Attorney General Barr Faces Bipartisan Pressure To Make Mueller Report Public

Mar 23, 2019
Originally published on March 23, 2019 11:41 pm

Updated at 4:58 p.m. ET

After nearly two years of waiting, special counsel Robert Mueller's report into Russia's attack on the 2016 presidential election is finally done. And there's growing bipartisan pressure on Attorney General William Barr to make it public.

Barr, who received Mueller's findings on Friday evening, told congressional leaders in a letter that he was "reviewing the report and anticipate that I may be in a position to advise you of the Special Counsel's principal conclusions as soon as this weekend."

But a Justice Department official said Saturday afternoon that the information Barr is to provide Congress is "not coming today."

Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein were at the Justice Department on Saturday, the official said. "They're analyzing the report, working very closely together," the official added, to put together their submission to Congress.

In a letter to her Democratic colleagues, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Saturday that House Democrats "are insisting that any briefings to any Committees be unclassified so that Members can speak freely about every aspect of the report and not be confined to what DOJ chooses to release publicly."

A Justice Department official said Friday that Mueller's report does not recommend any future indictments, although criminal charges against more than 30 individuals and entities, including onetime top aides and associates to President Trump, have already been filed.

The Trump administration has said little publicly about the report's completion, by design, according to Rudy Giuliani, one of Trump's personal attorneys on the Russia matter.

"I think we've said everything we can say," Giuliani told NPR Saturday. "There's nothing more to be said until we see the report. I have the same sort of theory about it that everybody else has. If they're not going to indict anybody else, then they can't have any further evidence of collusion. Otherwise they would have brought some kind of conspiracy indictment."

But that view is not shared by congressional Democrats. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., told NPR's All Things Considered on Friday that he believes the facts and evidence "are likely to show collusion and a lot of wrongdoing that might not be indicted." He says that's because Justice Department policy is that a sitting president cannot be indicted and that the standard for indictment is proof beyond a reasonable doubt. "So Congress and the American people really need and deserve to know all findings and evidence of wrongdoing and criminality that may not have led to an indictment but should lead to holding people accountable and changes in the laws."

Giuliani said the president's legal team may respond to the Mueller report with its own document. "There's a draft report that we prepared, which is available if we need," he said. "So if they don't say anything harmful or critical that's worth responding to, we won't respond. If they do say something, then we'll put out whatever is necessary to rebut it."

Democrats have long been pushing Barr, who was confirmed to lead the Justice Department last month, to make Mueller's report public as a further glimpse into what the 2016 Trump campaign's Russia ties and contacts were.

Saturday, Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told NPR he thought it would be appropriate to hold a hearing with both Barr and Mueller, depending on what is in the special counsel's report and how comprehensive the disclosures to the public wind up being. "A hearing with the attorney general and the special counsel would certainly be a way for us to inform the general public about what we did and didn't get and why," Coons said. "I think there's going to be a lot of folks with lingering questions."

Earlier this month in a sweeping bipartisan vote, the House of Representatives said the report should be released; however, that vote is not legally binding.

The Democratic chairmen of six major House committees issued a statement Friday demanding that Barr release the report to the public "without delay given the profound public interest in the full disclosure of information learned by the Special Counsel."

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., the vice chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, said Congress should get full access to the report. He also wants all documents related to Mueller's investigation to be preserved and made available to the appropriate committees on Capitol Hill. Finally, Warner said, the public should also have some access to Mueller's final work product after nearly two years of investigating.

"Congress and the American people deserve to judge the facts for themselves," Warner said. "The special counsel's report must be provided to Congress immediately, and the attorney general should swiftly prepare a declassified version of the report for the public. Nothing short of that will suffice."

Blumenthal also said that the full report, not simply Mueller's conclusions, should be made public.

"No one should be satisfied with what we see unless it is full disclosure of the facts and evidence — not just the conclusions, but all of the findings that went into those conclusions," Blumenthal said. "No scrubbing for executive privilege, no involvement by the White House in censoring or reviewing and no claims of executive privilege."

House intelligence committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., told All Things Considered that he "will subpoena people as necessary" based on information in the report. "We are determined that we protect the public and that we make this as transparent as possible."

And on Friday, as the long-anticipated investigation was finally done, some top Republicans echoed their Democratic colleagues.

Maine Sen. Susan Collins, a moderate Republican who is up for re-election in 2020, tweeted that "Barr should release the report to the public as soon as possible, while accommodating national security considerations."

Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, who is the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, also said that Mueller's report should be given to the public to the "maximum extent permitted by law."

Republicans were quick to interpret the news that no further charges were apparently forthcoming as full vindication of the president, who has long called the Mueller investigation a "witch hunt."

"We've seen no additional evidence whatsoever that the investigation is going to move forward. In fact, the opposite is 100 percent true," former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski told All Things Considered. "And this marks the final conclusion of the special counsel's investigation into the Russia investigation — uh, potential collusion narrative between the Trump campaign and the Russians. This is the end of it after 675 days."

Even some top Republicans, though, backed making the report public to finally and fully quash any doubts about Trump and his 2016 campaign.

"Now that he's wrapped up his investigation, Attorney General Barr must provide Congress and the American people with the findings to finally put an end to the speculation and innuendo that has loomed over this administration since its earliest days," said Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, a past Senate Judiciary Committee chairman. "Attempts to keep the collusion narrative alive, especially for political reasons, will only serve to further harm our political discourse and play into the hands of our foreign adversaries."

Earlier this week, Trump seemed to be amenable to that as well.

"Let it come out. Let people see it — that's up to the attorney general," the president told reporters as he was departing for a trip to Ohio.

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