Mueller Objected to Barr's 4-Page Memo: Barr Says He Was Acting in the Public Interest

By Susan Jones | May 1, 2019 | 6:50am EDT
Attorney General William Barr (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

( - In his opening statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, Attorney General William Barr will say he was acting in the public interest when he released a four-page memo, explaining the "bottom-line conclusions" reached by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

The night before Barr's hearing, however, news broke that Special Counsel Robert Mueller wrote to Barr, objecting to the lack of "context" in Barr's memo. Mueller reportedly wanted Barr to release more of the report, including its introductions and executive summaries. (Notably, The Washington Post reported that Mueller did not contest the accuracy of Barr's memo.)

Barr's opening statement was released before Wednesday's hearing:

"After the Special Counsel submitted the confidential report on March 22, I determined that it was in the public interest for the Department to announce the investigation’s bottom-line conclusions -- that is, the determination whether a provable crime has been committed or not. I did so in my March 24 letter," Barr wrote.

"I did not believe that it was in the public interest to release additional portions of the report in piecemeal fashion, leading to public debate over incomplete information. My main focus was the prompt release of a public version of the report so that Congress and the American people could read it for themselves and draw their own conclusions."

The 448-page redacted Mueller report was finally released on Thursday, April 18.

Wednesday's hearing includes three Democrats running for president (Sens. Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Amy Klobuchar), and it promises to be contentious.

On Tuesday night, The Washington Post reported that Robert Mueller sent Barr a letter on March 27, complaining about Barr's March 24th memo, saying it "did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance" of the Special Counsel's work and conclusions.

“There is now public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation," Mueller wrote to Barr. "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 reportedly asked Barr to release the report's introductions and executive summaries, because Mueller didn't like the way his team's conclusions were characterized by Barr and others.

Mueller and Barr spoke by phone after Barr received Mueller's letter, according to the Washington Post:

Throughout the conversation, Mueller’s main worry was that the public was not getting an accurate understanding of the obstruction investigation, officials said.

“After the Attorney General received Special Counsel Mueller’s letter, he called him to discuss it,” a Justice Department spokeswoman said Tuesday evening. “In a cordial and professional conversation, 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. They then discussed whether additional context from the report would be helpful and could be quickly released.

“However, the Attorney General ultimately determined that it would not be productive to release the report in piecemeal fashion,” the spokeswoman said. “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 on May 1 and 2.”

In his opening statement, to be delivered Wednesday morning, Barr concludes:

The responsibility of the Department of Justice, when it comes to law enforcement, is to determine whether crimes have been committed and to prosecute those crimes under the principles of federal prosecution. With the completion of the Special Counsel’s investigation and the resulting prosecutorial decisions, the Department’s work on this matter is at its end aside from completing the cases that have been referred to other offices.

From here on, the exercise of responding and reacting to the report is a matter for the American people and the political process.

The Special Counsel disappointed many Trump opponents by finding no evidence that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government to influence the 2016 election; finding no evidence that anyone connected with the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russians in their hacking operations; and finding no criminal conduct in connection with the dissemination of those hacked emails.

The Special Counsel reached no conclusion on whether President Trump obstructed justice. Mueller did lay out ten situations where Trump's actions might be construed as obstruction. Although he did not charge the president, Mueller purposely did not exonerate him, either. As the report said: "If we had confidence after our thorough investigation that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we'd say that, but we can't."

Attorney General Barr, along with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, concluded that "under the principles of federal prosecution, the evidence developed by the Special Counsel would not be sufficient to charge the President with an obstruction-of-justice offense."

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