By Michael S. Schmidt and Mark Mazzetti
New York Times News Service
WASHINGTON — Special counsel Robert Mueller twice pushed Attorney General William Barr to release more of his team’s investigative findings in late March, citing a gap between Barr’s interpretation of them and their full report, according to a letter from Mueller released Wednesday.
Mueller and his investigators also pressed the Justice Department to include summaries of their work in the hours before Barr released a four-page letter of his own March 24, the new document showed. Barr’s letter allowed President Donald Trump to wrongly claim that he had been vindicated in the Russia investigation.
Mueller’s letter revealed deep concern about how Barr handled the initial release of the special counsel’s findings — which Mueller said created “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,” Mueller wrote.
Members of a Senate panel pushed Barr on Wednesday just after Mueller’s letter was released to explain his decisions about the Russia investigation over the past month and some Democratic lawmakers have demanded his resignation.
A rift between the two men appears to have grown, with Barr challenging the special counsel’s legal analysis on how some of the president’s actions might have amounted to criminal obstruction of justice. In the hours before the Mueller report’s public release, Barr gave a news conference during which he said that some of Trump’s behavior — when put in “context” — was understandable.
During congressional testimony last month, Barr demurred when asked whether he believed that the investigation was a “witch hunt”— an often repeated line by Trump.
Barr said it “depends on where you’re sitting.”
Mueller’s office first informed the Justice Department of their concerns March 25, a day after Barr released his letter clearing the president but declined to release the special counsel’s findings along with his letter.
Mueller asked the Justice Department to release the summaries of his findings. Barr declined.