Special Counsel Robert Mueller has completed his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, and now it’s up to Attorney General William Barr to decide what to do with it, as CNN reports.
In response, Barr has released a letter that he sent to leaders of the House and Senate judiciary committees, committing to keep them in the loop as he completes his review and that he would, pursuant to the law, provide the leaders with a summary of the “principle conclusions” of the investigation.
Barr, in his letter, pledged “as much transparency as possible.”
While the sentiment of transparency is desirable to those who feel that the findings of the report should be made available to at least Congress, if not the American public at large, it does run contrary to some statements that Barr has made in the past.
As attorney general, Barr is alone in control of the dissemination of the report and even prior to his confirmation and long before the report was complete, many had expressed concern that he would block dissemination of the report altogether.
One source of that concern was a memo written by Barr which interpreted an expansive view of presidential power that essentially allowed a president to unilaterally shut down investigations such as this one with few checks or balances.
The memo’s subject line was “Mueller’s ‘Obstruction’ Theory,” and it was directed to then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, as well as 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 prior to Barr’s confirmation. “To me, it was an invitation to be appointed with his support for the unitary executive and the all-powerful president.”
Barr shed further light onto his thinking on such topics during his confirmation hearing, when he was asked specifically about how he might handle Mueller’s inevitable 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, to say nothing of the public, would be kept out of the loop entirely from Mueller’s full report and rather would receive some form of summary produced by Barr himself.
We don’t know many details yet about Special Counsel Mueller’s report. But there is one thing I know: the report must be made public immediately. Add your name if you agree →https://t.co/fdP6YOBrDm
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) March 23, 2019
During his confirmation, Barr insisted that he would not allow political motivations to influence his actions. But when pressed by Democrats on the specific issue of Mueller’s investigation, he made no clear commitment that he would make the report’s findings public, stoking concerns that he might conceal information damaging to the president or allies.
Republicans in Congress have 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.”
Barr’s next actions could very well settle the debate in the very near future.