So one mystery involving the rollout of the Mueller report was definitively laid to rest by Attorney General William Barr in his spin fest of a press conference this morning. During congressional testimony on April 9, Barr got cagey and avoided questions about whether the White House would get a sneak peak at the full report.
Today he confirmed they did, though he only made that disclosure after throwing a little sand in our eyes by insisting that the unredacted report was only viewed by “Department of Justice attorneys working closely together with attorneys from the Special Counsel’s Office, as well as with the intelligence community, and prosecutors who are handling ongoing cases.”
In the next breath, Barr admitted that White House attorneys and Trump’s personal lawyers got exclusive access to the redacted report — i.e., the report that Congress and the rest of us will see later today — at some unspecified earlier time (though apparently the personal Trump lawyers got their sneak peak “earlier this week”).
Barr rationalized these advance disclosures to the White House as necessary to determine whether additional redactions based on executive privilege were necessary (they weren’t), and to Trump lawyers as part of traditional practice when government officials are investigated by an independent counsel.
These assurances might have been effective without the context of the massive spin effort Barr and the administration have orchestrated to influence public perceptions of Mueller’s investigation and findings. These include the strange “summary of principal findings” that Barr issued for no particular reason on March 24; the heavy White House–orchestrated campaign to claim a complete exoneration that Mueller himself did not offer; and indeed, today’s remarkable presser in which Barr ran interference for his boss, enabling Trump and his allies to begin a belligerent campaign to demand a shift in attention to some future investigation of alleged Democratic “crimes.”
Barr has clearly worked hand in glove with other Trump hirelings to encourage the most positive public reaction to the report before the public or its elected representatives saw it. It will be interesting to see why they deemed this egregious exercise of partisanship so necessary.