Barr letter

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The four-page letter Attorney General William Barr sent to leaders of the House and Senate judiciary committees on March 24, 2019. It describes the principal conclusions of the Special Counsel investigation.

The Barr letter is a four-page letter sent in March 24, 2019 from Attorney General William Barr to leaders of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees detailing the "principal conclusions" of the report of the Special Counsel investigation led by Robert Mueller into Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 United States presidential election, allegations of conspiracy or coordination between Donald Trump's presidential campaign and Russia, and allegations of obstruction of justice.

Background[edit]

On May 17, 2017, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed a special counsel, Robert Mueller, to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and "any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation".[1] Mueller concluded his investigations and sent a 448-page written report to Attorney General William Barr on March 22, 2019.[2] Two days later, Barr sent a four-page letter to the leaders of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees detailing what he said were the report's principal conclusions on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, allegations of coordination between Donald Trump's presidential campaign and Russia, and allegations of obstruction of justice.

On April 18, 2019, the Department of Justice released to the public a two-volume redacted version of Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election, informally known as the "Mueller Report".

Contents[edit]

Barr's letter describes the conclusions investigated by the Special Counsel investigation. It is split into two sections: Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and allegations of obstruction of justice.

Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election[edit]

Barr's letter mentioned two methods found by the special counsel that Russia tried to do to influence the 2016 presidential election. First method: disinformation through social media campaigns by the Internet Research Agency (IRA) "to sow social discord"; and secondly, hacking computers for emails that came from the 2016 Clinton presidential campaign and Democratic National Committee.[3]

Barr quoted the report as saying the "investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities."[4][5]

Obstruction of justice[edit]

Barr wrote that the special counsel "did not draw a conclusion – one way or the other – as to whether the examined conduct constituted obstruction"[6] and that "The Special Counsel's decision to describe the facts of his obstruction investigation without reaching any legal conclusions leaves it to the Attorney General to determine whether the conduct described in the report constitutes a crime".[7] Barr concluded on obstruction of justice by saying: "Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and I have concluded that the evidence developed during the Special Counsel's investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense".[8]

Comparison between Barr memo and Barr letter[edit]

On June 8, 2018, William Barr, then a private citizen, sent a 19 page memo to the Department of Justice detailing his thoughts on the Special Counsel's investigation into allegations of obstruction of justice done by President Trump.

After the Barr letter was released, media commentators have pointed out that previously in June 2018, Barr (who was not working for the government then) wrote an unsolicited 19-page memo to the Department of Justice protesting that Mueller's investigation of President Trump for obstruction is "legally insupportable",[9][10][11][12][13] and "fatally misconceived".[14][15][16][17][18] The memo continued by saying that Trump was within his power to firstly ask then-FBI Director James Comey to stop investigating Michael Flynn, first and former National Security Advisor to Trump, and to secondly fire Comey.[18] Barr further wrote that it would be detrimental to the institution of the presidency if Trump were accused of a crime when he fired Comey, a subordinate.[15][16]

Both the 2018 memo and the Barr letter argued that an underlying crime (in this case, "related to Russian election interference") was needed for obstruction to occur.[12] Democrats referred to the memo in suggesting that Barr's decision on obstruction was biased.[10] Time Magazine said "Barr has already realized some of Democrats' biggest fears", then went on to describe the memo.[16] USA Today wrote that Barr's decision in the letter "rekindled concerns among Democratic lawmakers" about the memo,[12] while CNN wrote that the Barr letter gave the memo "heightened relevance".[18] Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein previously said that the memo had "no impact on the investigation", but The Guardian points to the memo as why Barr's decision on obstruction in the letter is "controversial".[14] The New Yorker wrote that in light of Barr's decision in the Barr letter, the memo raises questions on whether Barr should have recused from the special counsel investigation, as it has already done before when Barr was nominated for Attorney General.[9] The Los Angeles Times wrote that Barr used similar reasoning in both the 2018 memo and Barr letter,[15] while NPR similarly wrote that the memo which "was a precursor to" the Barr letter.[17] Regarding the decision on obstruction in the Barr letter, The Washington Post wrote that the memo "suggests Barr didn't think there was much of a case in the first place",[11] while The Irish Times wrote that "Barr already made his views clear" earlier in the memo.[13]

Comparison of findings between Barr letter and Mueller Report[edit]

After the release of the redacted report, Barr's letter was criticized as a deliberate mischaracterization of the Mueller Report and its conclusions.[19][20][21][22][23][24] Numerous legal analysts concluded that Barr's letter did not accurately portray some of the findings of the investigation, casting Trump in a better light than was intended in the report. The New York Times reported instances in which the Barr letter omitted information and quoted sentence fragments out of context in ways that significantly altered the findings in the report, including:[19]

  • Omission of language that indicated Trump could be subject to indictment after leaving office, inaccurately suggesting that Trump was "totally exonerated".[25][26][27]
  • A sentence fragment described only one possible motive for Trump to obstruct justice, while the Mueller Report listed multiple possible motives.
  • Omission of words and a full sentence that twice suggested there was knowing and complicit behavior between the Trump campaign and Russians that stopped short of direct coordination, which may constitute conspiracy.

CNN wrote that while Barr in his letter took it upon himself to deliver a ruling on whether Trump had committed obstruction, the redacted report indicates that Mueller intended that decision to be made by Congress, not Barr.[28][clarification needed]

Numerous other political and legal analysts, including Bob Woodward[29] and Brian Williams,[30] observed significant differences in what Barr said about Mueller's findings in his letter, and in his April 18 press conference, compared to what the Mueller Report actually found. This commentary included a comparison of Barr to Baghdad Bob, calling him "Baghdad Bill".[30][31][32][33]

Barr wrote that his letter provided "the principal conclusions" of the Mueller Report. Ryan Goodman, a professor at the New York University School of Law and co-editor of Just Security, observed that in 1989, Barr also wrote a letter which he stated contained "the principal conclusions" of a controversial legal opinion[which?] he worked on as head of the OLC. Barr declined to provide the full opinion to Congress, but it was later subpoenaed and released to the public, showing that the 1989 letter did not fully disclose the principal conclusions.[34][35]

Reactions[edit]

Robert Mueller[edit]

It was reported on April 30, 2019, that Robert Mueller wrote to Barr on March 27, shortly after Barr's letter to the leaders of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, to discuss Barr's letter. Mueller thought that Barr's letter "did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance" of the findings. "There is now public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation. This threatens to undermine a central purpose for which the Department appointed the Special Counsel: to assure full public confidence in the outcome of the investigations." Mueller also requested Barr release the Mueller Report's introductions and executive summaries.[36][37][38]

The next day on March 28, Mueller had a phone call with Barr and reportedly expressed concerns about public misunderstandings of the obstruction investigation due to a lack of context released by Barr's letter.[37] In their phone conversation, Barr reportedly said that his letter was not intended to be a summary, but rather only as a description of the principal findings of Mueller's report, and said he preferred not to release more information until a more complete redacted version of the report could be prepared.[37] Barr then sent a subsequent letter to Congress in which he reiterated that his letter had not been intended as a summary of the Mueller Report and volunteered to testify before Congress in early May.[37]

Some members of the special counsel team[edit]

On April 3, 2019, some members of the Mueller investigation team, who spoke on condition of anonymity, expressed concerns to the press that Barr's letter did not accurately portray some of the findings of the investigation, casting Trump in a better light than was intended in the report.[39]

President Donald Trump[edit]

On Barr's decision to clear him on obstruction, Trump said in late April 2019 that Barr read the Mueller Report "and he made a decision right on the spot. No obstruction."[40][41]

Member of Congress[edit]

In a joint statement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said that Barr is "not a neutral observer".[42] They also said that Barr's past "bias" against the special counsel (Barr's memo) showed that he was "not in a position to make objective determinations".[42]

Republican congressman Justin Amash stated in May 2019 "it is clear that Barr intended to mislead the public about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s analysis and findings," adding, "Barr’s misrepresentations are significant but often subtle, frequently taking the form of sleight-of-hand qualifications or logical fallacies, which he hopes people will not notice."[43]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Rosenstein, Rod (May 17, 2017). "Order No. 3915-2017: Appointment of Special Counsel". United States Department of Justice. Retrieved April 25, 2019.
  2. ^ Breuninger, Kevin (March 22, 2019). "Mueller Probe Ends: Special counsel submits Russia report to". CNBC. Retrieved May 1, 2019.
  3. ^ "Read Attorney General William Barr's Summary of the Mueller Report". The New York Times. March 24, 2019. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 1, 2019.
  4. ^ Cotter, Sean (March 24, 2019). "DOJ: Trump campaign didn't collude with Russians". bostonherald.com. Retrieved May 1, 2019.
  5. ^ Barr, William (March 24, 2019), English: The Attorney General (PDF), retrieved March 24, 2019 – via Wikimedia Commons
  6. ^ Barr letter p. 3: Special Counsel therefore did not draw a conclusion - one way or the other – as to whether the examined conduct constituted obstruction.
  7. ^ Barr letter p. 3: The Special Counsel's decision to describe the facts of his obstruction investigation without reaching any legal conclusions leaves it to the Attorney General to determine whether the conduct described in the report constitutes a crime.
  8. ^ Barr letter p. 3: Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and I have concluded that the evidence developed during the Special Counsel's investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense. Our determination was made without regard to, and is not based on, the constitutional considerations that surround the indictment and criminal prosecution of a sitting president.
  9. ^ a b Lach, Eric (March 24, 2019). "William Barr, the Mueller Report, and the Question of Obstruction by Trump". The New Yorker. Retrieved April 30, 2019.
  10. ^ a b Chalfant, Morgan; Lillis, Mike (March 30, 2019). "Questions mount over Mueller, Barr and obstruction". The Hill. Retrieved April 30, 2019.
  11. ^ a b Blake, Aaron (April 17, 2019). "The fastest way to Trump's heart (and an administration job): Say what he wants to hear, publicly". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 30, 2019.
  12. ^ a b c Jansen, Bart; Phillips, Kristine (March 25, 2019). "Congressional Democrats question AG William Barr's decision that Trump didn't obstruct justice". USA Today. Retrieved April 30, 2019.
  13. ^ a b Finucane, Martin (March 24, 2019). "Here's what legal experts say about the Mueller report findings". The Irish Times. Retrieved April 30, 2019.
  14. ^ a b Kirchgaessner, Stephanie (April 5, 2019). "DoJ officials told of Barr meeting on day he submitted memo critical of Mueller". The Guardian. Retrieved April 25, 2019.
  15. ^ a b c Megerian, Chris (March 25, 2019). "Controversy surrounds Barr's decision on obstruction issue". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 25, 2019.
  16. ^ a b c Berenson, Tessa (March 28, 2019). "Robert Mueller's Work Is Done. What Happens Next Is Up to William Barr". Time. Retrieved April 26, 2019.
  17. ^ a b Elving, Ron (April 15, 2019). "Mueller Report Release Will Likely Escalate Tensions Between Trump And Congress". NPR. Retrieved April 26, 2019.
  18. ^ a b c Watkins, Eli (March 26, 2019). "Barr authored memo last year ruling out obstruction of justice". CNN. Retrieved April 28, 2019.
  19. ^ a b Savage, Charlie (April 20, 2019). "How Barr's Excerpts Compare to the Mueller Report's Findings". The New York Times. Retrieved April 21, 2019.
  20. ^ Dickinson, Tim (April 19, 2019). "Re-Read Bill Barr's Infamous Letter With Full Quotes From the Mueller Report". Rolling Stone. Retrieved April 21, 2019.
  21. ^ Denning, Steve (April 19, 2019). "How Attorney General Barr Misled America". Forbes. Retrieved April 21, 2019.
  22. ^ Rizzo, Salvador (April 19, 2019). "What Attorney General Barr said vs. what the Mueller report said". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 21, 2019.
  23. ^ Eliason, Randall D. (April 19, 2019). "William Barr's incredibly misleading words". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 21, 2019.
  24. ^ Chait, Jonathan (April 18, 2019). "Congress Should Impeach William Barr". Intelligencer. Retrieved April 21, 2019 – via New York.
  25. ^ Benen, Steve (April 19, 2019). "The latest in a series of 'Mission Accomplished' moments for Trump". MSNBC. Retrieved April 24, 2019.
  26. ^ Bernstein, Jonathan (April 22, 2019). "Opinion: Congress will pick up where Mueller left off". Newsday. Retrieved May 2, 2019.
  27. ^ Buncombe, Andrew (April 18, 2019). "Mueller Report: Trump leaves town claiming victory and with Democrats scrambling to respond". The Independent. Retrieved April 24, 2019.
  28. ^ "Don McGahn could decide Trump's political fate". CNN. April 24, 2019. Retrieved April 25, 2019.
  29. ^ Hall, Colby (April 19, 2019). "Bob Woodward: AG Barr Will Be Remembered for the Deception and Misrepresentation of the Mueller Report". Mediaite. Retrieved April 23, 2019.
  30. ^ a b DePaolo, Joe (April 19, 2019). "MSNBC's Brian Williams on AG Barr: I Wouldn't Be Surprised if People Starting Calling Him 'Baghdad Bill'". Mediaite. Retrieved April 23, 2019.
  31. ^ Mariotti, Renato (April 19, 2019). "The Obstruction Case Against Trump that Barr Tried to Hide". Politico. Retrieved April 23, 2019.
  32. ^ Auber, Tamar (April 19, 2019). "MSNBC's Wallace, Heilemann Run a Scathing Fact-Check on AG Barr: 'He Just Lies'". Mediaite. Retrieved April 23, 2019.
  33. ^ Feldman, Josh (April 19, 2019). "Former Federal Prosecutor on CNN: Barr's 'Credibility and Independence are in the Trash'". Mediaite. Retrieved April 23, 2019.
  34. ^ Goodman, Ryan (April 15, 2019). "Barr's Playbook: He Misled Congress When Omitting Parts of Justice Dep't Memo in 1989". Just Security. Retrieved May 6, 2019.
  35. ^ Bump, Philip (April 15, 2019). "The 1989 precedent that raises questions about how Barr will redact the Mueller report". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 6, 2019.
  36. ^ Williams, Pete (April 30, 2019). "A frustrated Mueller told AG Barr his short summary of the special counsel report caused confusion". NBC News. Retrieved May 1, 2019.
  37. ^ a b c d Barrett, Devlin; Zapotosky, Matt (April 30, 2019). "Mueller complained that Barr's letter did not capture 'context' of Trump probe". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 1, 2019.
  38. ^ "Special Counsel Mueller's letter to Attorney General Barr". The Washington Post. May 1, 2019. Retrieved May 2, 2019.
  39. ^ Fandos, Nicholas; Schmidt, Michael S.; Mazzetti, Mark (April 3, 2019). "Some on Mueller's Team Say Report Was More Damaging Than Barr Revealed". The New York Times. Retrieved April 24, 2019.
  40. ^ "The 45 most outrageous lines from Donald Trump's rambling interview with Sean Hannity". CNN. April 26, 2019. Retrieved May 1, 2019.
  41. ^ Zurcher, Anthony (May 1, 2019). "William Barr: Five questions for US attorney general". BBC News. Retrieved May 1, 2019.
  42. ^ a b Miles, Frank (March 24, 2019). "Pelosi, Schumer, other top Dems question impartiality of Barr letter about Mueller report". Fox News. Retrieved May 1, 2019.
  43. ^ https://twitter.com/justinamash/status/1129831619869728771

External links[edit]

  • Mueller Report, redacted version publicly released April 18, 2019: