Conveniently, hours after The New York Times wrote a thinly sourced article claiming members of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team told “associates” that Attorney General William Barr didn’t accurately summarize Mueller’s findings, The Washington Post had a similar article, also using anonymous sources.
The Times’ lede paragraph was demolished by Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley Strassel, who pointed out that the story was based on the words of anonymous “government officials” and “others” who were “familiar” with what the Mueller “investigators” told their “associates.”
Talk about being steps removed from a story.
The Times story followed the typical “journalism” that has become prevalent in the Trump era: Anonymous sources with no direct knowledge of a situation being placed front and center in a story designed to drive a particular narrative that hurts President Donald Trump.
The Washington Post apparently also found these sources after the Times, and wrote a similar article. The lede follows the same premise:
Members of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s team have told associates they are frustrated with the limited information Attorney General William P. Barr has provided about their nearly two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether President Trump sought to obstruct justice, according to people familiar with the matter.
Here again we have an unknown number of “members” from Mueller’s small team telling “associates” that they don’t like what Barr wrote in his summary, according to people who apparently know those associates.
Barr released his summary of Mueller’s findings on March 24. Muller made no recommendations for indictments regarding alleged “collusion” between Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and Russia or regarding alleged obstruction of justice. Mueller himself has not publicly (or privately, as far as we know) disputed Barr’s summary, even though his office immediately jumped to deny a report from Buzzfeed months ago claiming the special counsel was told Trump directly told his former lawyer Michael Cohen to lie.
Both the Times and the Post reported that these people “familiar with the matter” claimed Mueller’s team prepared their own summaries and expected them to be released publicly instead of Barr releasing his own summary. Department of Justice spokeswoman Kerri Kupec disputed this claim in a statement that was included in the Post’s article, but not the Times’. Kupec said the report couldn’t be released publicly because “every page” was marked “May Contain Material Protected Under Fed. R. Crim. P. 6(e),” which protects grand jury information. She said Barr “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.”
Despite both outlet’s lengthy reports based on anonymous sources, they were not able to include comments directly from Mueller’s office.
Glenn Greenwald, who has been one of the few mainstream journalists skeptical of the Trump-Russia conspiracy theories, took the Times to task for its poor journalism.
“Trump/Russia conspiracists are like zombies: the dream can’t die. Their new hope is a) anonymously sourced, b) bereft of even one specific, c) irrelevant to *conspiracy* as opposed to obstruction & d) unrelated to the fact that Mueller indicted *zero* Americans for conspiracy,” Greenwald tweeted while including a highlighted section from the Times report.