Attorney General William Barr invited the press to ask him questions Thursday morning about the Mueller report. The final question got to the heart of the problem: Reporters didn’t get to read the report first.
“Do you think it creates an appearance of impropriety for you to come out and sort of, what appears to be spinning the report before the public gets a chance to read it?” Ryan Reilly of HuffPost asked, referring to the decision the Trump administration made to hold a news conference about the Mueller report before it was even released to Congress for review.
“No,” Barr replied curtly. He then walked away, ending the news conference.
That moment captured the essence of Barr’s news conference. The point of the event was, in name, to illuminate how the Mueller report came together. Instead, it gave the attorney general a chance to set a positive stage for President Trump before the public got to see the details.
REPORTER: Is it an impropriety for you to come out and sort of spin the report before people are able to read it?— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 18, 2019
*walks away* pic.twitter.com/nXH4Tk3Fyd
It wasn’t the only time during the news conference that Barr swatted down a legitimate question about his handling of the Mueller report’s release — questions that have persisted since he released a letter summarizing Mueller’s key findings without so much as quoting a single complete sentence from Mueller’s text.
Shortly before Reilly’s question, Paula Reid of CBS asked Barr to respond to critics who have interpreted his conduct as being aimed at protecting Trump, not dealing in good faith with the American people.
“A Republican-appointed judge on Tuesday said you have, quote, created an environment that has caused a significant part of the American public to be concerned about these redactions. You cleared the president on obstruction,” Reid began. “The president is fundraising off your comments about ‘spying,’ and here you have remarks that are quite generous to the president, including acknowledging his feelings and emotions. What do you say to people on both sides of the aisle who are concerned you’re trying to protect the president?”
Barr didn’t really respond to Reid’s question, but instead said, “I’m not sure what your basis is for saying that I’m being generous to the president,” before quickly moving on.
REPORTER: A judge has expressed concerns about your redactions. POTUS is fundraising on your remarks about 'spying.' What do you say to folks who are concerned you're trying to protect the president?— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 18, 2019
BARR: I'm not sure what you're basis is for saying I'm being generous to POTUS. pic.twitter.com/0LgNVldiCN
During his opening statement, Barr confirmed that the White House was given a redacted version of the Mueller report — a luxury not afforded to Congress or the public.
He also explained away questions about possible obstruction of justice by saying Trump “faced an unprecedented situation. As he entered office and sought to perform his responsibilities, prosecutors were scrutinizing his conduct ... yet, as he said from the beginning, there was no collusion.”
Then, instead of engaging with legitimate questions from reporters and his critics about the overall propriety of his conduct, Barr walked away.