We're all just in a holding pattern until the redacted report is released, which will evidently happen "within a week," in keeping with the Attorney General's previously-stated timeline of mid-April. In the meantime, we're hungry for any little tidbits to analyze, hence the heavy coverage of anonymous, secondhand quotes from "associates" of vaguely-described Mueller investigators last week. Now we have our latest thumb-twiddling fascination.
Appearing before a Congressional committee on the subject of the DOJ's budget this morning, AG Bill Bar was unsurprisingly asked about the Mueller report. Besides reiterating his time frame, Barr mentioned that he offered the Special Counsel's office an opportunity to review his original four-page memo summarizing the full report's "bottom line" findings (the overall nature of which were apparently known within certain DOJ circles for weeks). Mueller's team apparently declined:
Attorney General William Barr says he "offered" special counsel Robert Mueller a chance to "review" his 4-page letter summarizing the Mueller report to Congress and Mueller "declined that" https://t.co/dJQ4bT8CYJ pic.twitter.com/bXF0FkjzlA— World News Tonight (@ABCWorldNews) April 9, 2019
I suppose this is somewhat intriguing, given the Special Counsel's office known involvement in the redaction process. Mueller and colleagues didn't just hand the report off to DOJ and leave for vacation; they're assisting in the document's scrubbing to ensure that certain sensitive material isn't made public. Incidentally, if you need a refresher on the categories of redactions, read Barr's second letter. In short, they're seeking to protect information they're required to protect under law, national security secrets, material relevant to other ongoing investigations, and sealed grand jury records that could needlessly harm uncharged third parties (read Andy McCarthy on this point). But if Mueller's team is taking a hands-on approach on that front, why did they turn down the chance to see what Barr was about to release to the American public, which would create an important first impression of their long-anticipated work? We know, after all, that Barr and Mueller are pretty close friends who respect each other greatly. Allahpundit breaks it down:
Did Mueller believe that, under the regs, it simply wasn’t his place to consult with the AG on his summary of the report — even if the AG invited him to? Or is this a case of misplaced trust, with Mueller believing that Barr would fairly represent his findings in the AG’s summary only to discover that he hadn’t? Again, *if* it’s true that the special counsel’s office believed Barr would release its own summaries of the report instead of his own, the fact that Barr asked Mueller to review the AG summary was a big hint that they were mistaken. They could have spoken up right then.
Maybe Mueller figured there was no harm in letting Barr issue his own summary. The public will soon get to see Mueller’s summaries as well as redacted versions of his findings when the full report is released. If Barr’s summary turns out to have accurately represented those findings, great. If it doesn’t then Barr will have to explain why. Plus, reviewing Barr’s work would have placed Mueller in an awkward position. Unless Barr grossly distorted his findings, which is unlikely, he would have had to decide whether a fight with Barr right at the start of the process was worth the risk of alienating the AG.
All fair points. My strong feeling is that this mini-tempest is once again much ado about almost nothing. Even after today's small nugget from Barr, and last week's nameless quasi-leaks, these essential facts remain unchanged:
I’ve always assumed there will be bad stuff for Trump in the Mueller report because some bad stuff has been public for months. We’ll see it soon. Barr knows that if he mischaracterized Mueller’s big takeaways, his reputation would be shattered.— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) April 4, 2019
I also reasoned last week that given the fact that the grumbling from hazily-identified Mueller investigator "associates" wasn't directed at Team Trump's 'no collusion!' football-spiking -- but rather at a supposedly insufficient characterization of the seriousness of some potential obstruction evidence -- the single most important question of this entire exercise can likely be considered settled. It's a vindication of the president, and not just on the narrower issue of prosecutable conspiracy. Mueller himself wrote that his probe didn't establish conspiracy or coordination between the Russians and Trump's campaign. Speaking of POTUS, has he seen the longer report yet? Allahpundit notes that Barr won't say, also pointing out that Trump's 'total exoneration' boasting has been taken down several notches lately. Hmm.
Consequently, I'll leave you with a renewed word of caution: No collusion, and no obstruction prosecution, are clear wins for the president. But as Barr heavily hinted from the start, there will be evidence within Mueller's report that does not reflect well on Trumpworld, including the man at the top. There's going to be another round of news cycles on all of this before the book is closed.