Trump’s New Attorney General Could Bury The Mueller Report

Trump up close.
Mark Wilson

Just days after the Senate voted to confirm newly-appointed Attorney General William Barr, CNN reported that sources close to the special counsel say Robert Mueller could deliver his final report on Russian election meddling as soon as next week. The delivery of that report may mark the end of whatever brief honeymoon period Barr might have had, as he will then find himself responsible for laying out the path forward for delivering the results of the special counsel’s investigation.

Some have already expressed concern that Barr could choose not to let Mueller’s report go very far at all.

One source of that concern is a memo written by Barr which defined an expansive view of presidential power that largely allowed a president to shut down investigations as desired with few checks or balances to counteract anything that might cross the line into obstruction of justice.

The memo, with the subject line “Mueller’s ‘Obstruction’ Theory,” was directed to then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Assistant Attorney General Steve Engel.

“Everything that is my concern is in the memo, the 19-page memo he wrote five months before he was appointed,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein.

“To me, it was an invitation to be appointed with his support for the unitary executive and the all-powerful president.”

Barr showed further insight into his thinking on such topics during his confirmation hearing, when he was asked explicitly about how he might handle the delivery of Mueller’s report.

“There are different reports at work here,” Barr said.

“Under the current regulations, the special counsel report is confidential, and the report that goes public would be a report by the attorney general.”

Barr’s statement leaves open the possibility that Congress, not to mention the public, would be shielded entirely from Mueller’s report and would instead receive some form of summary produced by the Justice Department, if not Barr himself, instead.

During his confirmation hearings, Barr assured the Senate and the public that he would not allow political motivations to influence the Justice Department under his leadership. When pressed by Democrats on the specific issue of the special counsel investigation, however, Barr made no clear commitment that he would make the report’s findings public, sparking concerns that he could conceal any materials politically or legally damaging to the president.

Republicans in Congress expressed confidence in Barr.

“Steady leadership at a time we need steady leadership to give a morale boost to the Department of Justice,” said Senator Lindsey Graham prior to his confirmation.

“Somebody who will be fair to the president, but also be fair to the rule of law and protect the integrity of the Department of Justice.”