What Should We Make of Bill Barr’s 4-Page Letter?

Mueller and Barr

I have not read it yet, but I do not trust it.

Why?  Because Barr’s letter is a secondary source.  It is his own interpretation of the complete Mueller report.  I have no idea if Barr’s summary is accurate until I read the entire Mueller’s entire report.  This is how historians work.  We go to the source. (Of course, future historians will also need to examine Mueller’s sources as well).

At this point, we know that Barr wrote the letter.  One of the first things historians do when they read a document is “source” it.  In other words, we take into consideration the author of the document.

We know, for example, that Barr is the Attorney General of the United States.  This gives him some degree of authority.   On the other hand, Barr is a Donald Trump appointee.  This should also factor-in to how we interpret the document.

Barr quotes Mueller’s report in the document, but we do not know the larger context from which he pulled the quotes.  (For example, some outlets are reporting that Barr did not quote an entire sentence from the Mueller report).  This is just like when pseudo-historians like David Barton quote John Adams out of context and conclude that the United States was founded as a Christian nation.

Again, until I can read the document and do my best to interpret for myself (perhaps with the help of the writings of experts) I do not trust it.  Check back with me later.

14 thoughts on “What Should We Make of Bill Barr’s 4-Page Letter?

  1. Tony Lucido: “Mueller’s gratuitous bit about no exoneration is a sop to his disappointed fanbase.”

    Two difficulties with that: 1) There’s no evidence Mueller is cognizant of, let alone playing to, a base of any kind.

    2) The only reason we know that Mueller clarified that his report doesn’t exonerate the president is that Barr saw fit to quote him. Any analysis of the strategy behind Mueller’s clarification needs to begin with Barr’s repetition of it in his letter. Insinuating that Mueller is compromised by political commitments or associations fits the conspiracy-minded narrative popular on the right; it will be somewhat more difficult to argue that Barr is similarly compromised.


  2. As people like Andy McCarthy have pointed out, Mueller’s gratuitous bit about no exoneration is an entirely political — as opposed to legal — statement. A sop to his disappointed fanbase, if you will.
    Prosecutors do not exonerate — that is for others. Prosecutors determine whether there is, or is not, sufficient evidence to substantiate a charge.
    On both collusion, and obstruction, Mueller’s conclusion was: no.
    The end.


  3. James: “I don’t know how you can say it wasn’t an exoneration.”

    Barr, quoting Mueller: “While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

    Mystery solved yet?


  4. John,
    I don’t know how you can say it wasn’t an exoneration. We both know what the essence of the report is. Even if Mueller had not yet released the report officially, the partisans on Mueller’s team would have leaked any incriminating facts.

    Can we be frank, John? Mueller let the DEM establish down. Now they are trying to fight on through congressional and media venues.


  5. Matt,

    I would hardly have expected Mueller to take toTwitter during the investigation. He was a paid agent of DOJ and is smart enough not to do anything which would have further compromised his ability to “sell” his final product. I am not sure why you deem him noble for keeping mum. That is simply good investigatory discretion on his part.

    Hopefully, you, I, Dr. Fea and others will receive our wish that the full report be released. Didn’t Congress vote unanimously to do that very thing? But I will bet you that the DEMs still won’t stop their delusional pursuit of Trump even if the report is released in full. They just can’t control their rage at the results of the last presidential election. Mueller might have struck out but Jerry Nadler is on deck with venom in his eyes.


  6. You have got to be joking. You’re going to come here and restate Fox News talking points? Mueller and his team conducted this GOP initiated investigation with the utmost care. The two attorneys who made the comments you are referring to were removed from their positions, and an overview of their work by the DOJ showed nothing irregular on the part of the special counsel’s team that would compromise the entire investigation. Mueller did not take to Twitter to attack the president for calling him a secret Democrat, or that he was conducting an illegal witch-hunt. Mueller didn’t go on MSNBC to lambaste Fox News or right-wing talk media for trying to frame him as a member of the “Deep State.” All of this was handled with the best of care, and more grace than the president and his cronies could ever muster.

    As far as the report goes, it found no collusion, but, and this is Barr’s word’s quoting special counsel, does not exonerate him. I want the report released because 1) we paid for it, 2) like Dr. Fea states, it’s a document that can only be fully understood through textual analysis. If the document is kept under lock and key, and we’re merely told by someone else that there isn’t anything worth examining, then I get suspicious. If the statement is made, but we’re also allowed to few the documents, that would be different.


  7. John,
    In your last sentence you stated that Mueller’s “…..report supposedly exonerated the president…”
    Are you saying that Mueller and his band of partisan Democrat lawyers are incompetent? If these investigators only “supposedly” did their work, what does that say about their level of expertise?


  8. You’re ignoring a couple of things: 1) We already have people like Ken Starr warning Mueller to remain silent–presumably because the administration doesn’t want Mueller correcting any misrepresentations of the report they may wish to float; 2) Should Mueller choose to speak up, they can just go back to the “Mueller is a Hillary-supporting deep-state liar!” line they adopted before Mueller’s report supposedly exonerated the president, and that will insulate perceptions on the right from any potential corrections or clarifications Mueller might make.


  9. John: I have no problem with the release of the entire report. However, you skipped a rather important point in evaluating the trustworthiness of Barr’s summary: the author of the primary source is alive, and fully capable of immediately challenging and correcting any inaccuracies in the Barr synopsis. Bottom line: there is no way Barr could take liberties and misreport key findings with Mueller standing by to publicly refute — whether directly or via leaks to the media — any such errors. To believe Mueller would stay silent while his report’s main findings were being distorted or misrepresented — not to mention that Barr would risk such a gambit knowing others could and would correct the record — is unrealistic in the extreme.


  10. Rick,

    Mueller did not say the “opposite.” He was intentionally ambiguous.

    Let’s put it another way. If your local police were to say that the “evidence” does not exonerate you from exceeding the speed limit by 5MPH on Main Street, does that confirm that you are a lawbreaker? I certainly hope not.


  11. Bob Barr’s 2018 memo to Rod Rosenstein, in which he said the president is above the law and that the Mueller probe was fatally misconceived, kind of telegraphed how all of this was going to go.

    From the AP: ‘In a four-page letter to Congress, Attorney General William Barr quoted Mueller’s report as stating it “does not exonerate” the president on obstruction.’

    Conservative media is tripping over itself to say the Mueller report exonerates the president when Mueller literally said the opposite.


  12. John,
    I was forced to watch an hour of do of CNN tonight because the rowing machines were in front of that monitor. From the expressions on their partisan faces “there was no joy in Mudville” to quote the famous baseball poem. After two years of fervent hoping these guys and gals were crestfallen.

    As far as your desire to see the actual Mueller document, I don’t find that to be unreasonable. As long as classified sources and sections are excised, there is no reason the public should not know how thirty million dollars of our tax dollars were wasted in an effort to undo the results of the 2016 Presidential Election.


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