Special counsel Robert Mueller expressed frustration to Attorney-General William Barr last month about how the findings of his Russia investigation were being portrayed, a US Justice Department official has said.
- The Mueller report examined alleged collusion with Russia and obstruction of justice
- Mr Mueller expressed frustration with Mr Barr’s summary of his findings
- The Justice Department decided against releasing Mr Mueller’s prepared summaries
Mr Mueller wrote to the Justice Department just days after Mr Barr issued a four-page document summarising the special counsel’s conclusions about whether US President Donald Trump’s campaign had conspired with Russia and whether the President had tried to illegally obstruct the probe.
In the letter, Mr Mueller said he worried that the summary of the main conclusions of the probe lacked the necessary context.
Mr Mueller and Mr Barr had a phone call the following day.
“After the Attorney-General received special counsel Mueller’s letter, he called him to discuss it,” Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said in a statement.
“In a cordial and professional conversation, the special counsel emphasised that nothing in the Attorney-General’s March 24 letter was inaccurate or misleading.
“But, he expressed frustration over the lack of context and the resulting media coverage regarding the special counsel’s obstruction analysis.”
Justice Department officials have said they decided it made more sense to release the bottom-line findings of Mr Mueller’s report rather than include the detailed legal analysis behind them.
They also decided against releasing summaries that Mr Mueller’s team had prepared.
Barr accused of pro-Trump spin
According to the Mueller report, when former attorney-general Jeff Sessions first told Mr Trump that a special counsel had been appointed, Mr Trump “slumped back in his chair and said, ‘Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I’m f***ed.'”
It’s broad, complex, and hard to understand. But there are points where all the threads of Robert Mueller’s investigation come together. Here are the significant moments which changed the course of the alleged conspiracy.
The letter lays bare a rift between the Justice Department and the special counsel about whether Mr Barr’s summary adequately conveyed the gravity of Mr Mueller’s findings.
Mr Barr wrote in his summary that Mr Mueller did not establish that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia.
He also said Mr Mueller had not reached a conclusion on whether Mr Trump obstructed justice.
The letter is likely to be a central focus at an upcoming Senate Judiciary Committee hearing with Mr Barr tomorrow.
The appearance is Mr Barr’s first since he released a redacted version of Mr Mueller’s report on April 18.
It will bring him face-to-face with Democrats who have accused him of spinning Mr Mueller’s findings in Mr Trump’s favour and understating their significance.
Jerrold Nadler, the Democrat chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which has been negotiating with Mr Barr over a Thursday appearance, demanded the letter by Wednesday morning.
“The Attorney-General has expressed some reluctance to appear before the House Judiciary Committee this Thursday,” Mr Nadler said in a statement.
“These reports make it that much more important for him to appear and answer our questions.”