For all their skill and experience, the investigators on Robert Mueller’s special counsel team made a basic error in judgement—they trusted William Barr. With all the talk about Barr’s long relationship with Mueller, it may have seemed reasonable that the attorney general would take care with the findings they developed and the product they produced. With all Barr’s statements about “transparency” and “the public good,” they seemed to have assumed he meant it.
But according to a Washington Post report, those investigators were sadly disappointed by what actually happened when their work landed on Barr’s desk. They had been so confident that their findings would be rapidly made available to the public that they wrote them as if they were talking to the public. They prepared their own summaries of each section of the report, pulling out the points that they thought were relevant. They wrote, in their own words, what they wanted the American public to know about the investigation they had conducted over almost two years. Barr ignored those summaries.
Instead, he provided his own hastily drafted letter containing not even a full sentence of the original report. How close those summaries fall to the original is still unknown, but members of the Mueller team are starting to make it clear that what Barr produced “does not adequately portray” the much more “acute” information they presented.
The story broke on Wednesday night in the New York Times, where members of Mueller’s team spoke off the record about the concern over Barr’s letter, and how that letter was being treated by the media as if it was the special counsel report. After two years of running a completely leak-proof investigation, the fact that investigators are speaking up now demonstrates just how greatly they are concerned about the way Barr has portrayed their work.
Despite investigators having revealed absolutely no details of the report, Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani responded as expected, calling Mueller’s team “a bunch of sneaky, unethical leakers,” as well as “rabid Democrats who hate the president of United States.”
Both Giuliani and Trump are in the position now where they hate the investigators, but love what Barr is presenting as the conclusions. Giuliani stated that he was “absolutely confident that the report will bear out the conclusions … no obstruction, no Russian collusion of any kind.” However, it’s not at all clear that this impression will be confirmed by the actual report, which is likely to present a picture that includes a long list of actions that are unethical and potentially illegal.
The overnight reports from the Times and the Post appear to agree with tweets made by Los Angeles Times columnist and Wired reporter Virginia Heffernan on the day the Barr letter was produced. According to Heffernan, her source indicated that the actual report was “really damaging” to Trump and “much worse” than what was included in Barr’s letter.
Meanwhile, as Democrats seek to subpoena the unredacted report, and a huge majority of Americans express a desire to see the full result in poll after poll, Trump continues to suggest that there’s no need to see the actual report. In morning tweets, Trump suggested that attempts to see the report were just “trying to keep the Witch Hunt alive.”