The peo­ple de­serve to know

Congress should pass the Spe­cial Coun­sel Trans­parency Act.

The Washington Post Sunday - - SUNDAY OPINION -

IN FRI­DAY tes­ti­mony be­fore the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, act­ing at­tor­ney gen­eral Matthew G. Whi­taker in­sisted that he has not tried to stymie the Jus­tice Depart­ment’s Rus­sia probe and has not dis­cussed it with the White House. But one ques­tion re­mains open: What will hap­pen once spe­cial coun­sel Robert S. Mueller III wraps up his in­ves­ti­ga­tion and sub­mits a re­port to Jus­tice Depart­ment lead­ers, whether Mr. Whi­taker or Wil­liam P. Barr, the man Pres­i­dent Trump nom­i­nated to be the next at­tor­ney gen­eral, is in charge?

Mr. Trump has been clear about his hos­til­ity to Mr. Mueller and his “witch hunt” in­ves­ti­ga­tion, lead­ing to con­cern that the pres­i­dent’s Jus­tice Depart­ment ap­pointees will sup­press the pub­lic re­lease of Mr. Mueller’s find­ings. In his con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings, Mr. Barr ex­pressed sup­port for Mr. Mueller, in­sisted he would care­fully fol­low depart­ment rules and promised he would err on the side of trans­parency when it came to de­cid­ing how much of the spe­cial coun­sel’s find­ings to re­lease pub­licly. Given depart­ment guide­lines, that was about as much as he could rea­son­ably say.

But at the end of this process, there must be no doubt that the pub­lic will hear from the spe­cial coun­sel — no pos­si­bil­ity that pres­i­den­tial pres­sure or some other con­sid­er­a­tion will lead Jus­tice Depart­ment lead­ers to keep rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion from Congress and Amer­i­cans at large. The Mueller probe is not just an­other crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion. It is also an in­quiry into a for­eign at­tack on the na­tion’s demo­cratic sys­tem, the de­tails of which are the pub­lic’s to know, and an in­quest into of­fi­cial malfea­sance at some of the high­est lev­els of gov­ern­ment. If the air can be cleared, it must be.

Sens. Richard Blu­men­thal (D-Conn.) and Charles E. Grass­ley (R-Iowa) in­tro­duced a bill last month that would re­quire pub­lic dis­clo­sures from Mr. Mueller and ev­ery other sub­se­quent spe­cial coun­sel. The Spe­cial Coun­sel Trans­parency Act would de­mand “a re­port to Congress at the con­clu­sion of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion or within two weeks of a re­moval, trans­fer, or res­ig­na­tion.” That re­port would have to in­clude “all fac­tual find­ings and un­der­ly­ing ev­i­dence.”

To be clear, not ev­ery po­ten­tially un­flat­ter­ing de­tail Mr. Mueller dredges up needs to be on the record. But core con­clu­sions and ev­i­dence must be. And be­cause spe­cial coun­sel in­ves­ti­ga­tions are rare and in­volve se­ri­ous ques­tions of of­fi­cial wrong­do­ing, the pub­lic will have a sim­i­lar in­ter­est in trans­parency in later spe­cial coun­sel probes, as well. The bill should pass — and quickly.

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