BARR’S BREVITY DEFENDED
Attorney General William Barr’s brevity in describing Mueller report is defended by the Justice Department.
The Justice Department defended Attorney General William Barr’s handling of the special counsel report Thursday, saying that it had to be scrubbed of sensitive information, amid revelations that some members of the office have said he failed to adequately portray their findings and the extent to which they could damage President Donald Trump.
“Given the extraordinary public interest in the matter, the attorney general decided to release the report’s bottom-line findings and his conclusions immediately – without attempting to summarize the report – with the understanding that the report itself would be released after the redaction process,” a Justice Department spokeswoman, Kerri Kupec, said in a statement.
At issue is a four-page letter that Barr wrote to lawmakers March 24 outlining the main findings of the nearly two-year investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller. Quoting sparingly from the nearly 400-page report delivered to him two days earlier, the attorney general revealed that Mueller had declined to decide whether the president illegally obstructed the inquiry and that Barr himself had stepped in to conclude that Trump did not commit an obstruction offense.
Some of Mueller’s investigators have told associates in recent days that Barr could have released more of their own work, government officials and others familiar with their frustrations told The New York Times for an article published Wednesday.
Trump attacked the article, falsely asserting on Twitter that Times reporters relied on “no legitimate sources,” a longstanding tactic of his to try to dismiss news reports that portray him negatively.
Barr has told lawmakers that his letter was an update of his progress in reviewing the report and that the document was not intended to fulfill a requirement under Justice Department regulations that he send a summary to Congress at the end of any special counsel investigation. Though Kupec said Barr was not trying to summarize the report, she was referring only to the regulatory requirement for a summary.
Kupec also said that the report and its release were subject to the regulations, which stipulate that Mueller prepare a confidential document of his findings intended only for the attorney general. She also said that sensitive information had to be blacked out first, noting that “every page of the ‘confidential report' “was marked with a warning that it may contain secret grand jury testimony. Barr and other law enforcement officials are also reviewing the document for classified material, information about continuing investigations and derogatory details about third parties not directly related to the inquiry.
The attorney general has said he is aiming to send to lawmakers a redacted version of the report by mid-April.
The special counsel’s report included summaries of the major findings, and some team members believed Barr should have included more of their material in his March 24 letter, according to the government officials. But the attorney general “does not believe the report should be released in a ‘serial or piecemeal fashion,’” Kupec said, citing a letter that Barr wrote to lawmakers Friday.
Justice Department officials have also said they determined that the summaries contained sensitive information that needed to be reviewed before they were released.
Democrats have demanded full access to the report. The House Judiciary Committee voted Wednesday to let its chairman, Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, use a subpoena to compel Barr to turn over a complete copy of the Mueller report.
Nadler said Thursday that the reports about frustration among members of the special counsel team would not alter his plan to give Barr a bit more time to hand over the report voluntarily before issuing a subpoena.
But given the frustrations expressed by some of Mueller’s investigators, Nadler asked Barr in a letter Thursday to turn over all communications between the special counsel’s office and other Justice Department officials about the report, including discussions about the disclosure of the report to Congress or the public and about Barr’s March 24 letter.
Nadler also said that Barr had undermined his own desire to release the report all at once when he outlined the principal conclusions “in a fashion that appears to minimize the implications of the report as to the president.”
People gather for a rally at Park Square in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, one of hundreds across the country on Thursday that called on U.S. Attorney General William Barr to make the findings of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation public.