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White House

No, Bill Barr Didn’t Lie or Mislead

Attorney General William Barr testifies before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., May 1, 2019. (Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters)

The alleged Russia collusion scandal has become the alleged Bill Barr scandal. There are now calls for him to resign or be impeached because he supposedly mislead Congress about Robert Mueller’s discontent, expressed in a letter first reported by the Washington Post last night, over his letter making his summary of conclusions from the probe. But this is nonsense.

Read the supposedly damning exchange with Sen Chris Van Hollen. Barr is never asked whether Mueller is unhappy with his letter, just whether he’s unhappy with his conclusions, meaning his decision not to charge the president with obstruction:

VAN HOLLEN: Mr. Attorney General, the thing is you put this out there. I mean the President went out and tweeted the next day that he was exonerated. That wasn’t based on anything in the Mueller report, with respect to obstruction of justice. That was based on your assessment. That was on March 24th. And now you won’t elaborate – at all, as to how you reached that conclusion. Because I’m not asking you what is in the Mueller report, I’m asking you about your conclusion. Let me ask you this–

BARR: It was the conclusion of a number of people, including me and I obviously am the Attorney General. It was also the conclusion of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

VAN HOLLEN: I understand. I’ve read your letters–

BARR: And I will discuss that decision after the report is out–

VAN HOLLEN: Did Bob Mueller support your conclusion?

BARR: I don’t know whether Bob Mueller supported my conclusion.

There’s another exchange with Rep . Charlie Crist that people are also focusing on. Barr is asked about anonymous officials from the Mueller probe telling the press they are unhappy with his summary letter. Barr, correctly, says he doesn’t know their discontents (he presumably didn’t talk to any of them about this, and wouldn’t know anyway since they were anonymous), but then adds they are probably about more information not being released:

During a House Appropriations Committee, the St. Petersburg Democrat asked: “Reports have emerged recently, general, that members of the Special Counsel’s team are frustrated at some level with the limited information included in your March 24th letter, that it does not adequately or accurately necessarily portray the report’s findings. Do you know what they’re referencing with that?”

Barr said: “No, I don’t.”

“I suspect that they probably wanted more put out, but in my view, I was not interested in putting out summaries or trying to summarize,” he added.

Here’s the video for even more context.

It’s true that Barr could have revealed the Mueller letter in this exchange, but he also might have considered their back-and-forth private (although the letter was clearly written to leak ).

In sum, this is all a non-scandal that shows how small the Russia controversy has gotten—from alleged treason to a squabble over a summary of a report that was released in full.

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