After a 22-month investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller investigating Russian ties to the Trump campaign and possible presidential obstruction of justice, the final 448-page report on the investigation has been released, confirming the previous summary by Attorney General Bill Barr that Mueller found no collusion and uncovered insufficient evidence to charge Trump with obstruction.
Which didn’t stop the New York Times from sounding bitter, and in particular targeting Barr for sounding too much like an advocate for Trump (who, after all, was not charged with anything). For starters, the Times faulted Barr for having the audacity to hold a press conference before the report’s release. Apparently the press didn’t appreciate the access. Columnist Michelle Goldberg was particularly over the top:
That arrogant, willfully misleading press conference was shocking even by 2019 standards. We continue to underreact to our government's transformation into an authoritarian junta
The lead story of Thursday'a New York Times, printed before the release of the report later that morning, cast suspicion on a perfectly legitimate act by the Justice Department: “Mueller Results Were Previewed For White House.”
The discussions between Justice Department officials and White House lawyers have also added to questions about the propriety of the decisions by Attorney General William P. Barr since he received Mr. Mueller’s findings late last month.
Republicans have seized on Mr. Barr’s decision to clear the president of criminal obstruction of justice and plan to try to reinvigorate their own inquiries into decision making inside the Justice Department and the F.B.I. in 2016 that prompted law enforcement officials to open the Russia investigation.
Mr. Barr gave ammunition to those efforts last week, when he described law enforcement surveillance of the Trump campaign as “spying.” The remark reinforced a narrative long pushed by Mr. Trump and his allies in Congress -- that a “deep state” tried to prevent Mr. Trump from becoming president and has tried to undo his presidency.
Mr. Barr’s comments sent shudders through law enforcement ranks and surprised many who saw him as a stabilizing force whose instincts would be to protect the Justice Department from political attacks -- unlike former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Matthew G. Whitaker, who held the job in an acting capacity after the president forced out Mr. Sessions.
Peter Baker supervised the update page on Thursday, as various reporters highlighted pieces of the long report: “What We Know So Far From the Mueller Report.”
In his news conference on Thursday morning, Mr. Barr at times sounded like a defense lawyer, making no criticism of the president and instead offering an understanding interpretation of actions that Mr. Trump’s critics have said amounted to obstruction of justice....Democrats quickly assailed Mr. Barr for trying to frame the results of the report before lawmakers or the public had a chance to read it for themselves.
Baker found no less than five Democratic critics in Congress.
National Review editor Rich Lowry summed up the anti-Barr media outrage under the sarcastic headline "The Worst Executed Cover-Up of all Time."
Barr said the Mueller report will be lightly redacted, that the president made no claim of executive privilege, that Congress will see an unredacted version of the report (except for grand jury material), and that he has no problem with Mueller testifying before Congress. Yet the press is outraged that he’s supposedly covering for Trump. Incredible…
Times reporter Mark Landler cast strong aspersions on Barr’s reputation in “Barr’s Defense of Trump Rewards the President With the Attorney General He Wanted.”
When President Trump nominated William P. Barr as attorney general last December, some viewed his age and establishment pedigree as signs that he would act independently in his handling of the Russia investigation.
Since he already served once as the nation’s top law enforcement officer during the administration of President George Bush, they said that Mr. Barr, at 68 years old, would be more concerned with protecting his own reputation than the president’s.
On Thursday, Mr. Barr, just two months into the job, seemed to dash those hopes.
In an extraordinary news conference 90 minutes before he released the report of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, Mr. Barr acted more as a defense lawyer for Mr. Trump than as the leader of the Justice Department.
He repeatedly declared that Mr. Mueller had cleared the president of a conspiracy with Russia and sympathized with the frustration Mr. Trump felt at the “relentless speculation” over his purported ties with Russia. After taking a handful of questions and ignoring many others, he walked off the stage.
Landler was also scandalized, off-topic, by Barr being “A conservative Catholic whose father was the headmaster of an elite private school in Manhattan” who “has argued for Republican goals, including deregulation of business.”
The editorial page weighed in with paranoia in “Don’t Trust Barr. Verify His Redactions -- The Trump administration hasn’t earned the benefit of the doubt from the American people. Both parties must see the uncensored Mueller report.”
.... Nor can the public depend on the word of Mr. Trump’s handpicked attorney general, who has a long history of trying to muffle Republican scandals and whose view of executive branch authority is alarmingly broad. Mr. Barr’s news conference on Thursday, remarkable for the attorney general’s fawning deference to his boss, came across as little more than a spin session.