Reacting to the first significant leak of news about the inner workings of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, President Trump on Thursday denounced a New York Times report that members of Mueller’s team believe the summary letter by Attorney General William Barr understated the seriousness of the special counsel’s findings.
On Wednesday night, the Times reported that Mueller’s investigators “have told associates that Attorney General William P. Barr failed to adequately portray the findings of their inquiry and that they were more troubling for President Trump than Mr. Barr indicated.”
In its report, the Times cited “government officials and others familiar with their simmering frustrations.”
From the start of the Mueller investigation in May 2017, until its report was submitted to Barr in March, there were virtually no reports of leaks or official comments to the public from the special counsel’s office. The Times story, if borne out, would represent the first significant crack in that wall.
“The New York Times had no legitimate sources, which would be totally illegal, concerning the Mueller Report,” Trump tweeted on Thursday. “In fact, they probably had no sources at all! They are a Fake News paper who have already been forced to apologize for their incorrect and very bad reporting on me!”
The New York Times responded in a tweet from its communications department.
“False,” the tweet read. “Our reporters interviewed multiple government officials and others to gather the facts for the story.”
And other media outlets supported the Times reporting.
According to the Washington Post, investigators are “frustrated with the limited information Attorney General William P. Barr has provided about their nearly two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether President Trump sought to obstruct justice.” NBC News reported that the evidence that Trump “sought to impede the investigation is stronger than Barr suggested in his March letter.”
On March 24, Barr released a letter summarizing Mueller’s findings, saying the special counsel did not establish a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia, and did not reach a conclusion whether Trump obstructed justice. Barr concluded there was not enough evidence to charge Trump with obstruction of justice.
The special counsel also stated that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,” according to Barr’s letter.
Nonetheless, Trump and his supporters have used Barr’s letter as vindication for the president, while Democrats and even several key Republicans in Congress — including influential Sen. Chuck Grassley — are calling for the full release of Mueller’s report.
I support release of the Mueller report
— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) April 4, 2019
Ahead of the conclusion of the Russia investigation, the House voted 420-0 on March 14 to demand that the Justice Department publicly release the full findings of the special counsel’s report. (Four Republicans voted present.) Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., blocked a vote in the Senate to take up the measure.
On Wednesday, Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee authorized issuing a subpoena for the full report. Chairman Jerry Nadler said he would allow Barr time to release Mueller's findings before considering a subpoena.
Barr says that his office is working with Mueller to make the “redactions that are required” before releasing the report. This would include information related to sensitive investigative sources and methods, confidential grand jury proceedings, and “material that could affect other ongoing matters.”
Last week, the attorney general said he expects to release the report “by mid-April, if not sooner.”
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