While investigating an administration plagued by leaks, one of the most special aspects of special counsel Robert Mueller’s team was its airtight relationship to the press and public. “Bob Mueller runs a very tight ship, and that ship does not leak,” David Kris, a former assistant attorney general who worked closely with Mueller, told Vox in late 2018. “He’d rather do his talking through his work.”
The say-nothing nature of the Mueller team is either gone now that the captain has left the ship, or special counsel officials are frustrated enough by Attorney General William Barr’s summary of their work that they’re now willing to leak their opinion. According to government officials who spoke to the New York Times, the investigators think their findings are more damning for the president than the attorney general’s summary suggested.
Members of the special counsel team are also reportedly concerned that the Barr summary will be the narrative that Americans stick to regardless of what’s in the full report, as opinions could calcify before the almost 400-page investigation is made public. The Times reports that special counsel team members believe that Barr should have included more detail in the four-page summary, which announced that Mueller did not find that Trump had colluded with Russia in the 2016 election, although he explicitly did not exonerate Trump.
Mueller controversially left the call for whether or not Trump obstructed justice to William Barr. Though the attorney general determined the president was not on the hook for such a charge, members of the Mueller team have reportedly complained to those close to them that the evidence on obstruction was substantial. “It was much more acute than Barr suggested,” one member of the special counsel team told the Washington Post.
The Post also reveals new details about the layout of the report, which was prepared “so that the front matter from each section could have been released immediately — or very quickly,” according to an official briefed on the matter. “It was done in a way that minimum redactions, if any, would have been necessary, and the work would have spoken for itself.” Since the team assumed the report would be made public, “they prepared their summaries to be shared in their own words — and not in the attorney general’s summary of their work,” said the official. “There was immediate displeasure from the team when they saw how the attorney general had characterized their work instead.”
Barr himself has faced significant criticism for his abstract on the report, as well as his actions related to the special counsel prior to his appointment as attorney general. Mimi Rocah, a former federal prosecutor, sums up the consternation quite nicely:
The leaked frustrations of the Mueller team come as the Trump administration is settling into the reality that, despite the political victory of the Barr summary, the full report is unlikely to bring a second coup. The administration appears to no longer be as enthusiastic about a release of the full Mueller report as they were on Day One. According to a senior White House official who spoke to New York’s Olivia Nuzzi: “There will be plenty of unfavorable things about the president in the full report, which we think will eventually come out, so let’s not go overboard saying there’s no wrongdoing.” Apparently, the special counsel team agrees.