Mueller Did Not Think Barr’s Report Summary Was Inaccurate, Complains About Misleading Media Coverage

By Janita Kan
Janita Kan
Janita Kan
Janita Kan is a reporter based in New York covering the Justice Department, courts, and First Amendment.
May 1, 2019 Updated: May 3, 2019

Special counsel Robert Mueller wrote a letter to Attorney General William Barr to complain about his 4-page summary on the Russia investigation report, saying it did not “fully capture the context, nature, and substance” of the probe, but in a subsequent phone call Mueller told Barr he did not think his summary was inaccurate.

The letter’s existence was first reported by Washington Post on April 30 and was publicly released by Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee on May 1.

The March 27 letter outlined Mueller’s concerns about the content of Barr’s memo, sent on March 24 to Congress, which summarized the special counsel’s findings of his investigation into whether Russia had colluded with the Trump campaign to influence the 2016 presidential election.

“The summary letter the Department sent to Congress and released to the public late in the afternoon of March 24 did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this office’s work and conclusions. There is now public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation. This threatens to undermine a central purpose for which the Department appointed the Special Counsel: to assure full public confidence in the outcome of the investigations,” the letter read.

Mueller also requested Barr to release the introductions and executive summaries of each volume of the report, according to the letter.

Sources familiar with the discussions told the Post that Mueller’s letter had “shocked senior Justice Department officials” because the officials believed the special counsel was in agreement about the process of reviewing the report and the need for redactions.

The Post also reported, citing Justice Department officials, that the two men later had a phone conversation where Mueller reiterated his concerns about Barr’s summary and the media’s mischaracterization of the obstruction of justice investigation, saying that it was creating public misunderstandings about the special counsel’s work.

Moreover, Mueller told Barr that he did not feel the summary was inaccurate but he felt the media coverage of it was misinterpreting the investigation, the Post reported, citing officials.

In a statement to the Post, a Justice Department spokesperson said: “After the Attorney General received Special Counsel Mueller’s letter, he called him to discuss it. In a cordial and professional conversation, the Special Counsel emphasized that nothing in the Attorney General’s March 24 letter was inaccurate or misleading. But, he expressed frustration over the lack of context and the resulting media coverage regarding the Special Counsel’s obstruction analysis.”

Following the Post’s article, Democrats have criticized Barr, with some calling for his impeachment. But others have defended the attorney general, pointing out that Mueller had admitted Barr’s summary was accurate.

Rep. Mark Meadows said, “1) “Mueller criticized Barr’s letter”—except Mueller admitted letter was accurate. Pathetic spin. 2) Barr made the full report public 2 weeks ago—why in the world is his letter even relevant? It’s like complaining about a movie trailer 2 weeks after the full movie comes out.”

Liz Wheeler, the host of Tipping Point, made similar comments.

“The article literally says Mueller CONFIRMED that Barr told the truth in his letter,” she wrote.

Barr is currently testifying in the Senate Judiciary Committee about Mueller’s investigation and the handling of the report.

The Justice Department released a redacted version of Mueller’s report on April 18. The nearly 500-page report details how the special counsel concluded that there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election.

The report also found that the special counsel did not find enough evidence to substantiate that the president obstructed justice.

Janita Kan
Janita Kan is a reporter based in New York covering the Justice Department, courts, and First Amendment.