During his Thursday morning press conference once again summarizing the findings of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, when asked by a reporter why Mueller himself was not present, Attorney General William Barr explained that he wasn’t there because the report was written for the AG.
“It’s not [his report], it’s a report he did for me as the attorney general; he is required by the regulation to provide me with a confidential report,” Barr said. “I’m here to discuss my response to the report and my decision, entirely discretionary, to make it public.”
On special counsel Mueller's absence at presser, AG Barr says: “It’s not [his report], it’s a report he did for me as the attorney general…I’m here to discuss my response to the report.” https://t.co/3ZKq6CwMeV pic.twitter.com/MdooGP6wDs
— ABC News (@ABC) April 18, 2019
That response appeared to ruffle a few feathers:
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Shultz claimed that the report was really put together “for the American people.”
AG Barr was asked why Robert Mueller and his team are not at the press conference to discuss the report they produced.
AG Barr said the report was done for him.
No. This report was completed for the American people.
— Rep. Wasserman Schultz (@RepDWStweets) April 18, 2019
“So much for the idea of an independent Special Counsel,” lamented an MSNBC contributor.
Barr: “It’s a Report he did for me as AG.” So much for the idea of an independent Special Counsel.
— Joyce Alene (@JoyceWhiteVance) April 18, 2019
Podcast host Fernand Amandi called it “ASTONISHING. UNAPOLOGETIC. AUTHORITARIANISM.”
“This is a report (Mueller) did for me.”
— William Barr
ASTONISHING. UNAPOLOGETIC. AUTHORITARIANISM.
— Fernand R. Amandi (@AmandiOnAir) April 18, 2019
Okay, let’s talk about the facts here.
Under the federal regulations that allow for Robert Mueller’s job as a special prosecutor to even exist, Barr made a clear statement of fact when he said that the report was done for him as the attorney general.
“At the conclusion of the Special Counsel’s work, he or she shall provide the Attorney General with a confidential report explaining the prosecution or declination decisions reached by the Special Counsel,” the regulation states.
Furthermore, the regulations also state that the AG will notify Congress after the investigation’s conclusion, but not that he has to release any portion whatsoever of that confidential report to the public or even to Congress.
Sure, anti-Trump America may have bet the organic, Green New Deal-compliant farm on the outcome of this investigation and the content of the report, but rules are rules, folks.
Also, it’s critical to understand that we have a special counsel, not an independent counsel. We used to have an independent counsel, and the statute that created that job led to one of the more controversial Supreme Court opinions of the last couple of decades (and one of Justice Scalia’s finest dissents).
In fact, the consensus that the old structure of the independent counsel’s job was so much of an unconstitutional chimera, that it was allowed to quietly lapse in 1999 and was replaced with the regulatory investigation structure.
And under that mechanism, the special counsel reports to the attorney general who is picked by a president and confirmed on advice and consent of the Senate.
To borrow a quote from the Attorney General’s statement, “That’s the bottom line.”