Almost a year after Robert Mueller turned over his report on Russian interference in the 2016 election to the Department of Justice last March, a federal judge condemned William Barr’s initial summary of the investigation’s findings, stating that it didn’t match what the special counsel actually determined.
Judge Reggie B. Walton, a senior judge appointed by George W. Bush to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, determined that Barr’s summary was a “distorted” and “misleading” account of Mueller’s findings, adding that Barr’s “lack of candor” on the matter called into question his “credibility.” Judge Walton issued the statement as part of a ruling in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by BuzzFeed News seeking access to an unredacted version of the report. With Barr’s word apparently undermined, Walton ordered the DOJ to show him the censored segments of the report (of which there are many) to determine if they were as necessary as Barr deemed them to be. According to the ruling:
“The court cannot reconcile certain public representations made by Attorney General Barr with the findings in the Mueller Report. The inconsistencies between Attorney General Barr’s statements, made at a time when the public did not have access to the redacted version of the Mueller Report to assess the veracity of his statements cause the court to seriously question whether Attorney General Barr made a calculated attempt to influence public discourse about the Mueller Report in favor of President Trump despite certain findings in the redacted version of the Mueller Report to the contrary.
The circumstances generally, and Attorney General Barr’s lack of candor specifically, call into question Attorney General Barr’s credibility … It would be disingenuous for the court to conclude that the redactions of the Mueller Report pursuant to the FOIA are not tainted by Attorney General Barr’s actions and representations.”
Judge Walton’s questioning of Barr’s independence and credibility in his role gives credence to Democrats’ and critics’ long-held and near-identical assertions over his treatment of the report. (Even Mueller, ever the strong, silent type, sent letters to Barr protesting his treatment of the report and claiming the AG altered his findings.) That the criticism came from a federal judge appointed by a Republican president in a formal ruling that required a full accounting of DOJ redactions shows just how far the attorney general has undermined his office.
Judging from past volleys of criticism, it’s unlikely that Judge Walton’s condemnation of Barr’s handling of the Mueller report will alter the attorney general’s behavior moving forward. After Barr faced major scrutiny for misleading the public on the Mueller report’s findings, Barr was asked if he was concerned about his legacy. He responded with a brutal and honest nihilism: “Everyone dies.” Since then, the attorney general has further undermined the independence of his office by opening up a special channel for the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to hand in extracurricular reports on opposing candidates and intervening in DOJ matters of particular importance to Trump, like the sentencing guidelines for Roger Stone.