Attorney general William Barr is the head of the US Department of Justice, not the president’s personal defense attorney—at least technically. But when Barr addressed the public today ahead of releasing the special counsel’s conclusions on Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential elections—better known as the Mueller Report—he sounded a lot like a hired gun.
The AG’s remarks were formulated like an opening statement at a trial in which he was hired to specifically defend the president.
“President Trump faced an unprecedented situation,” Barr said. Under investigation as he took office and facing “relentless speculation” from the media, Trump was “frustrated and angry.”
Ultimately, “as he said from the beginning there was in fact no collusion,” Barr concluded, echoing the president’s relentless Twitter talking point of the last two years. (The president tweeted a meme to that effect moments after Barr’s press conference ended.
The attorney general did, for the first time, acknowledge that special counsel Robert Mueller laid out ten episodes that raised questions on whether the president obstructed justice.
But Barr said that he and deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein “disagreed with some of the Special Counsel’s legal theories and felt that some of the episodes examined did not amount to obstruction as a matter of law.” He concluded: “The evidence developed by the special counsel is not sufficient to establish the the president committed an obstruction offense.”
Notably, Barr argued that that the Trump administration was cooperative about sharing campaign documents, providing “unfettered access,”instructed witnesses to testify in the investigation, and asserted no privilege or privacy claims.” All of this is “evidence of non corrupt motives” and “weighs heavily” in the president’s favor, according to the AG.
(Trump, however, refused to be interviewed by Mueller’s investigators.)
It bears repeating that outside of Mueller’s team, only Barr, Rosenstein, and a few others have seen the report in any form—except Trump’s legal team, which has access since late March..
In a few hours, Congress and the public will be able to read a redacted version for themselves.