Another day, another overhyped “bombshell” story related to the Russia inquiry.
Like clockwork, a selective leak from the Office of Special Counsel to The Washington Post on Tuesday night detailed a letter that Robert Mueller sent to Attorney General William Barr after he sent his four-page Mueller report summary letter to Congress on March 24.
The headline purported to describe Mueller’s dissatisfaction with Mr. Barr’s letter.
Had Attorney General Barr misled the public?
Democratic partisans and media figures pounced.
Had Attorney General Barr perjured himself before Congress?
At least one sitting senator immediately called for Mr. Barr to resign.
As usual, the hype far outpaced the facts.
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Mr. Mueller told Mr. Barr that nothing in his four-page summary letter was inaccurate, but that he preferred that his “summaries” be released to the public because Mr. Mueller felt the news coverage of his findings was confusing the public.
Mr. Barr decided not to release the summaries, which needed to be reviewed for redactions, and to instead prioritize the full release of the Mueller report with redactions, which would include the summaries.
How is releasing a full report worse than releasing summaries?
As it relates to lying to Congress, this is a situation where the specific language matters.
Mr. Barr was never asked if Mr. Mueller provided negative feedback to him directly after his letter to Congress.
Instead on April 9, Rep. Charlie Crist, Florida Democrat, asked Mr. Barr: “Reports have emerged recently, general, that members of the special counsel’s team are frustrated at some level with the limited information included in your March 24th letter, that it does not adequately or accurately necessarily portray the report’s findings. Do you know what they’re referencing with that?”
Mr. Barr responded, “No, I don’t. I suspect that they probably wanted more put out, but in my view, I was not interested in putting out summaries or trying to summarize.”
Clearly, Mr. Barr did not lie to Congress.
The last 24 hours have been another massive overreaction to a false story. We may learn more if Mr. Mueller testifies to Congress in the next few weeks.
In the meantime, Mr. Barr acted entirely appropriately.
Mr. Mueller determined no charges could be brought for conspiracy with Russia. He made no determination on obstruction.
As special counsel, Mr. Mueller is an employee of the Justice Department. The charging decision is ultimately left to the attorney general. On obstruction, Mr. Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (who was confirmed 94-6) determined there was not sufficient evidence to proceed with obstruction charges.
Democrats appear to be deliberately conflating an independent counsel with a special counsel.
An independent counsel is truly independent. A special counsel acts almost as a U.S. attorney would, within the chain of command at the Department of Justice.
Mr. Mueller did not have responsibility to exonerate anyone. He had a responsibility to gather evidence and impanel a grand jury to seek indictments.
He completed his investigation, which Democrats falsely claimed President Trump would not allow.
The White House has made no executive privilege claim, has not been involved in redactions, and fully cooperated with the special counsel as it relates to witnesses and files.
Democrats cannot accept the result of the investigation, so now they are attacking the attorney general.
The new standard is whether Mr. Barr will be involved in criminal referrals that Mr. Mueller made.
Yes, he will oversee the Justice Department, as he is attorney general.
There is no smoke here. There is no story.
Democrats put their faith in Robert Mueller. Not to find the truth, but to bring down President Trump.
The evidence did not lead him to do that.
This result is not one Democrats can accept. They continue to fight a losing battle.
• Matt Mackowiak is president of Austin, Texas, and Washington-based Potomac Strategy Group. He’s a Republican consultant, a Bush administration and Bush-Cheney reelection campaign veteran and former press secretary to two U.S. senators.
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