As Attorney General William Barr works with Robert Mueller to redact Mueller’s report on the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, it appears that the report could be delivered without the expected step of allowing the White House to review and redact portions due to executive privilege, The Inquirer reports. While it was first widely presumed that the Trump administration would have an opportunity to review the report and redact portions as desired, Barr has since indicated to Congress that it will not happen in that way.
Although Barr has indicated that executive privilege would likely apply to portions of the report, it seems that his intent is to redact such information personally, if at all, rather than deferring to the White House to do so. The approach was detailed in a letter to lawmakers.
“Although the President would have the right to assert privilege over certain parts of the report,” he wrote in the letter, “he has stated publicly that he intends to defer to me, and, accordingly, there are no plans to submit the report to the White House for a privilege review.”
A spokesperson for the Justice Department would not comment on whether this phrasing meant that there would be no claims of executive privilege invoked or if it meant that Barr would take it upon himself to remove any offending information on Trump’s behalf.
A 1989 legal opinion written by Barr himself on behalf of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel sheds some light on what could be Barr’s approach in this case. The opinion affirmed a longstanding Justice Department policy that the attorney general and others could advise the president on matters of executive privilege, but that the only one who can actually invoke it is the president personally.
The opinion cites a 1982 memorandum which says “executive privilege cannot be asserted without specific authorization by the President, based on recommendations made to him by the concerned agency head, the Attorney General, and the Counsel to the President.”
Trump so far has been largely dismissive of questions concerning the release of the report, originally stating that it completely exonerated him and should be released and later characterizing those demanding to see the full report as partisan opponents with bad intentions.
Seven weeks into his new job, William Barr is already in the middle of a gathering political storm over the special counsel’s 400-page report. His career legacy could be on the line https://t.co/KfnVJ6diPG
— POLITICO (@politico) April 6, 2019
The president has, however, consistently deferred to his attorney general as far as the specifics of handling the report’s release, which many have long speculated was the driving motivation behind Trump’s desire to appoint Barr in the first place.
Barr has said that Congress should expect the redacted report, in whatever form it takes, by mid-April.