When now-former special counsel Robert Mueller on Wednesday morning made what would be his first and last public statement since he was appointed to lead the Russia election interference investigation in May of 2017, he appeared to highlight a sharp difference with Attorney General William Barr, as The Washington Post reported. The difference related to the reason why Mueller chose not to pursue a criminal indictment of Donald Trump on obstruction of justice charges.
Following Mueller’s brief statement, aides from Mueller’s office handed out a document to reporters that appeared to make that difference extremely clear. But then a source close to Mueller said that the memo was intended to show that Mueller and Barr, in fact, had no differences in their public statements as to why Trump was not charged with obstruction by Mueller, according to MSNBC legal expert Ari Melber in a post to his Twitter account.
In his public statement on March 24, in which he claimed to summarize the principal conclusions of Mueller’s report — a report that may be read online via The New York Times — Barr said that a Justice Department policy stating that no sitting president may be indicted for a crime was not a factor in Mueller’s decision not to charge Trump.
But in his statement on Wednesday, as transcribed by The Washington Post, Mueller said that he was “bound by that department policy. Charging the president with a crime was therefore not an option we could consider.”
The document released by Mueller and posted by Melber on Twitter, as seen below, directly contrasted two statements by Barr and Mueller.
New document from Mueller’s office contrasts Barr’s assertion about how Mueller determines if there “was an obstruction of justice” — to Mueller’s different explanation: pic.twitter.com/yaApbdTVUh
— Ari Melber (@AriMelber) May 29, 2019
But the statement by Mueller included in the handout appears selectively edited. In that statement, Mueller says only, “So that was Justice Department policy. Those were the principles under which we operated. And from them, we concluded that we would not reach a determination one way or the other about whether the president committed a crime.”
In the memo, it is not clear to which “Justice Department policy” Mueller refers. MSNBC expert Melber later states that “a Special Counsel source with knowledge of this document says it provides the quotes to show there is ‘no conflict’ between Mueller and Barr’s statements.”
A spokesperson for Barr also said, according to The Washington Post, that there was no conflict between Mueller and Barr.
But The Post, in its own analysis, said that Mueller’s “carefully chosen comments highlight the ways in which he disagrees with his boss,” that is, Barr.
And House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff also disagreed with the reported assessment by both Mueller and Barr that they had “no conflict,” writing on his Twitter account that Mueller’s statement that he relied on the Justice Department policy against the indictment of a sitting president was “a rebuke of Barr.”