CNN reports that Special Counsel Robert Mueller sent Attorney General William Barr a letter on March 27, in which he expressed his frustration about the “public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation” as a result of the failure of Barr’s summary letter to Congress to “capture the context, nature, and substance of this Office’s work and conclusions”. Mueller further wrote in the letter, “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.”
Mueller’s letter on March 27 followed Barr’s four-page summary of the report submitted by the Special Counsel on March 22. It also followed an initial letter sent to the AG on March 25 after the summary, which declared that Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein concluded that the evidence gathered by the investigation “is not sufficient to establish the President committed obstruction of justice”, had been submitted to Congress and released to the public.
Dear Attorney General Barr:
I previously sent you a letter dated March 25, 2019, that enclosed the introduction and executive summary for each volume of the Special Counsel’s report marked with redactions to remove any information that potentially could be protected by Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e); that concerned declination decisions; or that related to a charged case. We also had marked an additional two sentences for review and have now confirmed that these sentences can be released publicly.
Accordingly, the enclosed documents are in a form that can be released to the public consistent with legal requirements and Department policies. I am requesting that you provide these materials to Congress and authorize their public release at this time.
As we stated in our meeting of March 5 and reiterated to the Department early in the afternoon of March 24, the introductions and executive summaries of our two-volume report accurately summarize this Office’s work and conclusions. 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. We communicated that concern to the Department on the morning of March 25. There is new 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. See Department of Justice, Press Release (May 17, 2017).
While we understand that the Department is reviewing the full report to determine what is appropriate for public release – a process that our Office is working with you to complete – that process need not delay release of the enclosed materials. Release at this time would alleviate the misunderstandings that have arisen and would answer congressional and public questions about the nature and outcome of our investigation. It would also accord with the standard for public release of notifications to Congress cited in your letter. See 28 C.F.R. 609(c) (“the Attorney General may determine that public release” of congressional notifications “would be in the public interest”).
Robert S. Mueller, III
Special CounselLetter to Attorney General William Barr from Robert Mueller
The Washington Post reports that on April 9 and 10, Barr appeared in front of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, respectively. On the 9th, he was asked by Rep. Charlie Crist [D-FL] if he knew what was behind the reports that Mueller team was frustrated with Barr’s conclusions in the summary. Barr answered, “No, I don’t.”
On April 10, Senator Chris Van Hollen [D-MD] asked the AG if Mueller supported Barr’s conclusion that there was no obstruction of justice by the president. “I don’t know”, Barr answered, in spite of having received the Special Counsel’s letter a few days previously.
Van Hollen told the Post that he believes the Attorney General’s answer was “completely misleading because he was well aware of the fact that Bob Mueller had raised questions with the substance of the conclusions stated in the attorney general’s letter. Based on what I’ve seen, it’s clear to me that what Attorney General Barr told me is totally inconsistent with what he knew at the time.” Van Hollen called for the AG to resign but stopped short of declaring that Barr had intentionally lied.
On Twitter, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler also pointed to the exchange between Van Hollen and Barr on April 10. Nadler’s committee is set to question William Barr on Thursday, although a disagreement over the format, which would allow questioning by party counsel in addition to the members of the committee, has Barr’s attendance in question. Nadler has signaled his willingness to subpoena Barr if he does not appear.
Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, told CNN that Barr should step down but he has “no expectation that he will.” He also said that Congress is “having that conversation” about whether impeaching Barr is warranted or if other oversight possibilities are available. “We could certainly try to remove (Barr) from office, that would face the same difficulty and obstacle as removing the President through an impeachment proceeding. Look, we are going to consider all of the options here,” he said.
In a call sources told CNN was “polite” but evidenced clear disagreement, the Attorney General spoke with Mueller the day after the March 27 letter. Justice Department spokesperson Kerri Kupec gave a statement about the phone call on Tuesday which said, “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.”
The Special Counsel’s office has not commented on the letter which was released on the eve of Barr’s first of two appearances before Congress. The Attorney General has concluded his testimony in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee.