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Lawyer Who Wrote the Special Counsel Regs: William Barr Has Been Making it Up as He Goes Along


Former acting Solicitor General of the United States Neal Katyal happens to be the lawyer that wrote the Special Counsel regulations that governed Robert Mueller throughout his investigation and the aftermath. Katyal joined MSNBC anchor Ari Melber and said that, actually, Attorney General William Barr has been making up how to handle the release of the Russia report as he goes along.

The segment began with Melber speaking on the things the regulations neither demand nor forbid, specifically Barr’s four-page statement with quotes about Mueller’s “principal conclusions.” As Law&Crime noted before, reports at the end of independent prosecutor investigations past have had an “introduction” that went into great detail about what the prosecutor concluded and why, in terms of criminal conduct found or not found. In advance of anything like this that will surely be in Mueller’s report, however, Barr announced that Mueller did not allege conspiracy between President Donald Trump/Trump campaign and Russia. He also said Mueller didn’t exonerate Trump of obstruction of justice, but didn’t allege it either.

There has been no pushback from Mueller on anything Barr has done thus far, but that was not the case with Neal Katyal. Melber prefaced this by pointing out that the debate largely centers on what will and won’t be redacted, plus what the Special Counsel regulations do and don’t say.

“If there are no rules requiring Barr to turn over the entire report, what can Congress do to get it?” Melber asked.

“Well, I think what’s important is that Barr is going well beyond the rules. He’s kind of improvising on his own, in lots of important ways. He’s kinda like — freestyling– and in ways that I think are really damaging,” Katyal answered. “Mueller says he can’t decide whether or not there’s obstruction of justice or not. I won’t exonerate, do not exonerate, effectively. And Barr takes it himself to say ‘Oh, no. I’m going to clear the president.'”

Next, Katyal took issue with the four-pager from Barr that we mentioned in the opening.

“Barr provided four little quotes from the Mueller report, not even one complete sentence from it. And it raises suspicions. It’s like those movie review you see on the poster ‘Greatest movie ever’ but the full quote is ‘This is not the greatest movie ever,” Katyal quipped.

Finally, Katyal said that Barr has not operated in keeping with DOJ traditions, and reiterated that Barr is “freestyling.”

“Special prosecutors and attorneys general turn over their reports to Congress in full. That’s what happened in Nixon, that’s what happened in Clinton,” he said. “And here we’ve got something else.”

The “something else” was Barr’s outline of what wouldn’t be in the report.

“That’s just [Barr] kind of broadly telling people ‘Here are more reasons why I can hold things back,'” Melber interjected.

“That’s like Barr being a member of Freestyle Love Supreme. He’s freestyling on his own. He’s not following the rules. He’s not following tradition,” Katyal replied. “And that’s the worrisome thing.”

[Image via MSNBC screengrab]

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Matt Naham is the Senior A.M. Editor of Law&Crime.