Attorney General Bill Barr said Tuesday that he would be in position to release the special counsel’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election within the week but that portions of it would be redacted in order to protect ongoing investigations and the privacy and reputation of individuals who have not been charged.
Setting up a potentially contentious showdown with lawmakers, Barr added that he had no plans to release a full, unredacted report to Congress, despite their demands for one.
“I don’t intend at this stage to send the full unredacted report to the [judiciary] committee,” Barr said. He also said that he would not seek a court order to release grand jury information despite demands by judiciary chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) for such information to be provided.
The attorney general answered questions about the Mueller report in a hearing in front of the House Appropriations Committee on the Department of Justice’s 2020 budget. Barr said that his team, along with members of the special counsel’s office, was still in the midst of redacting the report, including material related to grand jury testimonies. When released, the report will be color coded to show why each redacted section was being withheld from public viewing, Barr said.
Members of the committee, including the chair, Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), pressed Barr on the process he used to write his four-page summary of the report. Barr said that the attorney general’s office consulted with members of the special counsel’s office in the weeks leading up to its submission of the report. He also said that he had offered Mueller a chance to review his summary of Mueller’s findings but that Mueller declined the offer. Since Barr released his four-page memo, it has been reported that investigators in the special counsel’s office felt that the report was more damaging to President Trump than Barr reflected in his summary.
Barr’s summary said that the special counsel’s office “did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.” It went on to say that the special counsel’s office stated in its report that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
Should Barr follow through on his timeline of releasing the redacted version, the report could very well be released next week, when Congress is out on recess.
President Donald Trump had initially said that he would welcome the full release of the Mueller report. But in recent days he has taken to Twitter to insist that Democrats would not be satisfied even were a full release of the report to happen, and hinting at his own reservations about some of the report’s details being made public.
Lowey asked Barr if he had consulted with the White House before releasing his summary. Barr declined to answer.
“I’ve said what I’m going to say about the report today,” he said, adding that he was prepared to testify in front of Congress about the report in May.
Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL) asked Barr if he let anyone outside of the Department of Justice read his March 24 letter to Congress summarizing Mueller’s work.
“The answer, I am pretty sure, is no,” Barr said.
“You’re not sure?” Crist asked.
“I am sure,” Barr said.
Later, Barr clarified that before the letter went out to Congress, the attorney general’s office told the White House counsel that the summary was sent out.
“I think it may have been read to them,” Barr said, adding that he did not think that the White House actually saw the letter or that saying he doesn’t believe they saw the letter and didn’t get chance to change it.