Bill Barr's Summary of the Mueller Report is 'Tainted' and People Have a 'Right to Get Angry,' Ex-Federal Prosecutors Say

AG Bill Barr
Attorney General William Barr attends a First Step Act celebration in the East Room of the White House April 01, 2019 in Washington, D.C. Barr has been heavily criticized for his four-page summary of Robert Mueller's special counsel report on the Russia investigation. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Recent reports by the The New York Times and The Washington Post show that Attorney General William Barr may have "tainted" the findings of the special counsel's report in a way that is favorable for Donald Trump, former federal prosecutors told Newsweek on Thursday.

"The two reports raise incredibly serious questions about the legitimacy of the process of handling this report. That's my view. It's a game changer," Gene Rossi, a former Department of Justice prosecutor, said.

Members of Robert Mueller's team reportedly feel that Barr did not adequately represent the key findings of their two-year investigation into Russian election interference and possible collusion with Donald Trump's campaign. Several sources, speaking on the condition of anonymity, expressed their frustrations to news outlets on Wednesday.

Investigators are allegedly irritated that Barr ignored the summaries they prepared for public release, which would have let the work speak for itself. Instead, the attorney general gave Congress a four-page summary on March 24 in which he said that Mueller did not establish conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign.

Barr also told lawmakers that the special counsel did not reach a conclusion "one way or the other" as to whether Trump obstructed justice throughout the investigation. But the attorney general said he concluded that there was not sufficient evidence to prove the president committed a crime.

One member of the team told The Post that the situation regarding obstruction of justice was actually "much more acute than Barr suggested."

Rossi suggested that "the letter is tainted because, if the reports are true, Barr sanitized greatly the negative information that appears to have been put into the report against the president of the United States."

While the Mueller report may not have established a clear pattern of conspiracy, Rossi predicted that it likely contains a "plethora of evidence" that will show Trump or members of his campaign aided and abetted the Russians during the election.

Nick Akerman, a member of the Watergate prosecution team, added that Barr's summary was nothing more than a "political letter" that made it sound as though there was nothing in the Mueller report that showed any wrongdoing by the president or his campaign team.

"When you're sitting there having done this investigation for two years and you see the whole thing being misused and used politically to support Donald Trump, and being done by the attorney general no less, I think people have a good right to get angry," Akerman said.

He also noted that if the Justice Department was serious about releasing the Russia report, all they have to do is get permission from a judge to hand over the findings to the House Judiciary Committee.

"There is really no good excuse for not doing that. They're just dragging their feet and slow-rolling this thing so that Donald Trump can go around the country saying he was exonerated based on this ridiculous four-page letter that Barr issued," Akerman said.

The Mueller report remains in limbo as Democratic lawmakers fight for it to be released in its entirety. Barr has pledged to release a version of the report at the end of the month, but he argues that significant portions of it need to be redacted.

On Thursday, the Department of Justice defended its initial summary of the Mueller investigation, stating that there is sensitive information pertaining to grand jury investigations in the report that cannot be disclosed at this time.

But the allegations that Barr mishandled the findings of the special counsel investigation may be a "game changer" for Democrats, who want to see the entire report made public. It also gives more weight to the other investigations being conducted by congressional oversight committees.

Akerman suggested that in light of these allegations, there is no way that Barr will be allowed to give Congress a redacted version of the Mueller report. And if the issue is ever brought to court, Akerman said that House Democrats have the "better argument" for full transparency.

Meanwhile, the president and his allies have continued to tout Barr's summary of the Mueller report as a "total exoneration." Trump told reporters that the report "could not have been better" and Republican lawmakers celebrated what they perceived to be a clearing of the president's name.

But former federal prosecutors say that Trump may be overplaying his hand with this victory lap.

"I said, 'You know what, pop the champagne, celebrate, do the high fives. But I wouldn't do it for more than a week because other stuff is going to come out,'" Rossi said.

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