Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III wrote a letter in late March to his old colleague and friend Attorney General William P. Barr, complaining that his four-page memo to Congress describing the principal conclusions of the investigation into President Trump “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance”.
In this memo Barr announced that Mueller did not find a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russian officials seeking to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. He also added that Mueller had not reached a conclusion about whether Trump had tried to obstruct justice. Bar says he reviewed the evidence and found it insufficient to support such a charge.
Days after Barr’s announcement, Mueller wrote a private letter to the Justice Department, laying out his concerns in stark terms that shocked senior Justice Department officials. Justice Department officials said Tuesday that they were shocked by the tone of Mueller’s letter and that it came as a surprise to them that he had such concerns.
But a day after Mueller sent his letter to Barr, the two men spoke by phone for about 15 minutes. Justice Department officials said that, in some ways, the phone conversation was more cordial than the letter that preceded it, but that the two men did express some differences of opinion about how to proceed. Barr even gave Mueller his personal phone number and told him to call if he had future concerns, officials said.
The next day, the Attorney General sent a letter to Congress underlying that his March 24 letter was not intended to be a summary of the report, but instead only stated the Special Counsel’s principal conclusions. He also volunteered to testify before both Senate and House Judiciary Committees on May 1 and 2.
Some senior Justice Department officials were even frustrated by Mueller’s complaints because they had expected that the report would reach them with proposed amendments, but this did not happen. In their opinion, the evidence they had gathered — especially on obstruction — was far more alarming and significant than how Barr had described it. That was perhaps to be expected, given that Barr had distilled a 448-page report into a terse, four-page memo to Congress.
Barr is scheduled to appear Wednesday morning before the Senate Judiciary Committee. And he is likely to be questioned at length about his interactions with Mueller. Republicans on the committee are expected to question Barr about an statement he made earlier this month that government officials were “spying” on the Trump campaign. This comment was used by the president’s supporters as evidence the investigation into the president was biased. Democrats have also accused Barr of downplaying the seriousness of the evidence against the president.
Natalia Veselnitskaya – official website