But when Mr. Mueller’s report was released on April 18, it painted a far more damning picture of the president and showed that Mr. Mueller believed that significant evidence existed that Mr. Trump obstructed justice.
“The special counsel emphasized that nothing in the attorney general’s March 24 letter was inaccurate or misleading,” a Justice Department spokeswoman, Kerri Kupec, said in response to a request for comment made on Tuesday afternoon. A spokesman for the special counsel’s office declined to comment.
Over the past month, other signs of friction between the attorney general and the special counsel have emerged over issues like legal theories about constitutional protections afforded to presidents to do their job and how Mr. Mueller’s team conducted the investigation.
In congressional testimony in April before the report was released, Mr. Barr demurred when asked whether he believed that the investigation was a “witch hunt” — Mr. Trump’s preferred term. It “depends on where you’re sitting,” Mr. Barr replied.
“If you are somebody who’s being falsely accused of something, you would tend to view the investigation as a witch hunt,” he said, an apparent reference to the president.
Mr. Barr’s testimony stood in contrast to comments he made during his confirmation hearing in January. “I don’t believe Mr. Mueller would be involved in a witch hunt,” he said then.
A rift between the men appeared to develop in the intervening months as the special counsel wrapped up his inquiry.
Special counsel Robert Mueller wrote a letter to Attorney General William Barr last month complaining that a four-page memo Barr wrote characterizing Mueller’s findings “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance” of the special counsel’s probe, a senior Justice Department official confirmed to POLITICO.
Mueller sent the letter to Barr on March 27, three days after Barr issued his four-page summary, and cited “public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation.” The letter was first reported by The Washington Post.
“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. A spokesman for the special counsel’s office, Peter Carr, declined to comment.
The letter will likely buoy congressional Democrats’ accusations that Barr mischaracterized Mueller’s report on purpose in order to protect the president. Its disclosure comes on the eve of Barr’s public testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and amid a back-and-forth between the Justice Department and the House Judiciary Committee over whether committee staff can question Barr separately on Thursday.
The letter also reveals a widening gulf between Barr and Mueller, who have been friends for decades, and is a sign that the special counsel’s team was angry with how Barr characterized the findings.
NADLER demands that DOJ turn over Mueller’s letter by 10am tomorrow.
— Andrew Desiderio (@desiderioDC) May 1, 2019
Nadler statement: "The Department of Justice has … been reluctant to confirm a date for Special Counsel Mueller to testify. Given this evening's reports, I will press the Department to schedule that hearing without delay."
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) May 1, 2019
William Safire in New York Times, October 1992, about Attorney General Barr, whom he called “the Coverup-General”: pic.twitter.com/TUgnLSgPBe
— Michael Beschloss (@BeschlossDC) May 1, 2019
I note with interest AG Barr’s 4/10 Senate testimony. “Q: Did Bob Mueller support your conclusion? A: I don’t know whether Bob Mueller supported my conclusion.” Now it appears that Mueller objected in this 3/27 letter. https://t.co/IiK5zJYtAS
— (((Rep. Nadler))) (@RepJerryNadler) May 1, 2019
— Sam Stein (@samstein) May 1, 2019
This is an extraordinary move for Bob Mueller. He doesn’t do things like this. Apparently he didn’t appreciate having his hard work falsified. What ever made Barr/Rosenstein think that the whitewash would hold, unless they planned to suppress the report?? https://t.co/VO8KQoidGu
— Michael R. Bromwich (@mrbromwich) May 1, 2019
Just spoke with Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who says “a lot of remedies need to be on the table” for congressional response to Barr’s conduct. He does *not* rule out possible impeachment proceedings. Calls Mueller letter “stunning” and a “game changer for [Barr’s] legacy.”
— Robert Costa (@costareports) May 1, 2019
On 23 March I said on @MSNBC @amjoyshow “Would Barr create the worst scandal in American history by covering up the worst scandal in American history? Robert Mueller apparently thinks Yes. https://t.co/01fWcsU6ww
— Malcolm Nance (@MalcolmNance) April 30, 2019
We can't function as a nation of law if we can't trust the Attorney General to tell the truth. Reporting of Mueller's letter to Barr protesting the contextualization of the Russian investigation is a bombshell. The AG's job is to serve the public not protect the president.
— Dan Rather (@DanRather) May 1, 2019
In the days after the Barr letter there were reports of Mueller's staff angry at the letter's mischaracterization of the full report. I guess what's noteworthy here is that Mueller himself was one of the people upset, and not those "13 angry Democrats." https://t.co/LoYdMhDBC0
— Aaron Astor (@AstorAaron) May 1, 2019
After Barr released summary, Fox News repeatedly said if Barr was mischaracterizing, Mueller would have said something. They said Mueller’s lack of objection proved Barr was telling truth. Must have said this 100 times.
Now we know Mueller did object. So what will they say now?
— Angelo Carusone (@GoAngelo) May 1, 2019
This sworn testimony doesn’t seem to be … true. https://t.co/pXWy6mirV8
— George Conway (@gtconway3d) May 1, 2019
Impeach the perjurer. https://t.co/NyjpIarYzT
— Dick Polman (@DickPolman1) May 1, 2019
Federal judges have repeatedly been impeached and removed from office for committing perjury, “making false and misleading statements”, “impeding an official investigation”, and “lying under oath”. Those descriptions seem to fit William Barr tonight.
— Joe Scarborough (@JoeNBC) May 1, 2019
The news that Mueller was concerned with Barr presentation adds new context to why Barr is protesting answering questions from House Judiciary Committee staff https://t.co/Pcc3EYmgnU
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) April 30, 2019
Bob Mueller wrote in & objected
On seeing his work disrespected.
The AG, he found,
Had jerked him around,
Which maybe he should’ve expected.
— Limericking (@Limericking) May 1, 2019