What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

Some of Mueller team reportedly unhappy with Barr conclusions on their work

Members of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigative team are reportedly frustrated by Attorney General William Barr's conclusions from the nearly 400-page report. The Washington Post’s Rosalind Helderman and Lisa Desjardins join Judy Woodruff to discuss that story, questions about certain White House officials' security clearances and the effort to force release of the president's taxes.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Members of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigative team are reportedly frustrated by the conclusions drawn by Attorney General William Barr of their almost-400-page report that was released last week.

    Joining us now to talk about that and a couple of other controversies roiling Washington right now are reporter Rosalind Helderman, who co-wrote today's story for The Washington Post. And Lisa Desjardins, who is our Capitol Hill correspondent.

    So, Roz Helderman, to you first.

    Tell us what your reporting was — is from the folks who are part of the Mueller team.

  • Rosalind Helderman:

    Sure.

    Well, our understanding is that there is some, I would say, frustration or maybe distress on the part of some members of the special counsel's team that the Barr summary letter which came out about a week-and-a-half ago now didn't, in their view, adequately convey all the nuance and complexity of the 400-page report that they wrote.

    To be clear, they're not giving interviews and they're not putting out public statements, but they are really, for the first time in the two years since they were appointed, talking to friends and associates in a way that some sense of how they view the current situation is emerging into the public sphere.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Roz, is this a majority of the Mueller investigative team, or is it a few, or how would you characterize it?

  • Rosalind Helderman:

    I don't know that we have a great sense of that.

    And, you know, it's important to note that what we're hearing is from secondhand sources, people who have spoken to members of the team. We have not heard from Bob Mueller himself. The special counsel's office has a spokesman who rarely comments, but does sometimes comment on issues.

    And every news organization in the country has gone to him today to ask him for a comment about these reports that have come out last night. And they have declined to comment, not to confirm them, but not to deny them either. So this is a moment where there has sort of been this vacuum left by the attorney general, indicating, last weekend, that he was providing the principal conclusions of the report now and would be working, he said expeditiously, to get the full report out in a public way.

    But, in this time period, while we're all just waiting, it's kind of being filled, this vacuum is being filled. You have got the president out there claiming total exoneration, and now these claims that maybe there's a little bit more to the story than we know so far.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, it's fair to say that these are people who believe that the conclusions drawn by the attorney general are softer on the president than they believe is accurate in terms of what the report itself found?

  • Rosalind Helderman:

    Yes, that's our understanding.

    We're also reporting that, apparently, the special counsel's team, as part of their report, actually wrote summaries of their own, summaries to each sort of chapter or section of the report, and that there's a view among some members of the team that those were written intentionally to be easy to release, not that nothing would have to be redacted, but that the redactions were obvious and could be made quickly, so that their summaries could be released publicly quite quickly.

    And there's distress on their part that there is this sort of long lag time, where all we have got is Barr's sort of summary of their summaries, as opposed to, you know, the report that they spent a lot of time and a lot of effort writing, so that we could hear from them in their own words.

    Now, the attorney general's office has pushed back on that a little bit today, but that's our understanding of the special counsel team's view.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Lisa, you're talking to people on the Hill.

    What are Democrats saying? How are they reacting to this?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    If there is distress to the Mueller team, this was a spark adding to the suspicion for Democrats in Congress, officially in the House.

    And let's look at a letter that Chairman of the Judiciary Committee Jerry Nadler just sent actually in the last couple of hours to the attorney general, asking for those summaries that we just heard Roz talk about that we now — that she's reporting were part of the Mueller report specifically written by Mr. Mueller.

    And that's what Jerry Nadler wants. Judy, also a note. I asked Chairman Nadler when he thinks he would issue the subpoena that he now has the authorization to do. He said he thinks it could be coming soon. He didn't rule out this week.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But he's pushing to try to get this, knowing…

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    He wants this report. And I think they're going to issue that subpoena before we hear — or before we get whatever documentation we're going to get from the attorney general, because they want to be on the record as saying Congress wants all of it before they get whatever the attorney general releases.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    All right, two other quick stories I want to ask both you about.

    And, Roz, one of these is for you. The Washington Post reported in the last day or so about who at the White House received security clearances, over the objections of folks who normally clear those.

    What did you learn about that?

  • Rosalind Helderman:

    Right.

    Well, there's been this story in the last few days about this whistle-blower, a career employee, 18-year employee, at the White House in the office that reviews White House officials for security clearances.

    She apparently told Congress that she had made a list of 25 White House officials or people who came through their office that she or other officials had expressed concerns about their security clearances and that were ultimately given clearances by the boss of the office.

    She had talked to Congress specifically about someone who was referred to in publicly released documents as senior White House official number one. We are now reporting that senior White House official number one is indeed Jared Kushner. He was given his top-secret clearance on May 1, the very same day that Ivanka Kush — Ivanka Trump — I'm sorry — was also given her security clearance.

    This whistle-blower indicated that the concerns about his background had to do with possible foreign influence, issues around personal conduct and personal finances.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Fascinating.

    And just quickly, Lisa, another effort on the Hill to get the president's tax returns. What are you hearing?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Spent a lot of time talking, especially to Democrats, on this.

    They have issued this request from the House Ways and Means chairman. Under law, he has the ability to request any taxpayer's filings. The question is, will the IRS get back with him? And the truth is, Democrats are not sure that they will get an answer back. They actually expect to just not hear anything and have to keep sending this letter.

    This is an issue that could end up in court.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    It goes on and on.

    Lisa Desjardins, Roz Helderman, thank you very much.

  • Rosalind Helderman:

    Thank you.

Listen to this Segment

The Latest