The Wall Street Journal quietly edited away an allegation that attorney general nominee Bill Barr colluded with an attorney in the Donald Trump White House in order to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller.
In a Wednesday story titled “Trump’s Attorney General Pick Criticized an Aspect of Mueller Probe in Memo to Justice Department,” reporters Sadie Gurman and Aruna Viswanatha write about the nature of an “unsolicited” memo which “excoriated special counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry into potential obstruction of justice” by President Trump.
That memo has since been the talk of D.C. legal observers and Mueller aficionados across the country. Their original reporting appeared to cast some doubt on what the Trump administration knew about that anti-Mueller memo and when they knew it. As noted by the Washington Post‘s Philip Bump, the current version of the story, however, tosses such doubts aside.
Here’s what happened: an earlier version of the story cites an anonymous source who dismisses concerns that Barr’s infamous anti-Mueller memo played any role in the 45th president’s decision to tap the former attorney general for the job once again.
That earlier version of the WSJ‘s story contained the following language:
The person also said Mr. Barr shared the memo with the top lawyer representing the White House in the Mueller probe around the same time he gave it to Mr. Rosenstein.
The current version of the story loses the above line–and its potential implication regarding White House knowledge–entirely.
Instead, the paragraph originally containing the source’s allegation about potential collusion simply reads:
After Mr. Trump offered him the job, Mr. Barr briefly told the president that he had written a memo about aspects of the Russia probe that could spur questions during his confirmation hearing, according to a person familiar with the process. It wasn’t immediately clear how Mr. Trump responded, but a second person familiar with the matter said the memo played no role in his decision to choose Mr. Barr.
An arguably interesting deletion. On top of that, the current version of the story also contains no sort of editor’s note or correction or anything otherwise noting the change or why it occurred.
Why does this matter? It matters because the critical take on Barr is that he was auditioning for the job with an attack on Mueller. The WSJ‘s original reporting could be read to give the appearance that the White House had knowledge of this memo prior to what’s been otherwise reported. In any event, it would appear to undercut substantially the claim that the memo played no role in Barr’s selection.
Law&Crime reached out to the Wall Street Journal for comment and clarification on this story but no response was forthcoming at the time of publication. After this story was posted, however, one of the reporters who worked on the story said that the line in question was removed by accident and has since been restored.
[image via screengrab/Fox News]
Editor’s note: this story has been amended post-publication to include a response from the Wall Street Journal.
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.