Dems alarmed at fears that Barr misrepresented the Mueller report

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Dems alarmed at fears that Barr misrepresented the Mueller report




William Barr

Attorney General William Barr provided a summary of the Mueller report’s findings “with the understanding that the report itself would be released after the redaction process,” a Justice Department spokeswoman said. | Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Congress

The requests came after the DOJ defended the release of an initial summary of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Updated


A top House Democrat on Thursday demanded that the Justice Department produce all communications between Attorney General Bill Barr and special counsel Robert Mueller, citing news reports indicating that some members of Mueller’s team are bristling at Barr’s characterization of their final report on Russian collusion.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler is also demanding the immediate release of any summaries that Mueller’s team intended to become public.

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“You have already provided an interpretation of the Special Counsel’s conclusions in a fashion that appears to minimize the implications of the report as to the President,” Nadler said in a letter to Barr on Thursday. “Releasing the summaries — without delay — would begin to allow the American people to judge the facts for themselves.”

Nadler’s missive follows an outcry from Democratic lawmakers over the reports — first appearing in The New York Times and the Washington Post — suggesting members of Mueller’s team informed associates that they felt Barr downplayed the damaging evidence of obstruction against Trump and withheld information about Russia’s election interference that they believed he would have made public by now.

Instead, Barr issued his own four-page summary of Mueller’s conclusions two weeks ago, quoting selectively from Mueller’s report in a way Democrats have suggested could be misleading. President Donald Trump has highlighted Mueller’s letter to declare “total exoneration” by Mueller’s investigators.

The Department of Justice on Thursday defended Barr’s summary, saying he couldn’t disclose the full report because it contained protected grand jury information. The statement came after some members of Mueller’s team were reportedly unhappy with Attorney General William Barr’s characterization of their investigatory work.

A Justice Department spokeswoman said Barr provided the initial findings “with the understanding that the report itself would be released after the redaction process” and “does not believe the report should be released in serial or piecemeal fashion.”

One former Barr colleague took issue with the notion that Mueller prosecutors were speaking openly in any way about the Russia investigation. “If those reports are accurate, my view is that it’s reprehensible for line prosecutors to either directly or indirectly be making those kinds of comments,” said George Terwilliger III, who served under Barr as deputy attorney general in the George W. Bush administration.

Democrats on Capitol Hill, however, said the new reports underscored their decision to ratchet up their demands for a public release of the Russia probe’s full findings. They expressed frustration at the news that some members Mueller’s team are privately displeased with Barr’s summary.

Trump allies, meanwhile, leaped in to slam the Mueller team. Rudy Giuliani went on the offensive, taking another swipe at Mueller’s team in an apparent attempt to discredit it, while Trump himself complained Thursday morning about “the highest level of Presidential Harassment in the history of our Country!”

Reports in The New York Times and The Washington Post late Wednesday indicated that Mueller’s team members told associates that their report contained “acute” evidence that Trump obstructed the investigation of Russian links to his 2016 campaign. Both reports said Mueller’s team had prepared summaries meant to be made public, but none of them has emerged. Rather, Barr issued his own four-page analysis that the president has described as “total exoneration.”

The news has already put Democrats into a furor over not seeing even a redacted version of Mueller’s report.

“Just show us the Mueller report, that’s all,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday.

Nadler (D-N.Y.) said his panel will issue a subpoena “in very short order” to get Mueller’s full report.

“These latest developments … just show additionally why it is imperative that the entire report and underlying documents be released immediately,” he said, adding it will “very likely to be necessary” to call Mueller to testify.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said it’s concerning that Barr “felt it important to substitute his judgment and words for the words of the team that spent two years investigating.” Schiff later said Barr should have recused himself from the investigation because of his well-known narrow view of obstruction of justice.

The news dropped while the White House was under siege from Capitol Hill. Democrats on Wednesday authorized a subpoena for the Mueller report, formally requested Trump’s taxes and prepared to issue a subpoena for Trump financial records from an accounting firm. Multiple committees are also investigating a breach at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club by a Chinese national, and reports also indicated the House Intelligence Committee is reviewing records from Trump’s inaugural committee.

Though Trump initially expressed confidence that Mueller’s report exonerated him, he has begun to betray concerns in recent days, suggesting repeatedly that he doesn’t like the notion of House Democrats getting access to the full report and highlighting news clips that emphasize Barr has no obligation to reveal the report to Congress or the public. Trump continued that line of attack Thursday morning.

“There is nothing we can ever give to the Democrats that will make them happy,” he tweeted. “This is the highest level of Presidential Harassment in the history of our Country!”

He also attacked The New York Times over its reporting, writing on Twitter that the publication “had no legitimate sources, which would be totally illegal, concerning the Mueller Report. In fact, they probably had no sources at all! They are a Fake News paper who have already been forced to apologize for their incorrect and very bad reporting on me!”

The White House also weighed in on the reports, with press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders calling Democrats “sore losers.”

Giuliani, who was previously ecstatic about Barr’s interpretation of Mueller’s findings, bashed Mueller’s team late Wednesday.

“The NYT story about unspecified troubling findings in report is as accurate as the NYT saying Mueller’s staff didn’t leak,” Giuliani tweeted. “Who leaked this…Mueller’s unethical staff. This proves they are Angry Democrats who couldn’t find or create evidence to support collusion or obstruction.”

Mueller’s report, according to Barr’s four-page summary “did not establish” a conspiracy between Trump’s campaign and the Russian government. And Mueller declined to make a “traditional prosecutorial judgment” on whether Trump obstructed the probe, but Barr absolved the president unilaterally, infuriating Democrats in Congress who said Barr — a Trump appointee who had publicly taken an extremely narrow view of presidential obstruction — should not have inserted himself into Mueller’s work before making it public.

Trump has latched on to Barr’s letter to claim “total exoneration” and his allies have mounted a nonstop assault on Democrats who once promoted the notion that Trump’s campaign may have conspired with Russians during the 2016 presidential campaign. Yet virtually none of Mueller’s evidence or findings has been revealed nor has any analysis of why he reached his decisions about conspiracy and obstruction.

Schiff said the reports that Mueller’s team crafted summaries meant to be made public undercut Barr’s decision to deliver his own analysis of the report.

“Those summaries may be among the most carefully drafted worded parts of the entire report by the Mueller team,” Schiff said. “They know that most Americans aren’t going to read all 400 pages. They are going to look to those top lines, and so they were probably wordsmithed very carefully, which means any deviation by Barr to give perhaps an overly optimistic picture of the president’s behavior particularly as to obstruction would have concerned the members of that team.”

Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) said there’s increased urgency to be concerned Mueller’s report may be destroyed, adding, “The best indicator of future activity is past activity.” He said Barr’s “biased” summary was such an indicator.

Darren Samuelsohn, Caitlin Oprysko, Heather Caygle and Katie Galioto contributed to this story.

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