What to Make of the Barr Letter and the Mueller Report

Attorney General William P. Barr provided Congress with a letter summarizing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. The letter marked the conclusion of Mr. Mueller’s probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 Presidential election.

AG Barr Letter to House and Senate Judiciary Committees 3-24-19 by Taylor Griffin on Scribd

Mr. Barr says that Mr. Mueller did not find that the Trump campaign conspired with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election. However, he said that Mr. Mueller did not reach a conclusion on whether President Trump obstructed justice. “While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,” Mr. Barr quoted the Special Counsel’s reports as saying.

Still, Mr. Barr’s letter states that he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein did not think that the evidence supported a charge of obstruction of justice. “The evidence developed during the Special Counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense,” Mr. Barr wrote.

While Mr. Barr’s letter presents the principal conclusions of Mr. Mueller’s investigation, it provides few details on how he reached them. However, Mr. Barr committed to releasing more of Mr. Mueller’s report. “[M]y goal and intent is to release as much of the Special Counsel’s report as I can consistent with applicable law, regulations, and Departmental policies,” he wrote.

Mr. Mueller’s report contains confidential grand jury material and other sensitive information that must be scrubbed from the report before its release. Further, information relating to ongoing matters must also be redacted from any public report. So, it may be some time before the public is granted a more complete view of Mr. Mueller’s findings.

What the Barr Letter Means

The Barr letter brings to a close the question of whether the Trump campaign was in on Moscow’s scheme to influence the U.S. election.  Although there were a number of interactions between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and individuals or entities linked with Russian government, there was no active conspiracy between them.

There is considerably more room for interpretation on the question of whether the President abused his power in an attempt to derail the investigation. But, it is hard to sustain an accusation that the President obstructed justice in the absence of an underlying crime. Ultimately, whether Mr. Trump’s actions were right or wrong will now be decided by voters rather than the legal process.

What Happens Next

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