Neal Katyal Argues AG Barr Imposed His Conclusions On FBI’s Finding/ He Owes Public Entire Report

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Neal Kumar Katyal is the Saunders Professor of Law at Georgetown University Law Center. He was acting solicitor general of the United States from 2010 to 2011 and he’s the one who wrote the special counsel rules.

Link: I wrote the special counsel rules. The Washington Post …

He’s not satisfied with the way that the current DOJ US Department of Justice’s Attorney General William Barr has handled the FBI’s Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s final report on his 22 month long Trump-Russia inquiry.

One reporter Garrett Graff on CNN complained that in Mr. Barr’s summary of conclusions, at NO point does he quote a completes sentence from Mr. Mueller’s report.  He noted that there were only 4 places where Barr quoted from the Mueller report, but out of the four pages, none of them were in context, nor were they the full sentence.

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Here’s the rest of the story…

On March 24, 2019. Neal K. Katyal for the New York Times penned the following opinion piece, “The Many Problems With the Barr letter”


“By unilaterally concluding that Mr. Trump did not obstruct justice, the attorney general has made it imperative that the public see the Mueller report.”

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On Sunday afternoon, soon after Attorney General Bill Barr released a letter outlining the Mueller investigation report, President Trump tweeted “Total EXONERATION!” But there are any number of reasons the president should not be taking a victory lap.

First, obviously, he still faces the NY investigations into campaign finance violations by the Trump team and the various investigations into the Trump organization. And Mr. Barr, in his letter, acknowledges that the Mueller report “does not exonerate” Mr. Trump on the issue of obstruction, even if it does not recommend an indictment.

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“But the critical part of the letter is that it now creates a whole new mess. After laying out the scope of the investigation and noting that Mr. Mueller’s report does not offer any legal recommendations, Mr. Barr declares that it therefore “leaves it to the attorney general to decide whether the conduct described in the report constitutes a crime.” He then concludes the president did not obstruct justice when he fired the F.B.I. director, James Comey.”

“Such a conclusion would be momentous in any event. But to do so within 48 hours of receiving the report (which pointedly did not reach that conclusion) should be deeply concerning to every American.”

“The special counsel regulations were written to provide the public with confidence that justice was done. It is impossible for the public to reach that determination without knowing two things. First, what did the Mueller report conclude, and what was the evidence on obstruction of justice? And second, how could Mr. Barr have reached his conclusion so quickly?”

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“Mr. Barr’s letter raises far more questions than it answers, both on the facts and the law.”

“His letter says Mr. Mueller set “out evidence on both sides of the question and leaves unresolved what the special counsel views as ‘difficult issues’ of law and fact concerning whether the president’s actions and intent could be viewed as obstruction.” Yet we don’t know what those “difficult issues” were, because Mr. Barr doesn’t say, or why Mr. Mueller, after deciding not to charge on conspiracy, let Mr. Barr make the decision on obstruction.”

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On the facts, Mr. Barr says that the government would need to prove that Mr. Trump acted with “corrupt intent” and there were no such actions. But how would Mr. Barr know? Did he even attempt to interview Mr. Trump about his intentions?”

“What kind of prosecutor would make a decision about someone’s intent without even trying to talk to him? Particularly in light of Mr. Mueller’s pointed statement that his report does not “exonerate” Mr. Trump. Mr. Mueller didn’t have to say anything like that. He did so for a reason. And that reason may well be that there is troubling evidence in the substantial record that he compiled.”

“Furthermore, we don’t know why Mr. Mueller did not try to force an interview with the president. The reason matters greatly. Mr. Mueller could have concluded that interviews of sitting presidents for obstruction matters are better done within the context of a congressional impeachment investigation (perhaps because a sitting president cannot be indicted, the Barr letter says this legal argument didn’t influence Mr. Barr’s conclusion but again is pointedly silent as to Mr. Mueller).”

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“Or Mr. Barr could have concluded that the attorney general, not a special counsel, should carry out such an interview. The fact that Mr. Barr rushed to judgment, within 48 hours, after a 22-month investigation, is deeply worrisome.”

“The opening lines of the obstruction section of Mr. Barr’s letter are even more concerning. It says that the special counsel investigated “a number of actions by the president — most of which have been the subject of public reporting.” That suggests that at least some of the foundation for an obstruction of justice charge has not yet been made public. There will be no way to have confidence in such a quick judgment about previously unreported actions without knowing what those actions were.”

“On the law, Mr. Barr’s letter also obliquely suggests that he consulted with the Office of Legal Counsel, the elite Justice Department office that interprets federal statutes. This raises the serious question of whether Mr. Barr’s decision on Sunday was based on the bizarre legal views that he set out in an unsolicited 19-page memo.”.

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“That memo made the argument that the obstruction of justice statute does not apply to the president because the text of the statute doesn’t specifically mention the president. Of course, the murder statute doesn’t mention the president either, but no one thinks the president can’t commit murder. Indeed, the Office of Legal Counsel had previously concluded that such an argument to interpret another criminal statute, the bribery law, was wrong.”

“As such, Mr. Barr’s reference to the office raises the question of whether he tried to enshrine his idiosyncratic view into the law and bar Mr. Trump’s prosecution. His unsolicited memo should be understood for what it is, a badly argued attempt to put presidents above the law. If he used that legal fiction to let President Trump off the hook, Congress would have to begin an impeachment investigation to vindicate the rule of law.”


“Sometimes momentous government action leaves everyone uncertain about the next move. This is not one of those times. Congress now has a clear path of action. It must first demand the release of the Mueller report, so that Americans can see the evidence for themselves. Then, it must call Mr. Barr and Mr. Mueller to testify. Mr. Barr in particular must explain his rationale for reaching the obstruction judgment he made.”

“No one wants a president to be guilty of obstruction of justice. The only thing worse than that is a guilty president who goes without punishment. The Barr letter raises the specter that we are living in such times.”


  1. A very reasoned post Gronda that gives hope that maybe this is not all over yet, The Fat Lady hasn’t sung.It would be interesting to get Mueller’s opinion of Barr;’s letter though I doubt that will happen but maybe he give clarity over some points that would suggest whether impeachment is a possibility and a recommendation.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Dear David,

      To say that this is an exercise in frustration, is an understatement. Mr. Mueller was supposed to be the independent arbiter. I’m certain that he would have penned his own conclusions which begs the question, why did Mr. Barr feel driven to add his far right partisanship to the process.

      Hugs, Gronda

      Liked by 2 people

    • Dear Sotomayor111,

      I can only wish Mr Barr hadn’t taken steps to politicize this FBI’s Mueller report by adding his two cents. He couldn’t help himself as he thinks he knows what’s best. His hubris and arrogance matches that of Mr. Comey.

      Now we’re stick in another mess. There’s now no shortcut. Mr Barr will have to publicly share the entire report sooner than later because it will eventually become public, one way or another. Now the general American public will not take Mr. Barr’s word for anything.

      Thanks a million times over for all of your support and for this reblog.



  2. Hello Gronda. I look forward to more analysis of the report and the laws that apply, but first I want to know what was in the report. I feel we are getting a partisan distilled version of only what is good for tRump, sort of what the sycophants in congress would do. It is like hearing only the flat earth or anti-vaccine side of an argument without any facts being allowed in to dispute them. Hugs

    Liked by 4 people

    • Dear Scottie,

      You are right on the money. I gave Mr. Barr the benefit of the doubt but he has proven his partisan bona fides. The summary that he wrote is well worded narrative of deception. We need to read the report.

      Hugs, Gronda

      Liked by 5 people

  3. I’m going to echo you and the other commenters and say we absolutely need to see the report, minus any classified material. Barr said months ago that if there was no collusion, then there could be no obstruction. What I am surprised at is Mueller’s punting of the obstruction issue. I’m sure he had his reasons but I sure would like to hear them.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dear Kim,

      We don’t know that the FBI’s Special Counsel Robert Mueller did punt to the DOJ’s AG William Barr. We only have Mr. Barr’s word for this and frankly I can’t take him at his word. I did give him the benefit of the doubt but he’s lost that with his most recent actions. He’s proven himself to be so partisan to where his judgment is suspect.

      We are going to have full access to Mr. Mueller’s report minus classified data, personal data like phone numbers, addresses.Then we need to hear directly from Mr. Mueller.

      Hugs, Gronda

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Gronda, good post. The report needs to be released. I recognize it will be redacted due to grand jury and national security issues, yet the President has a level of guilt on the Russia issue that per Mueller did not warrant charges. Per the CIA, at a minimum Trump is an unwitting participant in Russian election interference parroting words and planted stories. Then there is all of the lying. Yet, maybe the smoking guns could not be found or proven for this purpose.

    So, we need to see the next few shoes to drop. Those cases are much clearer. Keith

    Liked by 2 people

    • PS – It is later in the day, but why are the President and his attorneys still attacking Mueller? I have heard of people being ungracious losers, but ungracious winners? Call me crazy, but I think they fear what may be still to come. A real leader would be very magnaminous, but…Keith

      Liked by 2 people

    • Dear Keith,

      Let the games begin. We know that President Trump and his GOP sycophants can’t open their mouths without lying. You know that joke, how can you tell when a politician is lying? Their lips are moving.

      I’m very suspicious that there is an ongoing FBI counter-intelligence probe regarding President Trump, his family members and any Russian contacts.

      The US Intelligence Community wouldn’t be doing their jobs, otherwise. President has warranted this surveillance because his behavior has been suspect

      How does one explain the president conniving to have meetings with Russia’s President Putin and then his tearing up the translator’s notes, his denial of Russia having attacked US VOTING/ ELECTIONS infrastructure in 2016 where at Helsinki, he’s heard dissing US IC experts while he publicly chose to believe President Putin’s lies, etc.

      I had given Mr. Barr the benefit of the doubt but he’s lost my trust. Nothing short of having access to the entire FBI report minus classified data, etc. will satisfy me.

      Hugs, Gronda


    • Dear Nan,

      Why are we not surprised? I would be willing to bet a fortune that the president lied in the questions he answered pertaining to obstruction. There’s no way that the president can get away with this sleight of hand.

      Thanks a million for this reference.

      Hugs, Gronda

      Liked by 1 person

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