You would never guess it from the mainstream media’s coverage of yesterday’s circus before the Senate Judiciary Committee, but William Barr addressed Robert Mueller’s concerns over media coverage of his report and over Barr’s four-page memo about the report. Barr did so in a statement he released the day after his conversation with Mueller about the special counsel’s concerns.
As everyone knows by now, Mueller sent a letter to Barr complaining that Barr’s four-page memo did not “fully capture the context, nature, and substance” of the special counsel’s work and report. Barr testified yesterday that when he called Mueller to discuss the letter, Mueller acknowledged that Barr’s memo was an accurate statement of Mueller’s bottom line conclusions, but complained that media reports about the memo were misleading the public.
Barr’s testimony is consistent with what others who heard the conversation have told the media. Mueller was on a speakerphone in Barr’s office, and members of Barr’s staff took notes.
Mueller wanted Barr to release executive summaries he had prepared for the two volumes of his report. Barr wouldn’t agree to this because he didn’t want the report released piecemeal. He reasoned that summaries are inherently under-inclusive and issuing them would only lead to more debate about the adequacy of what was being released.
Barr therefore believed that his initial memo, which informed the public whether crimes had been committed, coupled with the imminent release of the entire report, was the right way to proceed.
However, Barr was sensitive to Mueller’s concern about any public confusion that might arise — whether from Barr’s four-page memo or from media coverage. He was also sensitive to Mueller’s concern that the memo, by its nature, left out a lot of “context” and “substance.”
Accordingly, the next day Barr issued a statement explaining how he intended to proceed. In the statement, Barr emphasized that his four-page memo was not a summary of Mueller’s report and that people would be able to see Mueller’s thinking soon, when the report was released.
This wasn’t the response Mueller had asked for. However, it did make clear, as should have been obvious, that the four-page memo did not provide an account of Mueller’s investigation or of his thinking — only of his conclusions (or lack thereof) regarding whether two crimes had been committed. These comments were Barr’s attempt to address Mueller’s concern that the media and the public were getting it wrong.
In its coverage of yesterday’s hearing, the mainstream media did not see fit to mention Barr’s attempt to address Mueller’s concern. I spent nearly an hour looking for such coverage in big media outlets. I came up empty. See, for example, this report by Peter Baker of the New York Times.
Another Times report, this highly-partisan one by Mark Mazzetti and Michael S. Schmidt, is a particularly egregious attempt to hide the ball. The Times says that “it is unclear what Mr. Barr did in response” to an earlier letter Mueller sent to Barr grumbling about the Attorney General’s four-page memo (a letter the full contents of which apparently have not yet been made public).
This might be true. However, it is clear what Barr did in response to the second letter and follow-up conversation with Mueller. Yet, Mazzetti and Schmidt decline to tell their readers.
Neither the Times reporters nor anyone else who covered the hearing could have missed Barr’s testimony about the statement he issued after hearing Mueller’s complaints. Barr talked about it in his relatively brief opening statement to the Committee, as well as in response to some of the questioning.
It seems clear that the media didn’t report Barr’s response because it wants to aid Democrats in pushing their anti-Barr narrative. Any indication that Barr tried to accommodate Mueller, even to a limited degree, would undermine that narrative. Unfortunately, our mainstream media is unflaggingly devoted to peddling Democratic narratives.