Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse asked Attorney General William Barr during Wednesday's Judiciary Committee hearing whether he could have made public earlier a letter from special counsel Robert Mueller in which Mueller expressed concerns with Barr's initial summary of the report. The letter from Mueller to Barr was dated March 27 but was not made public until it was released today, shortly before Barr's testimony.
SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE: Let's turn to the March 27 letter which you received and read March 28, the Mueller letter, correct?
ATTORNEY GENERAL BILL BARR: Yes.
WHITEHOUSE: When did you have the conversation with Bob Mueller about that letter you referenced.
BARR: I think it was on the 28th.
WHITEHOUSE: The same day you read it? When did you first learn of the New York Times and Washington Post stories that would make the existence of this letter public, the ones that came out last night?
BARR: I think it could have been yesterday but I'm not sure.
WHITEHOUSE: Did they contact you to ask for any comment?
BARR: They didn't contact me.
WHITEHOUSE: Did they contact DOJ to ask for any comment?
BARR: I can't actually remember how it came up but someone mentioned it.
WHITEHOUSE: So at some point, you knew the Mueller letter was going to become public and that was probably yesterday?
BARR: I think so.
WHITEHOUSE: When did you decide to make that letter available to us in Congress?
BARR: This morning.
WHITEHOUSE: Would you concede you had an opportunity to make this letter public on April 4 when Representative Crist asked you a very related question?
BARR: I don't know what you mean by "related question." It seems to me it would be a different question.
WHITEHOUSE: I can't follow that down the road. That's a masterful hair-splitting. I mean boy, that's some masterful hair-splitting. The letter references enclosed documents and enclosed materials, right? Are those the same things as what you call the "executive summaries" that Mueller provided you?
BARR: With this letter? Yes.
WHITEHOUSE: It's all the same document? When you talk about the executive summaries that Mueller provided you, they are the documents that were the enclosed documents with that letter which we have not been provided?
BARR: I think they were. You have been provided with them. They are in the report. The summary's in the report.
WHITEHOUSE: It is the language of the report in the report? There is nothing else that he provided you?
BARR: I that I that's what he provided.
WHITEHOUSE: If there is anything else would you provide it to us if it is different in any form? It's odd to be given a letter without the attachments to it when the attachments are referred to.
BARR: I think there were the redacted versions of the executive summaries which are embedded in the report.
WHITEHOUSE: Can we get that to be sure?
WHITEHOUSE: Great, thank you. Do you agree that none of that material was either grand jury 6(e) or presented a risk to intelligence sources or would interfere or compromise an ongoing investigation or affected by executive privileges?
BARR: There were redactions made in the executive summaries. As I said, I wasn't interested in putting out summaries, period. Frankly --
WHITEHOUSE: This is another hair-splitting exercise because Bob Mueller, who I think we all agree is very credible, actually described your letter as a summary. So you can say it wasn't a summary, but Mueller said it was a summary.
BARR: I wasn't interested in summarizing the whole report. As I say I was stating that the bottom line conclusions of the report.
WHITEHOUSE: You letter says it was intended to -- quote your words, describe the report.
BARR: Describe the report, meaning volume one dealt with this, volume two dealt with that.
WHITEHOUSE: It's four pages for a 400-page report, I don't know why you're caviling about whether it is a summary or not.
BARR: I state in the letter that I am stating the principal conclusions. Let me also say that Bob Mueller is the equivalent of a U.S. attorney, he was exercising the powers of the attorney general subject to the supervision of the attorney general. He's part of the Department of Justice. His work concluded when he sent his report to the attorney general. At that point, it was my baby. And I was making a decision as to whether or not to make it public. I effectively overrode the regulations used discretion to lean as far forward as I could to make that public. it was my decision how and when to make it public, not Bob Mueller's.