The trim man with salt-and-pepper hair and broad, kind features can occasionally be seen in court proceedings connected to special counsel Robert Mueller, sitting in the back of courtrooms taking notes in an extra-large government ledger.
But Peter Carr, who speaks for Mueller, almost never says a thing.
As the spokesman for the special counsel’s office, Carr is one of the only official sources of information on the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, a probe that has riveted the public — and the president. Yet Mueller’s office has been notoriously tight-lipped, and the special counsel has only two modes of public communication: statements in court, which sometimes yield blockbuster stories, and comments from Carr that almost always tell us nothing.
Carr is personable and helpful with small logistical questions, but never forthcoming on the big ones.
Last August, Carr was in attendance as federal prosecutors made their case against President Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort in Virginia. He exchanged pleasantries and revealed he was reading a “scintillating” Tony Hillerman mystery novel, but declined to comment when asked about the day’s legal drama.
Carr was willing to confirm a few details of his personal history. He came from Utah to Washington, D.C., where he got his start working as a spokesperson for Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Republican from his home state. Carr has been at the Justice Department since 2007, and he has regularly handled sensitive topics and high-profile investigations. When asked which case was his favorite, Carr got a far-off look in his eye and responded that he could not say.
These real-life encounters with Carr are rare for reporters. Far more common are his emails, which nearly always include a four-word refrain: “We’ll decline to comment.”
While the real details of the Mueller probe have largely remained a mystery, a cottage industry has emerged with experts both legitimate and self-appointed offering forecasts, analysis and even purported insider info. An assortment of grifters, pundits and partisans have been projecting their hopes and expectations onto the Mueller probe, resulting in false predictions of the president’s imminent demise and the widespread conventional wisdom that a final report on the investigation will be made public, even though this isn’t required by any regulations.
In this fevered climate, Carr has become a persistent source of fascination among reporters on the Trump/Russia beat, who parse his every word and have even noticed hints of humor peeking through his information blockade. But ultimately, Carr is just as much of a cypher as his boss, and any attempt to analyze him or glean greater meaning from his work yields few concrete answers.
One thing is certain, every one of Carr’s rare utterances grabs the media’s attention.