- The Justice Department publicly defended Attorney General William Barr’s decision to release a four-page letter on the contents of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election on Thursday.
- The DOJ’s statement came after The New York Times and The Washington Post reported that some members of Mueller’s team were frustrated with Barr’s characterization of the nearly 400-page report.
- The DOJ said every page of the report has sensitive information that needs to be redacted before the document is released to Congress and the public.
The Justice Department publicly defended Attorney General William Barr’s decision to release a four-page letter on the contents of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election on Thursday.
In addition to investigating Russia’s election meddling, Mueller was also tasked with examining whether members of President Donald Trump’s campaign conspired with Moscow to tilt the race in his favour, and whether Trump obstructed justice in the investigation after its existence became public knowledge.
On Wednesday, The New York Times and The Washington Post reported that some members of Mueller’s team were frustrated with the way Barr had characterised their findings. The reports also said Mueller’s team had prepared multiple summaries of their own of their conclusions and were perplexed as to why Barr didn’t include more information from those summaries in his initial review.
The DOJ released a statement Thursday saying every page of the report, which Barr confirmed is more than 400 pages in length, includes sensitive grand jury information that has to be redacted before the report can be released.
“Every page of the confidential report provided to Attorney General Barr on March 22, 2019 was marked ‘may contain material protected under Fed. R. Crim P. 6(e)’ – a law that protections confidential grand jury information – and therefore could not be released,” the statement explained.
Barr’s initial letter said Mueller’s team did not come to a “traditional prosecutorial decision” on whether there was sufficient evidence to prove that Trump committed offenses related to obstruction of justice and “did not come to a conclusion one way or another” but also “did not exonerate” Trump with regard to obstruction.
But people familiar with the matter told The Post they believed Barr’s letter on Mueller’s report downplayed the fact that “the evidence they gathered on obstruction was alarming and significant.”
And according to The Times, some members of Mueller’s team have told associates that they are concerned Barr’s initial review of the report, which included his “principal conclusions” of Mueller’s findings, has already shaped the public’s perception of the probe before the final report has been released.
In a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, Barr said he is working with Mueller’s team to release as much of the report as possible to the public.
The Thursday DOJ statement reiterated Barr’s desire not to release the report in a “serial or piecemeal fashion” and said the department “continues to work with the special counsel on appropriate redactions to the report so it can be released to Congress and the public.”
But House Democrats are moving to subpoena a full, unredacted copy of the report from the Justice Department.
“We have reason to suspect [the Trump administration’s] motives,” Nadler said in a statement on Wednesday before the House Judiciary Committee voted to authorise subpoenas for the report. “The Mueller report probably isn’t the ‘total exoneration’ the President claims it to be. And, in any event, this Committee has a job to do. The Constitution charges Congress with holding the President accountable for alleged official misconduct.”
“That job requires us to evaluate the evidence for ourselves – not the Attorney General’s summary, not a substantially redacted synopsis, but the full report and the underlying evidence,” the statement said.
Trump initially said he would support releasing Mueller’s full report without redactions. But the president shifted gears in recent days, slamming Democrats and suggesting an unredacted version should not be released to Congress or the public.
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