Credit: James Ledbetter/flickr

Attorney General William Barr had the chance to pre-spin the Mueller report in his four-page written summary, during testimony before two Congressional committees, and in his press conference Thursday morning prior to the release of the redacted report. In addition, he is scheduled to testify before the Senate and House judiciary committees May 1 and 2.

On the other hand, Robert Mueller’s absence at Thursday’s press conference was notable. Here is the exchange that took place between Barr and a reporter on that topic:

Reporter: “There’s a lot of public interest in absence of the public counsel and his team. Why is he not here? This is his report you’re talking about today.”

Barr: “No, actually. He did for me as the attorney general, he is required under the regulation to provide me with a confidential report. I’m here to discuss my response to that report and my decision, entirely discretionary to make it public, since these reports are not supposed to be made public. That’s what I’m here to discuss.”

The attorney general never addressed the question about why Mueller wasn’t there—so we don’t know whether Barr didn’t want him to attend of if he declined.

Prior to the press conference, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer issued this statement.

Attorney General Barr’s regrettably partisan handling of the Mueller report, including his slanted March 24th summary letter, his irresponsible testimony before Congress last week, and his indefensible plan to spin the report in a press conference later this morning — hours before he allows the public or Congress to see it — have resulted in a crisis of confidence in his independence and impartiality.  We believe the only way to begin restoring public trust in the handling of the Special Counsel’s investigation is for Special Counsel Mueller himself to provide public testimony in the House and Senate as soon as possible. The American people deserve to hear the truth.

Later Thursday morning, Representative Jerrold Nadler, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, announced that the request for Mueller to appear before his committee has gone out.

All indications are that Robert Mueller is an “institutionalist.” I can understand why someone like him wouldn’t want to be involved in the propaganda performance we witnessed from the attorney general on Thursday. But it is Mueller’s public duty to both respond to a request from Congress and provide the American people with his testimony, which could help to restore some of the trust that Barr has squandered.

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