For two years Special Counsel Robert Mueller ran a tight ship. There were no leaks from his team of investigators. Despite enormous pressure to speak to the press, not one person on Mueller’s team leaked information.
However, today the New York Times is reporting that Mueller’s investigators are indicating that the actual Mueller report is more damaging to Donald Trump than the four page Barr summary suggested. This is incredibly significant for two reasons. First, it is the first time we have heard of a leak directly attributed to Mueller or his team of investigators. Second, if the Barr report were even close to being an accurate summary of the Mueller report, Mueller’s investigators would not be leaking this. If it were just slightly more damaging, we wouldn’t be hearing anything from team Mueller. In order to feel compelled to speak out, the investigators who worked with Mueller must feel that there is a significant difference between Mueller’s report and the summary put forth by Barr.
Now, what about the timing of the leak of this significant information? Why would Mueller’s investigators say this now, and not a week ago? Some reporters are speculating it is because the investigators are no longer federal employees, and now that they are not reporting directly to Mueller, they feel more able to speak out. This makes some sense, but why wouldn’t they have spoken out a week ago, when they must have felt more fresh outrage? It is unusual to sit on something like this for a week before you speak out.
It is more likely they are speaking out now strategically to put pressure on Attorney General Barr. If Barr cares about his reputation at all, or even his own legal liability, he may now be somewhat hesitant to be seen as deliberately burying the report. Barr now has the opportunity to fall back on his earlier statement that his four page summary was never meant to be a full recounting of Mueller’s report, and he can negotiate with the judiciary committee to quickly release a reasonably redacted version of the report. By speaking out right now, Mueller’s investigators are sending a clear message to the Attorney General. He will not be able to prevent Mueller’s findings from becoming public. Releasing information now is the only way Barr will be able to salvage his damaged reputation.
Cheryl Kelley lives in the DC area with her husband and young son. She is active in government and politics.