Yesterday, I noted that mainstream media coverage of William Barr’s testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee omitted an important piece of information — Barr tried to address the concern of Robert Mueller that some combination of Barr’s four-page memo and media reporting about it was “confusing” the American public. Barr responded with a statement designed to clarify the situation. The media did not report this fact even though it figured prominently in Barr’s testimony.
In addition, the media either did not report or barely mentioned three other important facts to which Barr testified. Marc Thiessen highlights two of them in this op-ed for the Washington Post.
First, before issuing his four-page summary of Mueller’s two major conclusions, Barr gave the special counsel a chance to see the document and to offer comments and proposed edits. Mueller declined.
One rarely sees mention of this in mainstream media reporting, for an obvious reason — it makes Barr look good and Mueller look bad. It casts Mueller’s after-the-fact whining, or that of his “snitty” staff, in an unfavorable light.
Second, Barr, far from being uncooperative with Congress or trying to hide the ball, overrode normal Justice Department procedures and released the full Mueller report to the public with only minor redactions. Moreover, Congress has access to a version of the report that contains even less redacted material.
Barr stressed this point in his opening statement, but I don’t recall seeing it mentioned in mainstream media reporting. Again, the reason is obvious — it makes Barr look good and undercuts the furious attempts of Democrats to demonize him.
Finally, the media is covering for Mueller at Barr’s expense in another way. Barr testified that the Department of Justice, anticipating that redactions to the Mueller report would be necessary as a matter of law, encouraged Mueller’s team to identify portions of its report that would need to be redacted.
By doing so before submitting the report to the DOJ, Mueller would significantly reduce the time required before his report could be released to the public and to Congress. Barr testified that, shortly after becoming Attorney General, he personally made this point to Mueller.
But when Mueller submitted his report, it did not identify redactions. This meant that Barr’s team had to start the redaction project from scratch. As a result, the report could not be released as soon as Barr had hoped.
Had Mueller cooperated with redactions at the front end, Congress and the public would have heard directly from him much sooner. Indeed, he might not even have had to ask Barr, in that now famous letter, to issue multi-page summaries of his findings. The entire report might have been ready, or nearly ready, for release by then.
Thus, Mueller dropped the ball twice: first by not flagging redactions and second by not reviewing Barr’s four-page memo before it was released. If there is public confusion about the report (other than that now being generated by desperate Democrats) due to Barr’s memo and the delay in releasing the actual report, Mueller is partly to blame.
Fortunately for him, the mainstream media acts as his shield.