William Barr Should Almost Certainly NOT Release The Entire Mueller Report
Yesterday, Special Counsel Robert Mueller submitted his long-awaited report to U.S. Attorney General William Barr. Barr and former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will now review the report, submit an initial summary to Congress, and then further determine how much, if any, of the report should be seen by the public. Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives voted unanimously to make the report public, and there are similar calls from many in the press, the public and other areas to release the report in its entirety in the name of government transparency. Yet there are legitimate reasons not to do so, and those reasons should be supported by sensible and justice-seeking Democrats and Republicans.
The key conclusions of the Mueller report should absolutely be made public. The American people deserve to know as much as possible about, as Richard Nixon put it, “whether or not their President is a crook.” Americans have waited patiently for those conclusions for two years, paid millions of dollars for the investigation, and the key findings can help somewhat reunite the public around a shared reality.
But Robert Mueller’s investigation was limited to three main topics:
- Any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump;
- Any federal crimes that arise directly from the investigation into that; and
- Any federal crimes committed in the course of – with intent to interfere with – the Special Counsel’s investigation, such as perjury, obstruction of justice, destruction of evidence, and intimidation of witnesses
While this may appear to be a rather broad scope, it should be noted that Robert Mueller appears to have employed two practices during the course of his investigation.
First, he has farmed out a number of issues and pieces of evidence to other parts of the justice system such as the Southern District of New York. He may have done this for a combination of reasons:
- Desire not to burn through more resources than absolutely necessary during his own investigation
- Too small a staff to investigate all criminal activity that was uncovered during his investigation
- Desire to ensure that information about possible criminal activity by the President (not directly related to Russia) be disseminated as far and wide throughout the justice system as possible to make it difficult for the President to extract it and stop investigation into the crimes prematurely
- Desire to ensure that Mueller is not seen as overstepping his bounds by investigating matters outside of his jurisdiction
It also appears that Mueller’s team may have already filed a number of sealed indictments. These are indictments that cannot be acted on until after the person is arrested. Since they are still sealed, we can assume that those individuals have not yet been arrested. Mueller may have done this for a combination of reasons:
- Consistent with stated Justice Department policy, a sitting President cannot be indicted. It is possible therefore that some of those indictments relate to the President and/or members of his family, and will not be opened until after the President leaves (or is removed from) office
- Mueller anticipates that further evidence of the crimes in the sealed indictments will be produced in the course of the investigations that he has farmed out to organizations like the Southern District of New York
All of these likely actions by Mueller indicate that, while his own investigation may be largely over, there are investigations related to the President that are still active. If that is the case, publicly releasing all of the information in his report could jeopardize the integrity of those investigations. Such information could tip off criminals to currently undisclosed lines of investigation, enabling them to cover their tracks, destroy evidence, or learn of sources and methods currently being used to investigate them.
Additionally, given the nature of what Mueller was investigating, it is quite likely that some information in his report is classified for national security reasons. The public should not take that lightly. More than two years of intensive open discussion in our nation’s press has no doubt already provided Russia with valuable marketing information on what parts of their activities worked well, which ones didn’t, and how to better avoid detection in the future. We don’t need to give Russia and other hostile foreign powers – via public disclosure – what little information is still being held close to the vest by our national security community.
For these reasons, we should expect – and embrace – William Barr’s release of a redacted (lines blacked out) version of the Mueller report. While many people on the left argue for full transparency, and may have deep suspicions of anything less, a redacted report likely indicates that the U.S. criminal justice system is still proceeding exactly as it should. It also may indicate that criminal charges for activities like money laundering, witness tampering, RICO, bank fraud and insurance fraud may still be in the President’s future.
– rob rünt