Attorney General

Barr defends his summary of Mueller report after special counsel’s objections

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Barr and Mueller

Attorney General William Barr and special counsel Robert Mueller.

Updated: U.S. Attorney General William Barr defended his handling of special counsel Robert Mueller's report in testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

Barr’s testimony comes amid revelations that Mueller objected to Barr’s summary of the Mueller investigation’s principal findings, released March 24. The full report, with redactions, was released April 18.

Barr said he decided to state “the bottom-line conclusions” as the public awaited the redacted version of the full report. His summary was akin to the announcement of a verdict before release of the trial transcript, he said. “We were not trying to summarize the 410-page report,” he said.

Barr said he offered Mueller a chance to review his summary of the report’s principal conclusions, but that Mueller declined.

Barr had written in his summary of the report’s principal conclusions that the special counsel did not find that the Trump campaign, or anyone associated with it, conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its effort to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Barr also said in the summary that Mueller had not drawn a conclusion one way or the other as to whether President Donald Trump had obstructed justice. Barr said he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein concluded, however, that the evidence was insufficient to establish obstruction.

In a March 27 letter to Barr released Wednesday, Mueller said Barr’s March 24 summary “did not fully capture the context, nature and substance of this office’s work and conclusions.”

“There is now public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation,” Mueller wrote. “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 said Mueller’s office communicated its concern on March 25, the day after Barr released his summary. The special counsel said it had supplied to Barr a redacted version of the introduction and executive summary for each section of Mueller’s report.

The letter asked Barr to release the redacted materials to Congress and the public, but Barr declined to do so, the New York Times reports.

Barr said in his testimony to Congress that Mueller’s principal concern was not with Barr’s summary, but with the media’s reporting.

Barr confirmed Wednesday that Mueller wanted him to release executive summaries of each report volume, but Barr said he wasn’t interested in doing that. “I told Bob that I was not interested in putting out summaries and I wasn’t going to put out the report piecemeal,” Barr said.

In response to questions about his conclusion on obstruction, Barr noted that there had been no underlying crime of collusion. Trump’s actions were motivated partly because he feared the Mueller investigation was hampering his ability to govern, Barr said.

The Washington Post, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal provided detailed reporting on Barr’s testimony throughout the day.

The stories highlight these exchanges:

• Barr said Trump didn’t make an illegal effort to impede the special counsel’s investigation when he told his White House counsel that Mueller had to go. Trump was concerned about conflicts of interest by Mueller when he made the statement, Barr said.

• Barr said Mueller shouldn’t have continued the investigation after concluding he wasn’t going to make a decision on obstruction of justice. “That was the time to pull up,” Barr said.

• Barr said Mueller’s letter complaining about his report summary was “a bit snitty,” and that a Mueller staff member probably wrote it.

• Democrats asked Barr about previous testimony in which he said he didn’t know what was behind reports that members of Mueller’s team were unhappy with Barr’s summary. Barr said he was responding to questions related to unidentified people on Mueller’s staff, and Mueller himself did not say the summary was inaccurate.

Updated May 1 at 4:30 p.m. to include additional newspaper coverage.

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