For the 53.4 percent of Americans who disapprove of the president’s performance, the Mueller report, whenever it is released, will be must-read material. Unfortunately for this small majority, there are several reasons why the public might not be able to see the results of the nearly two-year investigation in full.
Obviously, the president wants it under wraps. Attorney General William Barr, who will send the report to Congress, is unlikely to provide lawmakers with “derogatory” information about people who were not charged with a crime — meaning juicy, if tangential, details will stay confidential. And, as a criminal investigator, it’s unlikely that Mueller would prepare a report meant to be read as a comprehensive thriller. “That’s just the way this works,” John Q. Barrett, a veteran of the independent counsel that investigated the Iran-Contra scandal, told Politico. “He’s not government oversight, and he’s not a historian.”
On Thursday, Lindsey Graham made clear another roadblock to the public’s access to the report: the Republican-controlled Senate. In the morning, Democrats passed a House resolution 420 to zero in support of releasing the probe to the public, serving as a gesture to pressure William Barr into showing as much of the report as possible. In the afternoon, Graham promptly shut down the symbolic gesture, blocking Chuck Schumer’s request to pass the House resolution. Graham, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, went a step further, requesting that AG William Barr should appoint a second special counsel to investigate “misconduct” in the Department of Justice over the handling of Hillary Clinton’s emails, and the government surveillance of Trump campaign staffer Carter Page.
“We let Mueller look at all things Trump related to collusion and otherwise,” Graham said. “Somebody needs to look at what happened on the other side and find out if the FBI and the DOJ had two systems, one supporting the person they wanted to win and one out to get the person they wanted to lose.” Graham added: “Any American out there who did what Secretary Clinton did, you’d be in jail now. The question I want to know is, does anybody other than me believe that?”
As the Mueller investigation draws toward its end, deflections like Graham’s will be inevitable. Despite calls for transparency — including an impressive uncontested vote in the House — some Republican leaders will make distracting noises or otherwise try to suppress the report in order to limit Trump’s chance at a one-term presidency. But there is some conciliatory news for people off the hill who want to read the Mueller report: the bulk of its details may already be public. The immense reporting project of the past two years may contain much of the Mueller investigation’s final details, just without the affirmation that the special counsel’s office also finds the misadventures of Trump’s son and son-in-law utterly captivating.