Screengrab from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B5MMS2_P_8I
As I reported this morning, an article was released last night by The New York Times claiming that members of Robert Mueller’s team were “simmering” over AG Barr’s characterization of the report.
There are a lot of reasons to be skeptical of that report. There were zero named sources. There weren’t even any direct anonymous sources. Instead, we got the ridiculous “people familiar with” trope that used to never pass as responsible journalism. In regards to details, there were none, with the Times reporting that no one elaborated on what they were actually upset about.
A decade ago, such gossipy trash never would have made it to print. But under Trump’s tenure, anything goes in the media.
Shortly after The New York Times piece, a more sanitized leak from Mueller’s team was printed in the The Washington Post. This time saying they were simply frustrated with how little Barr disclosed in his initial summary. This time, they stopped short of actually accusing him of misrepresenting matters.
Members of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s team have told associates they are frustrated with the limited information Attorney General William P. Barr has provided about their nearly two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether President Trump sought to obstruct justice, according to people familiar with the matter.
This was clearly an attempted walk back from some of the more salacious claims in the Times piece that the report said something different than the summary.
The DOJ is responding now and calling these anonymous leakers out on their misleading statements.
The Department of Justice released a statement Thursday morning slamming new reporting from the New York Times and Washington Post. Both newspapers accuse Attorney General William Barr of mishandling the release of material in Robert Mueller’s Special Counsel report, in addition to mischaracterizing the findings of the report in the four page summary released two weeks. ago.
The DOJ statement goes on to fact-check those hyperventilating over these reports as proof Barr lied.
Given the supposed complaints from Mueller’s team that Barr is being too secretive, the DOJ spokesman pointed out that it was Mueller’s office that marked everything confidential. That means Barr cannot legally start dumping parts of it until redactions are done.
“Every page of the ‘confidential report’ provided to Attorney General Barr on March 22, 2019 was marked ‘May Contain Material Protected Under Fed. R. Crim. P. 6(e)’ – a law that protects confidential grand jury information – and therefore could not be publicly released,” DOJ spokesperson Keri Kupec released in a statement. “Given the extraordinary public interest in the matter, the Attorney General decided to release the report’s bottom-line findings and his conclusions immediately — without attempting to summarize the report — with the understanding that the report itself would be released after the redaction process.”
In other words, these Mueller team members that are leaking to the press are doing so in a knowingly disingenuous way. They know that the report is legally marked confidential — something they did — and that Barr can’t just run to the podium and start giving details yet.
So what exactly are they frustrated about? Especially, since we are going to get the report in a few weeks anyway? The answer is that they are worried about political perceptions. They don’t want the initial conclusions released by Barr to settle into the public subconscious. They want the report to be weaponized with selective leaks but if Barr waits to release the entire report at once (after redactions), that disarms them.
Here’s the other thing that some apparently can’t grasp as they set their hair on fire over these reports. If Mueller’s team actually felt Barr was misrepresenting something, there’s nothing stopping them from going on the record at this point. There’s nothing stopping Mueller from releasing a corrective statement, as he did when Buzzfeed published a false report on Michael Cohen.
Here’s the dirty little secret that the media want to gloss over. It’s not Mueller and Barr that are butting heads here. This is actually internal division within Mueller’s own team rearing its head. That’s going to be a bigger story going forward.
The Mueller team is not a united front and the fact that these dissenters won’t go on the record says their complaints are likely nonsense.
Think about the things you have to believe are true to think Barr is misrepresenting the report. You have to believe that Barr, with a 30-year reputation on the line, is lying for Trump just to cover for a two week period. You have to believe he’s lying about Mueller’s report while also being longtime friends with Robert Mueller. You also have to believe he’s lying while Mueller himself is helping redact the report for release. Lastly, you have think Barr is dumb enough to misrepresent the report despite the fact that he’s releasing said report anyway.
None of that makes any sense. You’d think these storied newspapers could do some basic critical thinking before running with thinly sourced anonymous reports, but I guess not. Who needs ethics in journalism, right?