Attorney General Bill Barr testified Tuesday that Robert Mueller’s team had no role in drafting or reviewing the two letters Barr has sent to Congress about the special counsel’s report.
In response to a question by House Appropriations subcommittee chairman Jose Serrano (D-NY), Barr said that Mueller did not review or help prepare either his March 24 or 29 letters.
Barr gave Mueller the “opportunity to review” the initial letter summarizing what he deemed the report’s “principal conclusions” before it went out, and “he declined that,” Barr said.
Barr wrote in that initial letter that the special counsel did not find sufficient evidence to establish that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia. Noting that Mueller did not reach a conclusion on whether Trump obstructed justice, Barr said he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein determined that the President did not.
House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) questioned how Barr could have arrived at that conclusion just 48 hours after his office received the report from Mueller’s team.
“It seems your mind must have been already made up,” she said.
Barr suggested the Justice Department was familiar with the special counsel’s “thinking” and had been engaged in weeks of initial conversations about how to handle the report.
“On March 5th, I believe, the deputy and I met with special counsel Mueller and his team and had a preliminary discussion about the report,” Barr said. “So we had an inkling as to what was coming our direction. And so even more thinking within the department was done about that over that time. That was a matter of weeks.”