Some of the members of special counsel Bob Mueller’s team are expressing frustration to the press that Attorney General Bill Barr painted too rosy a picture of the team’s actual findings in his letter to Congress.
After nearly two years of virtually complete silence and no leaks from the team, members of the special counsel’s office told The New York Times and Washington Post that the final report is more damaging to Trump than the letter suggested and included “alarming” evidence of obstruction of justice.
Barr wrote in his letter that Mueller did not conclude that the president or his campaign conspired with Russia’s effort to interfere in the election. Barr quoted a part of the report that said it did not find that the president “committed a crime” nor did it “exonerate” him on obstruction of justice before clearing Trump of obstruction himself.
Some members of the team anonymously said the letter “failed to adequately portray the findings of their inquiry and that they were more troubling for President Trump than Mr. Barr indicated,” The Times reported.
Investigators told The Times that they prepared summaries of the report that were intended to be released publicly but a source close to Barr told the outlet that the team never asked for those summaries to be released. The DOJ determined that the summaries contained sensitive information that needed to be redacted, government officials told The Times.
Sources close to Barr said that the attorney general wanted to avoid a situation like former FBI Director James Comey’s announcement that Hillary Clinton was cleared of criminal wrongdoing in the private email server case. Comey broke with protocol to publicly criticize Clinton’s actions even as he cleared her.
Barr has said he would submit a redacted version of the report to Congress later this month.
Investigators found “alarming” evidence of obstruction:
In a separate report by The Washington Post, members of Mueller’s team expressed frustration about the limited amount of information Barr provided to Congress.
“Members of Mueller’s team have complained to close associates that the evidence they gathered on obstruction was alarming and significant,” The Post reported.
“It was much more acute than Barr suggested,” one of the Post’s sources said.
Some members of the team were “disappointed” Barr did not release the summaries they had prepared.
“There was immediate displeasure from the team when they saw how the attorney general had characterized their work instead,” a US official familiar with the matter told the outlet.
The report was prepared “so that the front matter from each section could have been released immediately — or very quickly,” the official added. “It was done in a way that minimum redactions, if any, would have been necessary, and the work would have spoken for itself.”
Trump team fires back:
Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani complained on Fox News that the leaked reports suggest that the team was biased.
“They are a bunch of sneaky, unethical leakers,” he claimed. “And they are rabid Democrats who hate the president of United States.”
It's worth noting that Mueller is a lifelong Republican, as were fired Trump officials James Comey and Jeff Sessions.
The Justice Department said in a statement that the summaries were not released because each page was marked as having sensitive information.
“Every page of the ‘confidential report’ provided to Attorney General Barr on March 22, 2019 was marked ‘May Contain Material Protected Under Fed. R. Crim. P. 6(e)’ — a law that protects confidential grand jury information — and therefore could not be publicly released,” the statement said. “Given the extraordinary public interest in this matter, the Attorney General decided to release the report’s bottom-line findings and his conclusions immediately — without attempting to summarize the report — with the understanding that the report itself would be released after the redaction process.”