William Barr rejects Democrats’ Mueller report demands
Every page of the nearly 400-page Mueller report contains information that cannot be made public and must be redacted, Attorney General William Barr said Thursday, explaining why he has not met congressional Democrats’ deadline for turning over the document to them.
Frustrated Democrats fired back, saying they suspect Mr. Barr was covering up for Mr. Trump and renewing their demands for a quick release of the report and for the Justice Department to provide all of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigative files to Capitol Hill.
In the meantime, Democrats said, Mr. Barr should immediately turn over summaries that the Mueller team prepared but the attorney general did not release, instead writing his own four-page summary of the report’s conclusions.
“If there is significant daylight between his account and yours, the American people should know that too,” Rep. Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat and House Judiciary Committee chairman, said in a letter to Mr. Barr.
Details about the summaries were first revealed in a curiously sourced piece late Wednesday in The New York Times.
The paper reported that some of Mr. Mueller’s investigators told associates that they were unhappy with Mr. Barr’s portrayal of their findings. The article attributes that finding to “government officials and others familiar with their simmering frustrations.” The Washington Post followed with a similar report Thursday.
Mr. Nadler said he wanted answers.
President Trump, though, said the New York Times report was unworthy.
“The New York Times had no legitimate sources, which would be totally illegal, conceding the Mueller report. In fact, they probably had no sources at all! They are a Fake News paper who have already been forced to apologize for their incorrect and very bad reporting on me,” Mr. Trump wrote.
In a statement, the newspaper fired back: “False. Our reporters interviewed multiple government officials and others to gather the facts for our story.”
Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney, attacked Mr. Mueller’s team for the reports. He called them “a bunch of sneaky, unethical leakers.“The Justice Department was less animated. It released a statement defending Mr. Barr’s four-page letter last month summarizing the findings.
“Given the extraordinary public interest in the matter, the attorney general decided to release the report’s bottom-line findings and his conclusions immediately without attempting to summarize the report with the understanding that the report itself would be released after the redaction process,” Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said.
She said Mr. Barr is working with Mr. Mueller on “appropriate redactions” to the report before releasing it to Congress and the public.
Under the law, the Justice Department says, information gleaned from a grand jury, as well as classified information, must be shielded. Ms. Kupec said every page of the report contained some of that information, which explains why it will still take time to scrub the document. She said Mr. Barr has rejected the alternative of releasing the report in parts.
Mr. Barr said last week that he plans to release a version by mid-April, if not sooner.
Mr. Nadler said the report already is being released piecemeal thanks to the attorney general’s four-page letter.
The congressman said he now not only wants to see the full report and Mr. Mueller’s investigative files, but he also has demanded all communications between the Mueller team and Mr. Barr.
That includes the summaries reportedly prepared by the special counsel that Mr. Barr didn’t release.
“It is notable that the department’s press statement this morning does not deny the existence of these summaries,” Mr. Nadler said Thursday. “If these summaries were, in fact, produced for public consumption by experienced prosecutors, then a precautionary marking should not be an impediment to public production in a very short period of time.”
Democrats have been skeptical of Mr. Barr since he was nominated late last year for the top Justice Department post.
They point to a 19-page memo he authored while in private practice saying Mr. Mueller could not charge the president with obstruction of justice. Democrats have said the memo is proof that Mr. Barr is out to shield Mr. Trump rather than make the Mueller report public.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, said Thursday that the way to cut through the questions was to present a full, fast production of Mr. Mueller’s work.
“The Mueller Report will be released,” Mrs. Pelosi told reporters. “To us, it is inevitable; to them, it is inconceivable. We have to shorten the distance between the inevitable and the inconceivable.”
⦁ Gabriella Muoz and Bailey Vogt contributed to this report.