Redacted Mueller Report ‘Within a Week’ Barr Tells Congress
Attorney General William Barr told a House Appropriations subcommittee Tuesday that he expects to release a redacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election “within a week” as he repeatedly defended his handling of the document.
Tuesday’s hearing was Barr’s first public appearance since he received Mueller’s report on March 22.
He was officially appearing on Capitol Hill to discuss the President’s 2020 Justice Department budget request and did not mention the Mueller report in his opening statement.
But Democrats on the panel wasted no time in pressing him on what one called “the elephant in the room.”
“The American people have been left with many unanswered questions; serious concerns about the process by which you formulated your letter; and uncertainty about when we can expect to see the full report,” said Representative José Serrano, D-N.Y., the subcommittee chair, in his opening remarks.
“I think it would strike a serious blow to our system and yes, to our democracy, if that report is not fully seen,” Serrano said.
Congressional Democrats have criticized Barr’s decision to share a summary of Mueller’s findings in a four-page letter that quoted only briefly from the actual report, and for his declaration that President Donald Trump had not committed obstruction-of-justice after Mueller declined to render his own judgment.
They stepped up their complaints about Barr’s handling of the report after The New York Times and Washington Post revealed that members of Mueller’s investigative team were unhappy with the attorney general’s interpretation of their findings.
Representative Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, said she found Barr’s handling of the report unacceptable and questioned how he could summarize the findings contained in a 400-page report in just two days.
“Even for someone who has done this job before, I would argue it is more suspicious than impressive” she said, referring to Barr’s first stint as attorney general under then-President George H. W. Bush.
Barr responded by saying, “The thinking of the special counsel was not a mystery to the Department of Justice prior to the submission of the report.”
The attorney general also revealed that he offered Mueller the chance to review the four-page letter, but that Mueller declined.
When Democrats continued to ask about the brevity of his letter, Barr was unapologetic.
“I felt I should state bottom-line conclusions, and I tried to use special counsel Mueller’s own language in doing that,” he said.
Throughout his testimony, the attorney general said he could not discuss the substance of the Mueller report with Congress until he turns over the redacted version of the report next week.
But he did offer some insight into how the report is currently being reviewed.
Barr told the panel that Justice Department personnel are scouring the report to remove grand jury information and details relating to pending investigations. These redactions will be color-coded and accompanied by notes explaining the decision to withhold information, he said.
“This process is going along very well and my original timetable of being able to release this by mid-April stands,” Barr said. “And so I think that from my standpoint, within a week I will be in a position to release the report to the public.”
The attorney general also said he could be open to releasing some redacted details after consulting with congressional leaders, though he said he did not have plans to ask a court for permission to disclose secret grand jury testimony.
Barr is to testify on the report itself at separate hearings before the Senate and House Judiciary committees on May 1 and May 2. Representative Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Judiciary panel, confirmed the May 2 date on Twitter. He also said he would like Mueller to testify before the committee “at the appropriate time.”
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has said he would be satisfied hearing only from Barr and not Mueller.
In response to Barr’s testimony on Tuesday, Nadler tweeted, ”Congress is—as a matter of law—entitled to each of the categories AG Barr proposed to redact from the Special Counsel’s report. Full release of the report to Congress is consistent with both congressional intent and the interests of the American public.”
Barr is likely to be asked to further explain his handling of the Mueller report at a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing Wednesday that was also scheduled to talk about the Justice Department budget.
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