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Friday, March 22, 2019

As the Mueller Report Drops, a Transparency Fight Begins

By Scott Shackford - March 22, 2019 at 08:00PM

Robert MuellerThere no need to ask if we'll see Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report about his investigation of Russian attempts to meddle in the 2016 presidential election. We almost certainly will. The real questions are when we'll get it, how much we'll see of it, and who's going to leak it.

Because these days, sieves are jealous of the federal government. If the report claims any sort of direct connection between President Donald Trump and Russian election interference, some folks are going to want to get that into the public's hands. And if the report does not show any connections, a different group of people is going want to leak that information out.

Unnamed Justice Department officials are telling reporters Mueller has recommended no further indictments. The letter from Attorney General Robert Barr to ranking members of Congress indicates that he found no actions by the Mueller's special investigation to be inappropriate. Barr further noted that he may be able to advise the heads of Congress' two judiciary committees of the conclusions reached by the report over the weekend.

That means something may leak out tomorrow or Sunday. A spokesperson from the Justice Department said the conclusions of the report (note that this isn't the same as the report itself) may be released to the public as the same time as it is to Congress, perhaps to avoid the issue of somebody on either side of the political aisle attempting to leak a heavily spun version of the conclusions.

In any event, Democratic leaders are now immediately calling for the entire report to be released:

And of course, presidential candidates among the Democrats are lining up behind that message. The desire to release the report might not actually be a Dems vs. GOP thing however: Recall that the House of Representatives voted 420–0 on a resolution to release the report, though it's not clear where the Senate stands. Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R–Ky.) is a bit non-committal in his response:

He's calling for "as much openness and transparency as possible" without actually saying he's going to push for the full report's release.

As for the complicated details of what happens to the report, here's an explainer. Barr has a lot of control over how much information will be made public and even revealed to Congress and Trump himself.

But given how much of geopolitical space this entire Russian investigation has consumed ever since Trump became president, it's easy to predict we're going to see much—maybe even all—of the report regardless of what Barr, or Trump, Pelosi, or McConnell want. And probably sooner rather than later.


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