The New York Times reports that the celebration by Republicans following the release of a letter from Attorney General William Barr on the now-completed investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election may have been more than a little premature:
Some of Robert S. Mueller III’s investigators have told associates that Attorney General William P. Barr failed to adequately portray the findings of their inquiry and that they were more troubling for President Trump than Mr. Barr indicated, according to government officials and others familiar with their simmering frustrations.
At stake in the dispute — the first evidence of tension between Mr. Barr and the special counsel’s office — is who shapes the public’s initial understanding of one of the most consequential government investigations in American history. Some members of Mr. Mueller’s team are concerned that, because Mr. Barr created the first narrative of the special counsel’s findings, Americans’ views will have hardened before the investigation’s conclusions become public…
A debate over how the special counsel’s conclusions are represented has played out in public as well as in recent weeks, with Democrats in Congress accusing Mr. Barr of intervening to color the outcome of the investigation in the president’s favor.
In his letter to Congress outlining the report’s chief conclusions, Mr. Barr said that Mr. Mueller found no conspiracy between Mr. Trump’s campaign and Russia’s 2016 election interference. While Mr. Mueller made no decision on his other main question, whether the president illegally obstructed the inquiry, he explicitly stopped short of exonerating Mr. Trump.
As time passes since Mueller handed off his investigation’s finding to Attorney General Barr, a Trump ally widely believed to have been chosen for the job because of his expansive view of presidential powers and limited oversight of those powers, the initial jubilation on the part of Trump loyalists has given way to nervous deflection. Trump’s declaration that the outcome represents “total exoneration” was not even supported by the extremely limited content of Barr’s letter, which in one of its few verbatim citations of Mueller’s own words makes clear that Trump was not exonerated.
With that uncomfortable reality becoming clearer with each passing news cycle, if the plan was to allow enough time between Barr’s letter and the full report’s release to deflate public interest, at this point the delay is more likely to have the opposite effect. Especially if the sum of the full report’s conclusions make what’s been released so far look like a cover-up, which this latest story suggests may be the case, it’s only going to increase public outrage when the truth comes out.
And for all we know, something game-changing could well be in the offing.