U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton issued an extraordinary rebuke of Attorney General William Barr Thursday in an order to the Department of Justice demanding he be able to review an unredacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Walton, who was appointed to the D.C. District Court by former President George W. Bush, admonished Barr's handling of Mueller's report and questioned whether his framing of it in his so-called 'principal conclusions' letter prior to the full report's release was "calculated" to help President Donald Trump politically.
"The inconsistencies between Attorney General Barr's statements, made at a time when the public did not have access to the redacted version of the Mueller Report to assess the veracity of his statements, and portions of the redacted version of the Mueller Report that conflict with those statements cause the Court to seriously question whether Attorney General Barr made a calculated attempt to influence public discourse about the Mueller Report in favor of President Trump despite certain findings in the redacted version of the Mueller Report to the contrary," Walton wrote.
He added: "The speed by which Attorney General Barr released to the public the summary of Special Counsel Mueller's principal conclusions, coupled with the fact that Attorney General Barr failed to provide a thorough representation of the findings set forth in the Mueller Report, causes the Court to question whether Attorney General Barr's intent was to create a one-sided narrative about the Mueller Report—a narrative that is clearly in some respects substantively at odds with the redacted version of the Mueller Report."
Walton said such representations cast into doubt whether DOJ can be trusted that the redactions made to the Mueller report don't undermine Barr's case defending the president's behavior.
"The Court has grave concerns about the objectivity of the process that preceded the public release of the redacted version of the Mueller Report and its impacts on the Department's subsequent justifications that its redactions of the Mueller Report are authorized by the FOIA," Walton wrote. "These circumstances generally, and Attorney General Barr’s lack of candor specifically,call into question Attorney General Barr’s credibility."
Walton said that after reviewing the report himself he will decide whether he agrees with DOJ that the redactions were proper. The ruling was in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by Buzzfeed and the watchdog group 'EPIC' seeking a full unredacted version of the Mueller report.
Attorney General Barr has repeatedly rejected accusations that he misled the public in his initial characterization of Mueller's findings. DOJ didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on the ruling from ABC News.