Three days after Attorney General William Barr sent Congress his four-page letter on the “principal conclusions” of the Russia investigation, special counsel Robert Mueller sent a letter to the attorney general objecting to how he’d framed the probe’s findings.
The House Judiciary Committee has now released that March 27 letter Mueller wrote to Barr, the contents of which were first reported by the New York Times and the Washington Post.
In the letter, Mueller says that Barr’s summary “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this Office’s work and conclusions,” and that as a result, “There is now public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation.”
“This threatens to undermine a central purpose for which the [Justice] Department appointed the Special Counsel: to assure full public confidence in the outcome of the investigations,” Mueller continues.
He then goes on to inform Barr that he has included with his letter introductions and executive summaries for each volume of the 448-page report. (Volume I covers Russian interference in the 2016 election and any links between Russian officials and the Trump campaign; Volume II covers Trump’s response to the investigation, meaning it mostly focuses on the question of obstruction of justice.)
Mueller adds that the documents already include required redactions. “Accordingly,” he writes, “the enclosed documents are in a form that can be released to the public consistent with the legal requirements and Department policies. I am requesting you provide these materials to Congress and authorize their public release at this time.”
Mueller says that doing so would “alleviate the misunderstandings that have arisen.”
But Barr didn’t release those introductions and executive summaries as Mueller asked. Instead, he let the “public confusion” fester for nearly four more weeks before finally releasing the full report (with redactions) on April 18.
Justice Department spokesperson Kerri Kupec told the Times on Tuesday night that “the attorney general ultimately determined that it would not be productive to release the report in piecemeal fashion,” and that Barr and Mueller agreed to get the “full report out with necessary redactions as expeditiously as possible.”
Barr reiterated that statement in his testimony before the Senate on Wednesday. “I told Bob that I was not interested in putting out summaries and I wasn’t going to put out the report piecemeal,” Barr told the committee.
The attorney general said he wanted to release the full report at one time and was afraid summaries would prompt “a series of different debates and public discord over each tranche of information.”
Still, as innerdaily’s Alex Ward has written, the gap between Barr’s letter and the release of the full report “skewed the public impression of the report before even a full sentence was released, leading many to believe that the Trump campaign had done nothing wrong whatsoever.”
Barr is facing the Senate Judiciary Committee for his first hearing on the Mueller investigation and his handling of his probe. Lawmakers are sure to question him further about the Mueller letter, and why he declined to make those introductions and executive summaries immediately available in March as the special counsel requested.
Read the letter below, or at this link: