Robert Mueller expressed frustration with Attorney General William Barr’s summary of the the special counsel’s findings in a private letter that has now become public. The full text of the letter is at the bottom of this story.
In the March 27 letter, the existence of which the Washington Post first reported Tuesday night, Mueller expressed some dismay that Barr had chosen to boil down the findings of the investigation into two exculpatory talking points, writing that the summary Barr released three days earlier failed to “fully capture the context, nature, and substance” of the findings and sowed “public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation.”
Mueller, the letter reveals, complained to Justice Department officials immediately after Barr released a four-page summary of the special counsel’s report on March 24. That summary emphasized that there had been no evidence of collusion and that Barr had not found the president obstructed justice. In reality, while the redacted report released four weeks later did not accuse Trump of colluding with the Russians, it also laid out some potentially damning evidence about dubious actions by Trump and his associates, particularly on the topic of obstruction of justice. The special counsel’s office said in the report it had not come to a decision about whether criminal obstruction had been committed.
In the letter, the special counsel asked for his introduction and executive summaries—items later included in the redacted report—to be released to help combat confusion.
According to Justice Department officials, after the letter was sent, Mueller spoke to Barr over the phone, and while Mueller said Barr’s letter was not inaccurate, he reiterated that the report was more nuanced on the topic of obstruction than Barr had represented.
In his first appearance at the Capitol since the redacted report’s release, Barr is testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday to discuss the investigation and is expected to face questions about the summary. Some Democrats, questioning Barr’s impartiality in the process of releasing the report, are calling for him to resign.
Read the full letter below.
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 the 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 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. 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 the 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