WASHINGTON — Some of Robert S. Mueller III’s investigators have informed associates that Attorney General William P. Barr didn’t adequately painting the findings of their inquiry and that they had been extra troubling for President Trump than Mr. Barr indicated, in response to authorities officers and others accustomed to their simmering frustrations.
At stake within the dispute — the primary proof of stress between Mr. Barr and the particular counsel’s workplace — is who shapes the general public’s preliminary understanding of one of the vital consequential authorities investigations in American historical past. Some members of Mr. Mueller’s group are involved that, as a result of Mr. Barr created the primary narrative of the particular counsel’s findings, Americans’ views could have hardened earlier than the investigation’s conclusions grow to be public.
Mr. Barr has mentioned he’ll transfer rapidly to launch the practically 400-page report however wants time to clean out confidential data. The particular counsel’s investigators had already written a number of summaries of the report, and a few group members consider that Mr. Barr ought to have included extra of their materials within the four-page letter he wrote on March 24 laying out their predominant conclusions, in response to authorities officers accustomed to the investigation. Mr. Barr solely briefly cited the particular counsel’s work in his letter.
However, the particular counsel’s workplace by no means requested Mr. Barr to launch the summaries quickly after he obtained the report, an individual accustomed to the investigation mentioned. And the Justice Department rapidly decided that the summaries include delicate data, like categorized materials, secret grand-jury testimony and knowledge associated to present federal investigations that should stay confidential, in response to two authorities officers.
Mr. Barr was additionally cautious of departing from Justice Department observe to not disclose derogatory particulars in closing an investigation, in response to two authorities officers accustomed to Mr. Barr’s considering. They pointed to the choice by James B. Comey, the previous F.B.I. director, to harshly criticize Hillary Clinton in 2016 whereas asserting that he was recommending no costs within the inquiry into her e-mail practices.
The officers and others interviewed declined to flesh out why among the particular counsel’s investigators considered their findings as probably extra damaging for the president than Mr. Barr defined, though the report is believed to look at Mr. Trump’s efforts to thwart the investigation. It was unclear how a lot dialogue Mr. Mueller and his investigators had with senior Justice Department officers about how their findings can be made public. It was additionally unclear how widespread the vexation is among the many particular counsel group, which included 19 attorneys, about 40 F.B.I. brokers and different personnel.
At the identical time, Mr. Barr and his advisers have expressed their very own frustrations about Mr. Mueller and his group. Mr. Barr and different Justice Department officers consider the particular counsel’s investigators fell wanting their activity by declining to resolve whether or not Mr. Trump illegally obstructed the inquiry, in response to the 2 authorities officers. After Mr. Mueller made no judgment on the obstruction matter, Mr. Barr stepped in to declare that he himself had cleared Mr. Trump of wrongdoing.
Representatives for the Justice Department and the particular counsel declined to remark on Wednesday on views inside each Mr. Mueller’s workplace and the Justice Department. They pointed to departmental laws requiring Mr. Mueller to file a confidential report back to the lawyer common detailing prosecution selections and to Mr. Barr’s separate vow to ship a redacted model of that report back to Congress. Under the laws, Mr. Barr can publicly launch as a lot of the doc as he deems acceptable.
A debate over how the particular counsel’s conclusions are represented has performed out in public in addition to in latest weeks, with Democrats in Congress accusing Mr. Barr of intervening to paint the end result of the investigation within the president’s favor.
In his letter to Congress outlining the report’s chief conclusions, Mr. Barr said that Mr. Mueller found no conspiracy between Mr. Trump’s campaign and Russia’s 2016 election interference. While Mr. Mueller made no decision on his other main question, whether the president illegally obstructed the inquiry, he explicitly stopped short of exonerating Mr. Trump.
Mr. Mueller’s decision to skip a prosecutorial judgment “leaves it to the attorney general to determine whether the conduct described in the report constitutes a crime,” Mr. Barr wrote. He and his deputy, Rod J. Rosenstein, decided that the evidence was insufficient to conclude that Mr. Trump had committed an obstruction offense.
Mr. Barr has come under criticism for sharing so little. But according to officials familiar with the attorney general’s thinking, he and his aides limited the details they revealed because they were worried about wading into political territory. Mr. Barr and his advisers expressed concern that if they included derogatory information about Mr. Trump while clearing him, they would face a storm of criticism like what Mr. Comey endured in the Clinton investigation.
Legal experts attacked Mr. Comey at the time for violating Justice Department practice to keep confidential any negative information about anyone uncovered during investigations. The practice exists to keep from unfairly sullying people’s reputations without giving them a chance to respond in court.
Mr. Rosenstein cited the handling of the Clinton case in a memo the White House used to rationalize Mr. Trump’s firing of Mr. Comey.
Though it was not clear what findings the special counsel’s investigators viewed as troubling for the president, Mr. Barr has suggested that Mr. Mueller may have found evidence of malfeasance in investigating possible obstruction of justice. “The report sets out evidence on both sides of the question,” Mr. Barr wrote in his March 24 letter.
Mr. Mueller examined Mr. Trump’s attempts to maintain control over the investigation, including his firing of Mr. Comey and his attempt to oust Mr. Mueller and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to install a loyalist to oversee the inquiry.
The fallout from Mr. Barr’s letter outlining the Russia investigation’s main findings overshadowed his intent to make public as much of the entire report as possible, a goal he has stressed since his confirmation hearing in January. He reiterated to lawmakers on Friday that he wanted both Congress and the public to read the report and said that the department would by mid-April furnish a version with sensitive material blacked out. He offered to testify on Capitol Hill soon after turning over the report.
Mr. Barr, who took office in February, has shown flashes of frustration over how the unveiling of the investigation’s findings has unfolded. In his follow-up letter to lawmakers on Friday, he chafed at how the news media and some lawmakers had characterized his March 24 letter.
Mr. Barr and Mr. Mueller have been friends for 30 years, and Mr. Barr said during his confirmation hearing in January that he trusted Mr. Mueller to conduct an impartial investigation. He said he told Mr. Trump that Mr. Mueller was a “straight shooter who should be dealt with as such.” Mr. Mueller served as the head of the Justice Department’s criminal division when Mr. Barr was attorney general under George Bush, and their families are friends.
Mr. Barr’s promises of transparency have done little to appease Democrats who control the House. The House Judiciary Committee voted on Wednesday to let its chairman use a subpoena to try to compel Mr. Barr to hand over a full copy of the Mueller report and its underlying evidence to Congress. The chairman, Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York, has not said when he will use the subpoena, but made clear on Wednesday that he did not trust Mr. Barr’s characterization of what Mr. Mueller’s team found.
“The Constitution charges Congress with holding the president accountable for alleged official misconduct,” Mr. Nadler said. “That job requires us to evaluate the evidence for ourselves — not the attorney general’s summary, not a substantially redacted synopsis, but the full report and the underlying evidence.”
Republicans, who have embraced Mr. Barr’s letter clearing Mr. Trump, have accused the Democrats of trying to prolong the cloud over his presidency and urged them to move on.
Mr. Trump has fully embraced Mr. Barr’s version of events. For days, he has pronounced the outcome of the investigation a “complete and total exoneration” and called for the Justice Department and his allies on Capitol Hill to investigate and hold accountable those responsible for opening the inquiry.
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