A federal judge on Thursday accused Attorney General William Barr of displaying a “lack of candor” regarding his public statements about the special counsel’s report on the Russia probe.
In a surprisingly harsh statement, Judge Reggie Walton ordered the Justice Department to allow him to privately review an unredacted copy of the report in order to determine whether previously redacted portions of the document can be released to the public.
Walton asserted in his memo that he does not trust Barr’s comments about the contents of the report, or his interpretations of what the special counsel concluded from its investigation into whether President Trump attempted to obstruct the Russia probe.
Walton asserted that “inconsistencies” between Barr’s public statements and what is laid out in a redacted version of the special counsel’s report “cause the Court to seriously question whether Attorney General Barr made a calculated attempt to influence public discourse about the Mueller Report in favor of President Trump.”
Walton, who was appointed to the bench in 2001 by George W. Bush, made the ruling as part of a lawsuit against the Justice Department filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center and reporter Jason Leopold.
Walton said that his comments were based on a review of the redacted version of the special counsel’s report and statements that Barr made in an April 18, 2019 press conference, as well as a letter he wrote the previous day.
“And, the Court cannot reconcile certain public representations made by Attorney General Barr with the findings in the Mueller Report,” said Walton.
“These circumstances generally, and Attorney General Barr’s lack of candor specifically, call into question Attorney General Barr’s credibility.”
Walton’s statements echo those of Democrats who have criticized Barr over his handling of the special counsel’s report. Barr’s supporters, which include Republicans, have said that his summary of the report was accurate.
Barr said that Robert Mueller, the special counsel, concluded that there was no evidence of collusion involving Trump or members of his campaign in their dealings with Russians. Barr said that Mueller did not make a determination on whether Trump obstructed justice. Barr said that Mueller did not exonerate Trump on the question, but left it up to the Justice Department to decide whether to pursue an obstruction case.
Barr and then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein decided against pursuing a case against the president.
The report is much more definitive on the question of collusion, which was the catalyst for the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign, which began on July 31, 2016.
Mueller said that investigators were unable to establish that any Trump associates conspired with Russians to influence the 2016 election, and that there was insufficient evidence that anyone affiliated with the campaign worked as an agent of Russia.
The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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