Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein pushed back Thursday against allegations that Attorney General William Barr had been biased in his handling of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s final report, calling such accusations “bizarre.”
“He’s being as forthcoming as he can,” Rosenstein told the Wall Street Journal. “And so this notion that he’s trying to mislead people, I think is just completely bizarre.”
Barr, a Trump appointee, submitted a four-page summary of the nearly 400-page report to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees last month, in which he stated that Mueller had found no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia but had left open the question of whether the president obstructed justice during the probe. (Rosenstein and Barr subsequently declined to file obstruction charges against Trump, saying nothing none of the president’s actions had “corrupt intent.”)
On Thursday, Rosenstein defended Barr’s handling of the Mueller report from critics who have charged him with bias.
“It would be one thing if you put out a letter and said, ‘I’m not going to give you the report,’” Rosenstein said. “What he said is, ‘Look, it’s going to take a while to process the report. In the meantime, people really want to know what’s in it. I’m going to give you the top-line conclusions.’ That’s all he was trying to do.”
Barr said in congressional testimony Wednesday that he the believes the DOJ “spied” on the Trump campaign and he plans to open a DOJ investigation into the origins of the Russia probe. He also described the four types of redactions that the DOJ will make before releasing a version of the report to lawmakers: grand-jury information, information that would reveal intelligence sources and methods, information that affects the privacy of “peripheral players” not charged as a result of the investigation, and information that would compromise ongoing prosecutions.
Rosenstein appointed Mueller as special counsel for the Russia probe in May 2017, after Trump fired former FBI director James Comey, who had directed the investigation to that point. The investigation fell to Rosenstein after then-attorney general Jeff Sessions recused himself from the probe.