WASHINGTON — Special Counsel Robert Mueller told Attorney General William Barr that the initial account of the Mueller report in Barr's four-page letter caused public confusion.
Justice Department officials say in a letter and subsequent phone call, Mueller said Barr's March 24th letter, a four-page description of what Barr called the report's principal conclusions, did not fully capture the context and substance of the more than 440 page document.
Mueller suggested that Barr release the brief summary sections of the report.
Justice Department officials described the conversation between the two men. The contents of Mueller's letter to Barr were first reported by the Washington Post.
The officials said Mueller did not describe Barr's letter as inaccurate but that he thought it was resulting in misleading news coverage about the report.
"He expressed frustration over the lack of context and the resulting media coverage regarding the special counsel's obstruction analysis," a Department of Justice spokeswoman said.
Members of Mueller's team have previously expressed frustration that Barr cleared Trump of obstruction of justice in a letter summarizing Mueller's findings in March. A U.S. official who spoke with the members of Mueller's team told NBC News early this month that they believed the evidence that Trump sought to impede the investigation was stronger than Barr suggested.
A senior law enforcement official who also has spoken to members of Mueller's team told NBC News this month that they say the report includes detailed accounts of contacts between Trump's campaign and Russia.
Barr told reporters two weeks ago that there were 10 potential "episodes" of obstruction of justice by Trump but that they didn't amount to illegal activity. But he acknowledged that he disagreed with some of Mueller's legal theories on whether those episodes amounted to obstruction "as a matter of law."
Barr — who expressed skepticism about Mueller's investigation before Trump made him attorney general — testified before a Senate committee this month that the investigation may have involved inappropriate surveillance of the Trump campaign. He said he would conduct a review of the matter.
Trump and congressional Republicans argue that the Russia investigation was the work of biased FBI leaders who bore ill will toward Trump, including former Director James Comey and former Acting Director Andrew McCabe, who was deputy director at the time. Both men have denied that they acted out of any bias.