On Tuesday evening, the day before Attorney General William Barr was set to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee, The Washington Post obtained a “leaked” letter from Special Counsel Robert Mueller to Barr, written just days after Barr first released a letter summarizing the conclusions of Mueller’s findings. According to the Post’s headline, “Mueller complained to Barr about memo on key findings.” But that wasn’t actually what Mueller was complaining about.
It turns out that Mueller was complaining, not about the inaccuracy of Barr’s summary of his conclusions, but that Barr hadn’t captured the “context, nature, and substance” of Mueller’s work. According to Mueller’s letter, “There is now public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation. 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 … Release at this time [of Mueller’s own summary] would alleviate the misunderstandings that have arisen and would answer congressional and public questions about the nature and outcome of our investigation. It would also accord with the standard for public release of notifications to Congress cited in your letter.”
So, what exactly did Barr do wrong? He didn’t lie. His letter was an accurate summation of the bottom line of the Mueller report. According to the Post report, “When Barr pressed Mueller on whether he thought Barr’s memo to Congress was inaccurate, Mueller said he did not but felt that the media coverage of it was misinterpreting the investigation, officials said.” In other words, Mueller didn’t like the media coverage, which probably seemed too kind to Trump in Mueller’s view.
Mueller’s team uncovered very little new damning material with regard to collusion, and in fact refused to issue any finding at all with regard to obstruction of justice. Barr probably didn’t release Mueller’s summary because Mueller’s summary likely didn’t contain a bottom line with regard to obstruction. Which means that the American public would have been left bewildered as to whether Trump was in fact guilty of prosecutable obstruction of justice.
That confusion was Mueller’s fault. (NOTE: This is coming from someone who has defended Mueller’s integrity for years, called on Trump consistently to stop attacking Mueller, and stated that if Trump fired Mueller, impeachment ought to be on the table.) Mueller had the full capacity to recommend prosecution on obstruction of justice. He had full authority to state that in his view, Trump had obstructed justice. But he didn’t. His 448 page report is a listing of ugly details about Trump’s internal administration behavior, but does not recommend obstruction charges — and indeed, doesn’t substantiate activity that could sustain a prosecution. Mueller knew that.
So what Mueller actually wanted is what he eventually got with the release of the full report: he wanted the media and Democrats to hone in on a political case for impeachment, rather than the criminal bottom line. And he didn’t like that Barr did what the Attorney General is supposed to do: avoid smearing unprosecutable people for unspecified crimes. Barr instead issued a statement explaining that no prosecution would take place.
Yet the media and Democrats (but I repeat myself) say that Barr has lied, though they can’t specify the lie, and Mueller himself apparently says Barr didn’t lie; they say Barr played defense for Trump, even though he released the full report, which is damning for Trump’s character; they say Barr should be impeached for simply announcing the criminal results of the investigation rather than releasing Mueller’s synopsis of all the Very Bad Things™ Trump did after the firing of former FBI director James Comey. Instead, Barr opted to do his job, then let Mueller have his full say in a report somewhat longer than an average Leo Tolstoy novel. For this, Barr is being pilloried.
Here’s the reality. Democrats are angry at Mueller for not recommending obstruction charges, but they want to sell their votive candles on eBay, so they won’t hit Mueller. Instead, they’ll misdirect to Barr, then claim a cover-up that hasn’t happened. And Mueller would prefer that Barr be hit for declining to prosecute over Mueller himself being hit for — wait for it — declining to prosecute, which is effectively what Mueller did.
The media will oblige, as they always do.
This isn’t a controversy. It’s a nonsensical hit job against Barr, an attempt to lash out in frustration that Mueller didn’t provide the deus ex machina necessary to oust Trump from office.