The Slatest

William Barr Didn’t Have a Great Answer When Asked if He Was Trying to Protect the President

 William Barr speaks with a DOJ seal behind him. Rod Rosenstein is at his side.
Attorney General William Barr speaks during a press conference about the release of the Mueller report at the Department of Justice on Thursday. Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

During the press conference on Thursday morning about special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, Attorney General William Barr responded brusquely to criticisms that he has been politicizing the release of the report by issuing statements defending the president.

During the Q&A portion, CBS reporter Paula Reid noted, “A Republican-appointed judge on Tuesday said you have, ‘Created an environment that has caused a significant part of the American public … to be concerned about these redactions.’ ”

The judge in question is Reggie Walton of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, who was presiding over a hearing for a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit when he made the comments. (BuzzFeed is in court to pursue the multiple FOIA requests it filed to gain insight into the internal workings of Mueller’s investigation and access the full unredacted report.) Walton was appointed to his current position by George W. Bush in 2004.

Reid continued, “You cleared the president on obstruction. The president is fundraising off your comments about spying, and here you have remarks that are quite generous to the president, including acknowledging his feelings and emotions. What do you say to people on both sides of the aisle who are concerned you’re trying to protect the president?”

Barr initially defended himself by making references to the report, which the public has not seen yet. “Actually, the statements about his sincere beliefs are recognized in the report that there was substantial evidence for that, so I’m not sure what your basis is for saying that I am being generous to the president,” he replied.

The reporter then asserted, “You face an unprecedented situation. It just seems like there’s a lot of effort to go out of your way to acknowledge …”

Barr interrupted her and said, “Is there another precedent for it? So unprecedented is an accurate description isn’t it?”

Reid completed her question to ask how Barr would respond to people who say that he is trying to protect the president, but he quickly moved on to the next question.

Shortly thereafter, another reporter picked up the thread again and asked, “Is it impropriety to come out and what it appears to be spinning the report before the public has a chance to read it?”

Barr simply said, “no,” and the conference abruptly ended.