Special counsel Robert Mueller, who had disagreements with the way Attorney General William Barr handled his report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, said on Wednesday that he does not believe Barr acted in bad faith.
“We appreciate that the attorney general made the report largely public,” Mueller said in a statement at the Justice Department, his first — and, he said, his last — public comments since being appointed special counsel. “And I certainly do not question the attorney general’s good faith in that decision.”
President Trump claimed vindication on the basis of Barr’s summary. Democrats objected that the favorable impression it created had become fixed in the public mind before the release of the report, which was much more critical of Trump’s actions.
In a subsequent letter to Barr, Mueller complained that the summary “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this office’s work and conclusions.”
Barr defended his handling of the Mueller report in testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this month.
“Bob Mueller is the equivalent of a U.S. attorney,” Barr said. “He was exercising the powers of the attorney general subject to the supervision of the attorney general. He’s part of the Department of Justice. His work concluded when he sent his report to the attorney general. At that point, it was my baby.”
Barr noted that it was his decision to make a redacted version of the Mueller report public to “lean as far forward as I could.”
“It was my decision how and when to make it public,” he said, “not Bob Mueller’s.”
Mueller said Wednesday that the report should be considered his own public testimony on the matter.
“We chose those words carefully, and the work speaks for itself,” he said. “The report is my testimony.”
In his report, Mueller found no conspiracy between Russia and Trump’s campaign. But he chronicled at least 10 episodes of efforts by Trump or his staff to obstruct the federal probe. Although the special counsel declined to charge Trump with obstruction of justice, he explicitly refused to exonerate the president.
He reiterated that point Wednesday.
“If we had confidence that the president had clearly not committed a crime, we would have said so,” Mueller said.
Trump responded to Mueller’s statement in a tweet.
Nothing changes from the Mueller Report. There was insufficient evidence and therefore, in our Country, a person is innocent. The case is closed! Thank you.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 29, 2019
The White House responded in a separate statement attributed to press secretary Sarah Sanders.
“The report was clear — there was no collusion, no conspiracy — and the Department of Justice confirmed there was no obstruction,” Sanders said. “Special counsel Mueller also stated that Attorney General Barr acted in good faith in his handling of the report. After two years, the special counsel is moving on with his life, and everyone else should do the same.”
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