The full text of special counsel Robert Mueller’s letter to Attorney General William Barr deflated initial reports Tuesday that the document mischaracterized Mueller’s investigation.
The Washington Post and New York Times seized on the March letter as evidence of conflict between Mueller and Barr. In the letter, the special counsel criticized the attorney general for the way he chose to present the investigation’s findings regarding Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Both outlets created the impression Mueller is severely upset with Barr for mischaracterizing the Russia report in his four-page summary of Mueller’s report and that the tone of his criticism shocked the Department of Justice.
That response from Mueller would give a lot of ammunition to the leading narrative that Barr mishandled the delivery of the report and intentionally misled the public as to its contents if it were accurate. But the letter, read in full context, suggests a much more banal reality, which The New York Times and Washington Post buried in their reporting.
BREAKING: Letter from Special Counsel Robert Mueller to Attorney General Barr. pic.twitter.com/oDJm6coP8G
— House Judiciary Dems (@HouseJudiciary) May 1, 2019
Mueller did disagree with the way Barr delivered his findings — he wanted Barr to release executive summaries of the report. But he did not take issue with the accuracy of Barr’s memo to Congress.
Democrats, including Rep. Ted Lieu, used reporting on the letter to assert Mueller believes Barr “mischaracterized” his findings. But the word “mischaracterize” appears nowhere in Mueller’s letter. Rather, Mueller simply expresses concern that the memo would lead to confusion because it is not detailed enough.
The memo “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this office’s work and conclusions,” Mueller wrote. “There is now public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation.”
According to a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, much of Barr’s frustration is in fact aimed at the way the media has covered his findings.
“In a cordial and professional conversation, the Special Counsel emphasized that nothing in the Attorney General’s March 24 letter was inaccurate or misleading,” she told The Washington Post, regarding a phone call between the two of them following Mueller’s letter. “But, he expressed frustration over the lack of context and the resulting media coverage regarding the Special Counsel’s obstruction analysis.”
Barr reiterated this point when pressed about the reporting on Mueller’s concerns while testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. “I talked directly to Bob Mueller, not members of his team,” he said, adding: “Mueller never told me that the expression of the findings is inaccurate.”