Members of Robert Mueller’s team who worked on his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US election have reportedly expressed frustration over how the probe’s findings have been presented, particularly regarding whether Donald Trump sought to obstruct justice.
According to reports in the New York Times and Washington Post, some of Mr Mueller’s investigative team have objected to the way in which Attorney General William Barr characterised the report’s key findings, saying they inadequately portray evidence which could potentially trouble Mr Trump.
Investigators who worked on the 400-page report have complained in private the evidence they gathered on obstruction was “alarming and significant”, according to the Washington Post.
When Mr Barr first announced the findings of the probe, in a four-page letter to Congress, he said investigators had not found evidence indicating a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia, and added Mr Mueller did not conclude “one way or the other” as to whether Mr Trump’s conduct in office constituted obstruction of justice.
Mr Barr said his conclusion from reading the report was that the evidence was not sufficient to charge the president with obstruction.
Mr Trump, who had described the two-year-long process as a “witch hunt” throughout its course, said after the findings were announced the report exonerated him.
“There was no collusion with Russia,” Mr Trump said. “There was no obstruction.” He said the report was a “complete and total exoneration”.
The sources speaking to the Washington Post and New York Times did not expand on why the probe’s findings could potentially be more damaging to the president than Mr Barr initially explained, but it is believed one focus was on Mr Trump’s efforts to halt or thwart the investigation itself.
“It was much more acute than Barr suggested,” one person, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Washington Post.
In particular, investigators are reportedly disappointed Mr Barr did not release the summary information the special counsel team had prepared. Summaries for various sections of the report were apparently written with a view they could quickly and easily be made public.
“There was immediate displeasure from the team when they saw how the attorney general had characterised their work instead,” the Washington Post said one US official briefed on the matter had said.
The official said the report had been prepared “so that the front matter from each section could have been released immediately – or very quickly.
“It was done in a way that minimum redactions, if any, would have been necessary, and the work would have spoken for itself.”
The scale of the operation means the complaints and frustrations which have surfaced may not reflect all the views of those who worked on the probe – the special counsel team included 19 lawyers and about 40 FBI agents and other personnel.
Mr Barr has said he will act to quickly release as much of the report as possible, but needs time to redact confidential and legally sensitive information.
The Attorney General has also reportedly voiced his frustration with Mr Mueller’s finished report, with those familiar with the situation saying he believed the team fell short on the task by declining to decide whether the president had illegally obstructed the investigation.
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