A federal judge criticized Attorney General William Barr for distorting the findings of special counsel Robert Mueller during his investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, Politico reports. U.S. District Court Judge Reggie Walton said Barr’s efforts to spin the report before its public release last year raised serious doubts about whether the Justice Department faithfully applied the law when deleting information from the publicly disclosed version. “The Court cannot reconcile certain public representations made by Attorney General Barr with the findings in the Mueller Report,” wrote Walton, an appointee of President George W. Bush. Walton said Barr’s actions “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.”
Democrats have complained that Barr’s description of the report was skewed and that it altered the public narrative about Mueller’s conclusions. After Barr issued a letter describing Mueller’s findings, the special counsel complained about the framing and asked that the executive summary be released immediately. Barr declined to allow what he called a piecemeal release of the report, which did not occur until almost a month after it was submitted. Walton issued his decision in Freedom of Information Act lawsuits by BuzzFeed and the Electronic Privacy Information Center seeking the full report. Justice Department lawyers asked that the judge OK the deletions from the report. Walton declined, and demanded that the department provide him an unredacted copy by March 30, so he could see what was deleted. Barr’s “lack of candor” calls into question the attorney general’s credibility and DOJ’s argument that the redacted information is protected from disclosure under FOIA, Walton said.