The Justice Department addressed news reports that some members of special counsel Robert Mueller's team of investigators believe Attorney General William Barr failed to adequately summarize the findings of Mueller's 22-month investigation in the four-page letter Barr sent to Congress in March.
Spokeswoman Kerri Kupec released a statement Thursday morning, saying the Justice Department was concerned about illegally releasing grand jury information, which is confidential.
"Every page of the 'confidential report' provided to Attorney General Barr on March 22, 2019 was marked 'May Contain Material Protected Under Fed. R. Crim. P.6(e)' — a law that protects confidential grand jury information — and therefore could not be publicly released," she wrote.
She went on to explain the reasoning of the department in releasing what it has so far: the March letter.
"Given the extraordinary public interest in the matter, the Attorney General decided to release the report's bottom-line findings and his conclusions immediately — without attempting to summarize the report — with the understanding that the report itself would be released after the redaction process. As the Attorney General stated in his March 29th letter to Chairman Graham and Chairman Nadler, he does not believe the report should be released in 'serial or piecemeal fashion.' The Department continues to work with the special counsel on appropriate redactions to the report so that it can be released to Congress and the public."
In his letter, Barr said Mueller had concluded that there was no collusion between President Trump and the Russian government during the 2016 election. He also said while Mueller did not arrive at a determination about whether the president obstructed justice, Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein determined that available evidence was insufficient to establish Mr. Trump had obstructed justice.
Reports by The New York Times and The Washington Post released Wednesday evening said some of Mueller's investigators believed the results of the special counsel's investigation were more damaging to Mr. Trump than Barr's letter revealed.
Some on Mueller's team fear public opinion about the report is being solidified because of Barr's letter, and the information the public has received is incomplete, according to the Times.
Mr. Trump responded to reporting by the Times Thursday morning, shortly after Kupec released the statement.
"The New York Times had no legitimate sources, which would be totally illegal, concerning the Mueller Report. In fact, they probably had no sources at all! They are a Fake News paper who have already been forced to apologize for their incorrect and very bad reporting on me!" Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter. The Times has not been forced to apologize for their reporting about Mr. Trump, contrary to this tweet.
Barr has said he will release a redacted version of Mueller's report to Congress sometime in April, although Democrats have asked for the full report to be released. Barr is set to testify before the House and the Senate Intelligence Committees next week.
"Just release the Mueller report...In the public domain there are comments that people on the Mueller team think there's a mischaracterization by the attorney general, I don't know, there is an easy answer to this: Release the Mueller report as soon as possible," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in her weekly press conference Thursday.
In response to the Post and Times reports, Sen. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, who is the ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement that he plans to call on the Senate to pass a resolution on making the Mueller report available to the public and to Congress.
FBI Director Christopher Wray told the House Appropriations Committee Thursday he has not read Mueller's report. The White House has also not received a preview copy of the report.
Reporting by Paula Reid.