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Federal judge blasts Barr for 'misleading' comments on Mueller report

The judge wondered whether Barr's intention "was to create a one-sided narrative about the Mueller report."
Image: Attorney General William Barr Makes Announcement On Cyber-Related Law Enforcement Action
Attorney General William Barr at a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington on Feb. 10, 2020.Sarah Silbiger / Getty Images file

A federal judge on Thursday strongly criticized Attorney General William Barr's disclosure of the Mueller report last year, calling early statements about special counsel Robert Mueller's conclusions "misleading."

In an order in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking access to the unredacted report, U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton said Barr's action caused him "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 focused on Barr's initial statement — before the report was released in full — that Mueller's team did not find that anyone in the Trump campaign conspired with Russian efforts to meddle in the 2016 election. The judge said Barr left out the fact that the report identified contacts between members of the Trump campaign and people connected with the Russian government.

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Barr's "lack of candor," Walton wrote in a 23-page ruling in Washington, calls into question the credibility of Barr and the Justice Department in making redactions to the report. For that reason, Walton ordered government lawyers to give him the complete report so he can evaluate whether the material was properly blacked out.

Barr has previously defended his handling of the report, including his decision to make its main conclusions public even before the full document was released. Walton said Barr "can be commended for his effort to expeditiously release a summary."

But Walton said he wondered whether Barr's intention "was to create a one-sided narrative about the Mueller report."

A spokeswoman said the Justice Department would have no comment on the ruling.