Accuracy in Media

In what appears to be a much-ado-about-nothing story, the Washington Post reports special counsel Robert Mueller complained in a letter to Attorney General William Barr that Barr’s summary of the special counsel’s report “did not fully capture the context, nature and substance” of Mueller’s work.

The Post reported in “Mueller complained that Barr’s letter did not capture ‘context’ of Trump probe,” by Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky, that Mueller conceded to Barr there was nothing inaccurate or misleading in Barr’s summary but added “There is now public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation” that “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.”

This letter came between the time Barr released his letter and when he released the entire Mueller report. The letter appears to reference only the parts of Mueller’s report that concerned possible obstruction of justice, and his concern seems to be that President Trump was able to claim exoneration on both obstruction of justice and collusion.

Mueller pressed Barr to release the introductions and executive summaries of the various sections before he released the entire report, but Barr decided to stick with the original plan of releasing the entire report at once.

Barr also asked Mueller to review the letter he sent describing Mueller’s findings, but the special counsel declined. The two did work together on the redactions to the full report.

The media pounced.

Mueller’s letter “adds to the growing evidence of a rift between [Mueller and Barr] and is another sign of the anger among the special counsel’s investigators about Mr. Barr’s characterizations of their findings, which allowed Mr. Trump to wrongly claim he had been vindicated,” wrote Mark Mazzetti and Michael S. Schmidt of the New York Times in “Mueller Objected to Barr’s Description of Russia Investigation’s Findings on Trump.”

It is not wrong for Trump to claim he was vindicated. Barr’s letter correctly stated Mueller’s team had cleared the president of colluding with the Russians in the 2016 presidential campaign, and, after Mueller declined to make a prosecutorial call on obstruction, the attorney general determined such charges were not in order.

Barr’s letter “gave little detail about the special counsel’s findings and created the impression that Mr. Mueller’s team found no wrongdoing,” which allowed Trump to claim he was cleared, the Times wrote.

“But when Mueller’s report was released on April 18, it painted a far more damning picture of the president and showed that Mr. Mueller believed that significant evidence existed that Mr. Trump obstructed justice.”

Salon concluded something must’ve happened in “Mueller doesn’t agree with Barr’s assessment that Trump is exonerated: Report,” by Keith Spencer.

“Given that many, many Trump confidantes were arrested due to the special counsel’s investigation, the notion that Trump and his allies are exonerated appears a farce. And yet that was how Barr painted it,” Spencer wrote.

Besides, “the collective media obsession over the Mueller report and its aftermath seems to ignore the larger atmosphere of offenses and illegal acts committed by the president that don’t involve murky, conspiratorial plots involving direct collusion with foreign countries. As others have noted, the president has committed many impeachable offenses that involve other things – notably, his payoff to Stormy Daniels to cover up their affair while in the heat of the presidential race, and the use of his high office to enrich himself and his own businesses.”

Vox assumed everyone was on its side with the lead on Alex Ward’s story. “It turns out that special counsel Robert Mueller was just as upset with Attorney General William Barr’s characterization of the Trump-Russia report – and the ensuing public discussion – as many Americans were,” it read.

“William Barr is in deep trouble,” read the headline on Chris Cillizza’s analysis piece on CNN’s website. Revelation of the Mueller letter “creates a series of problems for Barr – most notably that he appeared to be, at best, misleading in his answers about Mueller’s feelings about his summary of the report.”

Asked if Mueller agreed with his findings, Barr had stated, “I don’t know.”

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