Speed Reads

agree to disagree

The Justice Department clarifies that William Barr did not technically lie about Mueller's findings

Moments after outgoing Special Counsel Robert Mueller delivered his first public remarks on his Russia investigation, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) said Mueller's statement "definitely contradicts what the attorney general said when he summarized Mueller's report." Christie wasn't alone, Politico noted. Several top Democrats slammed Attorney General William Barr for "misleading" America and "mischaracterizing" Mueller's findings to help President Trump. Other people were more direct.

"I think he's a liar," Cynthia Alksne, a former federal prosecutor who had given Barr the benefit of the doubt, told Brian Williams on MSNBC Wednesday night. Williams showed some back-to-back examples where "Mueller directly contradicted some of Barr's claims."

Barr and Mueller did disagree in several "telling ways," The Washington Post said. On Wednesday, Mueller reiterated that there was "insufficient evidence to charge a broader conspiracy" between the Trump campaign and Russia, while Barr has repeatedly claimed Mueller found "no evidence." Barr said he hoped Mueller wasn't leaving judgment of Trump's actions to Congress, while Mueller strongly hinted he was.

But "perhaps the most significant divergence between Barr and Mueller," Politico says, is over why Mueller chose not to decide if Trump criminally obstructed justice. Mueller said Wednesday that a longstanding Justice Department opinion that presidents can't be charged with federal crimes meant directly accusing Trump of obstruction was "not an option." Last month, Barr insisted Mueller wasn't relying on that opinion. In a joint statement, Mueller's and Barr's offices tried to paper over those differences.

The assertion that "there is no conflict" between Barr's and Mueller's statements "may technically be true," Politico says. But "ironically, what this really does is drive home just how slippery and dishonest Barr was in his wording," says Lawfare managing editor Quinta Jurecic. "What he said is not a lie by the absolute barest of technicalities."