Mueller Frustrated with Barr Over Portrayal of Findings

Attorney General William Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein arrive to speak about the release of the redacted version of the Mueller report at the Department of Justice in Washington

Democrats are now debating whether the report serves as a suitable basis to begin impeachment proceedings in Congress to try to remove Trump from office.

At the time Mueller's letter was sent to Barr, the attorney general had days prior announced that Mueller did not find a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russian officials seeking to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. Barr's initial March 24 summary downplayed evidence of collusion and preemptively cleared President Trump of obstruction of justice when the report explicitly says that decision should be left to Congress.

Mr Barr entered the hearing on the defensive following reports hours earlier that Mr Mueller had complained to him in a letter and over the phone about the way his findings were being portrayed.

In a statement prepared for Wednesday's hearing, Barr recounts and defends his process for handling Mueller's report without mentioning the disagreement with the special counsel.

Barr's brief summary for Congress "did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance" of the 448-page investigation, Mueller said. This threatens to undermine a central objective for which the Department appointed the Special Counsel: "to assure full public confidence in the outcome of the investigations", the letter said, as quoted by Washington Post.

The Justice Department declined to comment on the dispute. Barr suggested he had not lied because he was in touch with Mueller himself and not his team.

The full, redacted report of the investigation was released on April 18.

Citing the Justice Department's guidance that a sitting president can not be indicted, Mueller did not charge Trump.

Accordingly, the enclosed documents are in a form that can be released to the public consistent with legal requirements and Department policies.

On Wednesday, Barr is also set to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee, where the Republican-led committee is expected to have normal rounds of member questioning.

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"The Deputy Attorney General and I knew that we had to make this assessment because, as I previously explained, the prosecutorial judgment whether a crime has been established is an integral part of the Department's criminal process", Barr said.

Citing "law enforcement officials", the Post reported that the two men had a 15-minute private conversation the next day, March 28. Barr said he didn't believe a piecemeal release of information was beneficial, and besides, it wasn't Mueller's call to make.

Barr's appearance Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee highlighted the partisan schism around Mueller's report and the Justice Department's handling of it.

DOJ spokeswoman Kerri Kupec confirmed Tuesday night that Mueller was particularly concerned about the representation of the obstruction volume.

Barr said he called Mueller after receiving his complaints and Mueller told him "he was not suggesting that we had misrepresented his report". They then discussed whether additional context from the report would be helpful and could be quickly released.

"The special counsel's concerns reflect our own". Mueller also said that he expressed those concerns on March 25, the day after Barr chose to release his own letter. See Department of Justice, Press Release (May 17, 2017).

But prosecutors laid out a mountain of evidence they had collected in the obstruction probe - including 11 possible instances of obstruction - and indicated Congress could further investigate.

The dispute comes as tensions have escalated sharply between House Democrats and the Trump administration over full access Mueller's report and government witnesses who have defied congressional subpoenas to testify.

Barr "whitewashed the report", Senator Dick Durbin, a member of the Judiciary Committee, told CNN ahead of the hearing.

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