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Opinion
Timothy L. O'Brien

Mueller Team Finally Cracks Over William Barr’s Letters

U.S. newspapers report that the attorney general has underplayed the obstruction findings. Given his background, maybe he should have recused himself.

He has some thoughts on obstruction.

He has some thoughts on obstruction.

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Eleven days have passed since Attorney General William Barr fired off a surprisingly brief letter outlining what he asserted were the key takeaways from a highly anticipated report two years in the making. During that time, we’ve learned much more about Barr than we have about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Trump-Russia probe.

We’ve learned, for example, that Barr rushed to exculpate President Donald Trump and his advisers in that four-page missive, which laid out what the attorney general claimed were the Mueller report’s two key criminal inquiries: Conspiracy and obstruction of justice. Barr has told us that although Mueller felt his report didn’t completely exonerate the president, he also didn’t think Trump and his team conspired with Russia to try sabotaging the 2016 presidential campaign. On the other hand, Mueller didn’t decide whether Trump obstructed justice. Barr took that as a signal that he should rule on that one, and he did: No obstruction.