Now that the Mueller report has been completed and no collusion has been found, the tears of disappointment have been flooding the halls of Congress. As if directly on cue, and in an effort to save face, Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee have now turned their attention to Attorney General William Barr.
In doing so, some have raised the possibility that Barr has broken the law or obstructed justice because of how he handled Mueller’s report. Sadly, their attack on Barr was as predictable as it is erroneous.
From a legal standpoint, the ultimate decision as to what information is released belongs to Barr, according to the applicable regulation.
Furthermore, according to Fox News, “The attorney general may release the report if he or she determines doing so is ‘in the public interest.’ However, such release must ‘comply with applicable legal restrictions.’”
Shortly after receiving and reviewing Mueller’s report, Barr issued a letter setting forth Mueller’s main conclusions (a “bottom line”). As Politico reported, Barr advised that “Mueller had not established there was a criminal conspiracy or coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian government to meddle in the last presidential election.”
Barr also explained that “Mueller took no position on whether Trump obstructed justice, though he quoted the special counsel as noting, ‘while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.’” Barr subsequently indicated that he would release the entire report, with redactions, by mid-April, or sooner.
Looking for a lifeline of any sort to save their sinking ship, the House Judiciary Committee voted along party lines to authorize Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) to issue, among other things, subpoenas for the full Mueller report and all the underlying evidence.
In response, Barr advised that he was working with Robert Mueller’s office to redact grand jury information, classified information, and other sensitive information.
Barr’s decision to provide a redacted version of the report (as opposed to the full report) is sound. Despite this, some have accused Barr of potential wrongdoing with regard to how he’s handled the Mueller report.
According to Politico:
“Some members of Congress are even asking whether Barr himself has broken the law, saying his characterization of the Mueller probe allowed Trump and his allies to build a public narrative clearing the president of any wrongdoing—all without actually releasing a full version of the special counsel’s findings.
“’If it turns out that he has obstructed justice by how he has handled the Mueller report, that will be a deep stain on his legacy,’ said Rep. Hank Johnson, a Georgia Democrat and member of the House Judiciary Committee, who cautioned that Barr’s conduct is difficult to evaluate without seeing the full report.”
This argument is based on the false premise that Congress is entitled to the full, unredacted report and the underlying evidence. This isn’t necessarily the case. To the contrary, there are several obstacles to the release of the full report and the underlying evidence, including, but not limited to, the Department of Justice’s longstanding protocol of not releasing negative information about people who aren’t indicted and the existence of grand jury information.
According to Nadler, the Democrats’ request for the entire Mueller report is justified because the full Kenneth Starr report, including grand jury information, was released in 1998. While Nadler is correct, the Starr report was governed by the Independent Counsel Law, which required the special counsel to report to the House of Representatives “substantial and credible information” of impeachable conduct. However, this law has since expired and doesn’t govern Barr’s behavior relative to the Mueller report.
Barr has consistently indicated his willingness to release as much of the Mueller report as is permissible under the law. To date, there has been no indication that he has been less than transparent throughout the entire process.
In reality, congressional Democrats are worried. The Mueller report deflated their Russia collusion narrative, and they are desperately hoping to find something else to pin on the president—one thing that has been mentioned is obstruction of justice during the investigation.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) called the criticism directed at Barr as “Democrat-driven sour grapes.” Moreover, according to Politico, George Terwilliger, who served under Barr as deputy attorney general in the George H.W. Bush administration, opined that Barr had “handled this exactly the way he said he would: aiming for maximum transparency but adhering to the requirements of the law, including the special counsel regulations.”
Congressional Democrats clearly won’t accept anything but the full report and the underlying evidence. Barr, on the other hand, will more than likely not provide the unredacted report. As a result, the nation’s highest court may be asked to decide this issue.
Elad Hakim is a writer, commentator, and attorney. His articles have been published in the Washington Examiner, The Daily Caller, The Federalist, The Western Journal, American Thinker, and other online publications.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.