Robert Mueller complained to the Trump administration that the attorney general’s summary of his report on the Trump-Russia investigation did not correctly represent the “context, nature, and substance” of his probe, it has been revealed.
In a letter to William Barr, the special counsel said he was concerned the public could be confused by the four-page summary the attorney general sent to senior members of Congress.
“The summary letter the department sent to Congress and released to the public late in the afternoon of March 24 did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this office’s work and conclusions,” Mr Mueller wrote to the department of justice.
According to the Washington Post, he added: “There is now public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation. This threatens to undermine a central purpose for which the Department appointed the special counsel: to assure full public confidence in the outcome of the investigations.”
A spokesman for Mr Mueller declined to comment on the report, which Mr Barr is certain be questioned about when he appears on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.
However, justice department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec confirmed Mr Mueller wrote to Mr Barr after the summary was released to express frustration over “the lack of context and the resulting media coverage”, particularly about the special counsel’s conclusions on possible obstruction of justice.
“After the attorney general received special counsel Mueller's letter, he called him to discuss it,” said Ms Kupec.
“In a cordial and professional conversation, the special counsel emphasised that nothing in the attorney general’s 24 March 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.”
The Post said it reviewed a copy of Mr Mueller's letter, which was written in late March after Mr Barr released a summary that said Mr Mueller did not establish that members of Mr Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 election.
Mr Barr also said in the summary that Mr Mueller had not reached a conclusion on whether Mr Trump obstructed justice. Mr Barr said he and then deputy attorney General Rod Rosenstein had found the evidence insufficient to support such a charge.
When a redacted version of the report was subsequently released, it emerged that Mr Mueller had uncovered numerous connections between members of the Trump campaign and Russia, while finding no evidence of collusion. On the issue of obstruction of justice, Mr Mueller also wrote “while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him”.
As it was, Mr Trump told supporters the report did exactly that - “no collusion, no obstruction”.
The Associated Press said the letter laid bare a growing rift between Mr Mueller and his team, and the attorney general.
Democratic congressman Jerry Nadler, chair of the House of Representative's judiciary committee, told the Post Mr Barr “should not have taken it upon himself to describe the special counsel’s findings in a light more favourable to the president”.
He demanded the justice department release a copy of Mr Mueller's letter by Wednesday morning. Meanwhile, Mr Barr is due to appear before the Senate judiciary committee hearing, at which the attorney general will defend his handling of Mr Mueller's report.
Additional reporting by agencies
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