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For nearly two years, Robert Mueller worked for the U.S. Department of Justice as a special counsel appointed by then-Acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Despite the Left’s attempt to deify Robert Mueller as an omnipotent figure somehow unbound by the constraints of the Constitution and law, in reality, he was an employee of the Justice Department. He was a publicly-appointed prosecutor paid with U.S. tax dollars.
On March 22, 2019, Robert Mueller’s job ended when he submitted his long-awaited report to Attorney General William Barr. At that point, according to the federal regulation governing the appointment of a special counsel, Mueller’s task was over: “At the conclusion of the Special Counsel’s work, he or she shall provide the Attorney General with a confidential report explaining the prosecution or declination decisions reached by the Special Counsel.”
Or, in Barr’s more memorable words during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday, the report became “my baby.”
The willful ignorance and collective outrage of the media, Democratic lawmakers and NeverTrump agitators do not change facts or even the “rule of law” they’re always pretending to defend. Barr reiterated that sad reality for reality-challenged Trump haters when, upon receipt of Mueller’s report on March 22, the attorney general immediately notified congressional leaders that, “Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III has concluded his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and related matters.”
And although Barr is under no legal obligation to release the 448-page report, both Barr and President Trump had made clear that they hoped the full document would be disclosed to the public as quickly as possible.
But Mueller, a skilled former FBI director appointed by both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama, thwarted that effort—perhaps intentionally. (Mueller also was interviewed by Trump for the job as FBI director the day before he was appointed special counsel.)
In mid-February, shortly after he was sworn-in, Barr instructed Mueller’s team to identify any grand jury material in the final report “so we could redact that material and prepare the report for public release as quickly as we could.” Barr confirmed his order during his opening statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday morning. But Mueller did not abide by that request, and instead submitted a raw report without suggested redactions.
Since the report had not been vetted by the special counsel’s office, Barr explained, and it would have taken at least three weeks to protect sensitive information in the document, he decided to compose a summary of the report’s conclusions in order to partially satisfy the public’s interest.
“I made the determination that we had to put out some information about the bottom line,” Barr told the committee. “The body politic was in a high state of agitation. There was massive interest in learning what the bottom line results of Bob Mueller’s investigation was, particularly as to collusion. Former government officials were confidently predicting that the president and members of his family were going to be indicted. So I didn’t feel that it was in the public interest to allow this to go on for several weeks.”
On March 24, Barr issued another letter to those same congressional leaders—ultimately intended for the public—condensing Mueller’s key conclusions about both the collusion and obstruction of justice inquiries. Barr accurately stated that the special counsel did not find any evidence of coordination or conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. The letter also outlined Mueller’s investigation into potential obstruction of justice offenses by President Trump. Barr explained that Mueller’s team presented “evidence on both sides of the question and leaves unresolved what the Special Counsel views as ‘difficult issues’ of law and fact.” Barr lifts verbatim the specific words included in Mueller’s report: “While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it does not exonerate him.”
But Barr’s letter, which Mueller refused to review before it was released—again, perhaps intentionally—irritated the former special counsel. He sent the attorney general two follow-up letters, on March 25 and March 27, to express his displeasure.
All of a sudden, Team Mueller found their thick black pen. Mueller forwarded an executive summary of each volume that had been “marked with redactions” the day after Barr’s own letter was issued. Mueller’s letter of March 27, which was leaked to the Washington Post on the eve of Barr’s Senate testimony, claimed Barr’s memo “did not fully capture the context, nature and substance of this Office’s work and conclusions.”
The former special counsel claimed Barr’s letter caused “public confusion” about his work and undermined public confidence in the investigation. Mueller asked Barr to release the materials that his team had finally redacted and prepped for public consumption.
Barr did not comply with the former special counsel’s demands.
Why? Because, at that point, the report was legally and appropriately Barr’s baby—not Mueller’s.
The former special counsel had no standing to try to call the shots. Mueller had his chance to comply with a direct order from his boss, and he ignored it, likely in a calculated attempt to delay the process so his biased team could selectively leak damaging portions of the report to complicit journalists and shape the message while the Justice Department remained impotent for nearly a month. Barr was having none of it.
So Mueller’s people started whining to the press about their “simmering frustrations,” according to an early April article in the New York Times. If Barr wouldn’t prostrate before the demands of the Almighty Mueller, they would make the attorney general pay the price with hit pieces in the sympathetic news media.
Barr released the full report with minor redactions on April 18.
The controversy over Mueller’s letter dominated the news cycle late Tuesday and spilled over to the hearing on Wednesday. Democratic lawmakers accused Barr of “lying” when he told Representative Charlie Crist (D-Fla.) during a hearing on April 9 that he didn’t know about the basis for vague “reports” that Team Mueller was frustrated at Barr’s March 24 letter. But Barr did in fact tell Crist that he suspected the special counsel’s office had wanted “more [information] put out” to the public. That early effort, Barr again reiterated, was delayed because Mueller defied Barr’s request to identify sensitive material in the report.
During his Wednesday testimony, Barr had a chance to address the Mueller letter, which he called “a bit snitty,” and speculated it had been written by one of Mueller’s staffers. During a March 28 phone call between the two, Barr asked Mueller, “What’s with the letter?” he told the committee about his exchange with the former special counsel. “Why don’t you just pick up the phone and call me if there’s any issue?” Mueller, according to Barr, was worried the media was misinterpreting the report but assured Barr he had no specific gripe with Barr’s letter.
If Robert Mueller was unhappy with Barr’s March 24 letter that sought to provide a quick outline of the special counsel’s findings in order to satisfy massive public interest, he only has himself to blame. Mueller’s calculated gambit to delay the full report’s release by refusing to furnish the requested redactions so his team instead could shape the narrative behind the scenes, failed. The former FBI director who knows all the tricks of the trade was trumped, so to speak, by the legitimate and sober lawman. So, when Barr called his bluff; Mueller threw a temper tantrum.
But it was too late: It was, and is, Barr’s baby now.
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