Mueller objected to AG Barr's summary clearing Trump of obstruction | News Coverage from USA

Mueller objected to AG Barr’s summary clearing Trump of obstruction

WASHINGTON – Robert Mueller privately objected to a summary Attorney General William Barr delivered to the public clearing President Donald Trump of having obstructed the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, a Justice Department spokeswoman said Tuesday.

Mueller communicated his frustration to Barr in writing after the attorney general disclosed the special counsel’s conclusions in a summary letter to Congress on March 24. The letter told lawmakers that Mueller’s investigation had not found that Trump conspired with Russian efforts to sway the election in his favor or that he illegally sought to obstruct the inquiry that followed.

For weeks, Barr’s summation was the only information available to the public about the outcome of an investigation that shadowed the first two years of Trump’s presidency.

“The special counsel emphasized that nothing in the attorney general’s March 24 letter  was inaccurate or misleading, but he expressed frustration over the lack of context and the resulting media coverage regarding the special counsel’s obstruction analysis,” Justice spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said in a statement.

Mueller’s full report offered a more searing account of Trump’s conduct than the one offered by Barr. It recounted 10 episodes in which Trump had sought to thwart the inquiry into his campaign’s ties to Russia, including details of his demands that his aides fire Mueller or focus his inquiry only on future elections. 

Mueller’s office said it would have been unfair to attempt to determine whether those actions constituted federal crimes, because the Justice Department has long contended that a president cannot be indicted. But investigators pointedly refused to clear Trump of wrongdoing, saying, “If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state.”

Kupec said that after Barr called Mueller to discuss his letter. “They then discussed whether additional context from the report would be helpful and could be quickly released,” she said.

Barr ultimately determined, Kupec said, that it would “not be productive to release the report in piecemeal fashion.”

Read the report: Read special counsel Robert Mueller’s report into President Trump, Russian interference

Read the letter: Mueller report: Read AG William Barr’s summary of the Russia investigation

More: Trump took steps to fire Mueller, stop probe after campaign welcomed Russian dirt on Clinton, Mueller report says

“The attorney general and the special counsel agreed to get the full report out with necessary redactions as expeditiously as possible. The next day, the attorney general sent a letter to Congress reiterating that his March 24 letter was not intended to be a summary of the report, but instead only stated the special counsel’s principal conclusions, and volunteered to testify before both Senate and House Judiciary Committees.”

Confirmation of that dispute, first reported by the Washington Post, comes on the eve of Barr’s scheduled appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee to discuss his handling of the Mueller report. Democrats are poised to question whether the attorney general sought to provide cover for the president.

In the House, Barr has threatened to skip a hearing planned for Thursday over a clash with Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., over how the attorney general would be questioned.

Nadler has proposed that committee lawyers be allowed to interrogate Barr, in addition to questioning by lawmakers. The attorney general has objected to that format, including a demand that he submit to questioning in a closed session concerning material that was redacted from the public version of the Mueller report.

A spokesman for the Mueller declined comment late Tuesday.

After Mueller’s office declined to reach a conclusion on whether Trump had obstructed justice, Barr and his deputy, Rod Rosenstein, reviewed the evidence investigators gathered and drew their own, saying they saw no crime. That decision has been the focus of mounting questions since the attorney general delivered his four-page summary of Mueller’s conclusions last month to the public and Congress.

Barr said he intervened after Mueller did not resolve whether Trump’s conduct, which included attempts at curtailing the investigation and a proposal to dismiss Mueller, amounted to a crime.

Mueller’s subsequent report  examined 10 instances of possible obstruction, including Trump’s directive to White House Counsel Don McGahn that the special counsel be fired.

Trump has since denied ever issuing such an order, but the president also declined submit to any questions from the special counsel about his alleged attempts to obstruct the 22-month investigation.

Questions about Trump’s alleged obstruction efforts are expected to loom large during Wednesday’s Senate hearing.

“This is exactly why I said that Mr. Barr should never have been confirmed in the first place,” said Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., the vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee. “At this point, he has lost all credibility.”

Warner urged that Mueller be called to testify as soon as possible.

In the House, Nadler demanded that Barr produce a copy of Mueller’s letter before his scheduled appearance there.

“The special counsel’s concerns reflect our own,” Nadler said Tuesday. “The attorney general should not have taken it upon himself to describe the special counsel’s findings in a light more favorable to the president.  It was only a matter of time before the facts caught up to him.”

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