Attorney General Bill Barr in his remarks Thursday rolling out the release of the redacted special counsel report included a lengthy and bizarre defense of actions by President Trump that helped fuel concerns he was obstructing justice.
Warning that readers of the report should “bear in mind the context,” Barr claimed that Trump, when entering office, “faced an unprecedented situation,” with the start of the Russia investigation. Barr claimed Trump was “frustrated and angered by his sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents, and fueled by illegal leaks.”
The Trump-sympathetic commentary suggested a spin operation underway to try to mitigate what could be a damaging recounting of how Trump lashed out against special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. At least some of the episodes Mueller is expect to detail were not previously known to the public, according to how Barr has described the report.
In his remarks Thursday defending the President, Barr blamed the “relentless speculation” in the media about the Trump’s “personal culpability.”
He also praised a White House that “fully cooperated” with investigators and gave them “unfettered access” to documents and witness testimony. Such an assessment of the White House’s participation in probe ignores that Trump fought tooth and nail not to sit for an in-person interview with Mueller’s team — an interview that could have helped explain whether Trump’s motives were corrupt.
Barr also claimed that “the President took no act that in fact deprived the Special Counsel of the documents and witnesses necessary to complete his investigation” — an assertion that did not address reports that pardons were discussed by Trump’s personal attorneys for some key Mueller targets and witnesses.
“Apart from whether the acts were obstructive, this evidence of non-corrupt motives weighs heavily against any allegation that the President had a corrupt intent to obstruct the investigation,” Barr said Thursday.
Barr’s remarks did reveal that the Mueller report isolates 10 episodes in particular as he examined the obstruction allegations.
Barr acknowledged that he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein “disagreed” with some of the legal theories Mueller laid out in discussing those episodes, and that they also “felt that some of the episodes examined did not amount to obstruction as a matter of law.”
He claimed, however, that “we did not rely solely on that in making our decision” finding that Trump’s conduct did not rise to criminal obstruction.
“Instead, we accepted the Special Counsel’s legal framework for purposes of our analysis and evaluated the evidence as presented by the Special Counsel in reaching our conclusion,” Barr said.