Why William Barr will have the last word on the Russia probe — even after Robert Mueller’s testimony

The attorney general's widely-publicized and decidedly pro-Trump interpretation of the Mueller Report won’t go away

Published July 24, 2019 2:40PM (EDT)

Attorney General William Barr (AP/John Bazemore)
Attorney General William Barr (AP/John Bazemore)

This article originally appeared on AlterNet.

When former special counsel Robert Mueller testified publicly before the Democrat-led House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday morning, pundits were quick to point out that there were no major bombshells in his testimony beyond what he had already described in his in-depth final report for the Russia investigation. The Mueller report, released in redacted form by Attorney General William Barr earlier this year, contains a wealth of information, but Mueller made it clear that he would not be discussing anything not addressed in his report. And Elaina Plott, in a piece for The Atlantic, explains why Barr not only had the first word on the Mueller Report, but also, might have the last word as well.

Democrats have been highly critical of Barr’s evaluation of the Mueller report, asserting that it is much more damning of President Donald Trump than Barr and the president have been claiming. Yet for many right-wing Americans who get most or all of their information from pro-Trump media outlets like Fox News and Breitbart, the Mueller Report was a total vindication of the president. And Plott, for her Atlantic article, spoke to some Democrats as well as non-Democrats who believe that Mueller’s testimony is unlikely to dissuade a lot of people from Barr’s characterization of events.

A Democratic presidential campaign official, quoted anonymously, told Plott that “it doesn’t matter how many times” Barr’s view of the report has “been refuted” because “what matters is that first interpretation of ‘no collusion, no obstruction.’ And people have kind of tuned out since.”

A former White House official, also quoted anonymously, told Plott that Barr’s assertions have been inescapable in right-wing media.

“In terms of playing into the conservative echo chamber,” the official said, “it immediately gave them a lot of content to work with. A lot of the job in Trumpworld is just giving our allies content to work with.”

Plott notes that Rep. Ro Khanna, a California Democrat, told Axios that the most successful part of Mueller’s testimony would be “in the TV ratings.” In other words, Plott writes, Khanna and other Democrats weren’t expecting any new revelations or bombshells from Mueller’s testimony — only hoping that his report would reach a larger audience. And Barr’s widely-publicized and decidedly pro-Trump interpretation of the Mueller report, Plott stresses, won’t go away.

“Democrats can try to capitalize on the power of television to reclaim the narrative of the Mueller Report,” Plott asserts. “But their engagement with said narrative will always be secondary in this way, a fervent attempt to recast that which has already been set.”

By Alex Henderson

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