A Justice Department spokesperson pushed back on reports that special counsel Robert Mueller’s team was frustrated with how Attorney General Bill Barr characterized their findings in a brief, top-line summary he released last month. The reports said that the investigators had prepared their own summaries meant for public consumption that they had expected Barr to draw from or release, rather than put their findings in his own words.
DOJ spokesperson Kerri Kupec said Thursday that “every page” of the report Mueller submitted to Barr on March 22 was marked with the indication that the page “may” contain grand jury material, which, by law, is prohibited from public release.
“Given the extraordinary public interest in the 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,” Kupec said in a statement. “As the Attorney General stated in his March 29 letter to Chairman Graham and Chairman Nadler, he does not believe the report should be released in ‘serial or piecemeal fashion.’ The Department continues to work with the Special Counsel on appropriate redactions to the report so that it can be released to Congress and the public.”
Two days after Mueller submitted his nearly-400-page report, Barr released a four-page letter summarizing the report’s “principal conclusions.” The letter said the “investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.” The letter also said that Mueller had not made a decision one way or another whether President Trump’s conduct since taking office amounted to criminal obstruction of justice. Barr said that he had concluded the evidence turned up by Mueller’s team was not sufficient to bring charges.
The President and his allies have since used Barr’s letter to claim that Trump had been fully exonerated.
According to reports in the New York Times and the Washington Post, members of Mueller’s team has grumbled to associates that Barr’s letter downplayed what the report said about the obstruction allegations. It’s unclear from the reports how many members of Mueller’s team, which included 19 lawyers and 40 FBI agents, have expressed frustration with Barr.