Trump’s attorney general denies misleading public over Russia report after Robert Mueller criticism

Donald Trump’s attorney general denied misleading the public over special counsel Robert Mueller’s report into Russian election meddling on Wednesday as a rift between the pair was laid bare.

William Barr, who took up the role in February and oversaw the release of the Mueller report, was repeatedly grilled on the topic during a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. 

Moments before his appearance a letter was published revealing that Mr Mueller had privately raised concerns to Mr Barr about the latter’s four-page summary of the report’s key findings. 

That summary, released on March 24 before the full report was made public, noted that Mr Mueller had found no criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 election. 

It also said that Mr Mueller, a former FBI director who spent almost two years running the inquiry, came to no conclusion on whether the president obstructed justice, adding that Mr Barr instead decided there was not crime. Mr Trump then claimed “total exoneration”. 

The letter from Mr Mueller to Mr Barr three days after that summary was released makes clear that he had concerns about the way his report had been represented. 

Mr Mueller said the summary "did not fully capture the context, nature and substance” of his work, adding: “There is now public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation.” 

He called for lengthy executive summaries of his report to be released, which went into detail about around a dozen possible episodes of obstruction by Mr Trump. Mr Barr rejected the proposal. 

The full report was eventually released to the public on April 18, after weeks of public debate about the conclusions in which Mr Trump touted his "exoneration".

The letter was pounced on by Democrats who questioned whether Mr Barr had spun the inquiry’s findings in way that advantaged the man who had appointed him, the US president. 

William Barr listens during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington on Wednesday, May 1Credit:

But Mr Barr batted away the criticism. He claimed that Mr Mueller made clear in a call that he did not believe the four-page document was inaccurate, instead expressing concern over press coverage. 

Asked why he had declined to publish full executive summaries of the report, Mr Barr said: “I wasn’t interested in putting out summaries, period.” 

Mr Barr insisted he wanted to get the report out rather than releasing it as a series, saying: “It was my decision how and when to make that public, not Bob Mueller’s.”

During the hearings, Mr Barr also cited a series of other areas when he and Mr Mueller disagreed. 

Profile | Robert Mueller

Mr Barr criticisied Mr Mueller for not reaching a decision on whether to bring a charge of obstruction of justice against the president, saying that was his job as a prosecutor. 

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He blamed the Mueller team’s failure to help more with redactions of information linked to grand jury testimony for delaying the report’s publication. 

Mr Barr also rebuffed criticism about why he had not revealed the Mueller letter during a previous appearance before Congress when asked if any concerns had been raised, insisting he had not misled congressmen.

Mr Barr later said: “The letter’s a bit snitty, and I think it was probably written by one of his staff people.”