Attorney General William Barr would have been happy if he could have just testified on funding for the Justice Department at today’s House Appropriations Committee hearing. But since he’s sitting on the year’s most important piece of information, the Mueller report, that wasn’t going to happen. And so he was grilled on the whens and hows of the report’s release, as the Washington Post reported:
Attorney General William P. Barr testified Tuesday that he thinks he will be able to release special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report “within a week.”
That means he’s on track to meet the “mid-April” time frame for release of the report to both Congress and the public that he indicated after sending Congress a synopsis of legal findings of the Mueller investigation on March 24. A lot of cynical media folk immediately predicted a weekend release like that of the earlier document, to limit public attention to the document.
As he had earlier stipulated, Barr noted there will be four areas in which material in the report will be “redacted” (i.e., blacked out):
He has told lawmakers that he will keep from public view grand jury material, information that could reveal intelligence sources and methods, information that could affect ongoing investigations, and details that would affect the privacy of people “peripheral” to Mueller’s investigation. He said Tuesday that he will color-code the redactions and provide “explanatory notes” so people know why various sections of the report are not being disclosed.
That will not satisfy congressional Democrats (and perhaps even a few Republicans) who can be expected to ask for broader disclosure of the report’s contents, but the extent to which demands become formal will depend on the scope of redactions.
Eyebrows were raised during the hearing when Barr evaded questions about whether he had given a sneak peek of or briefing about the report’s contents to the president or other administration officials, as the New York Times reported:
Representative Nita M. Lowey, Democrat of New York and chairwoman of the full Appropriations Committee, pressed Mr. Barr to say whether the White House has seen or been briefed on the contents of the Mueller report beyond what was in his letters about it to Congress. But Mr. Barr refused to answer.
“I’ve said what I’m going to say about the report today,” he said. “I’ve issued three letters about it. I was willing to discuss the historic information of how the report came to me and my decision on Sunday,” March 24, when he wrote a four-page letter to Congress laying out the special counsel’s top-line findings.
If Trump did get more than the synopsis, it could have helped the White House with its efforts to spin the entire investigation as a time-wasting “witch hunt” that had nonetheless “exonerated” him, whether or not the report actually supported that interpretation. So this isn’t the last time the question about who got the material when will be asked, particularly if the White House got to see an un-redacted version.
For now, all we know is that a lot of politicians and journalists in D.C. are trying to clear their schedules for the coming week.