One notable thread ran through Tuesday’s confirmation hearings for attorney general nominee Bill Barr: requests, from Senate Republicans, that the findings of Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference see the light of day.
The proceedings saw repeated, rare Republican calls for transparency about a probe that President Trump and his supporters have dismissed as a witch hunt launched solely to undermine his administration.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) urged Barr to share Mueller’s report with Congress “as much as possible,” while Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) went further, calling on Barr to divulge the special counsel’s findings to the public.
“When we spend $35 million, the taxpayers, that’s billions of dollars, the taxpayers ought to know what their money was spent for,” Grassley said. “So if you have some reservations about some part of it not being public, I hope that that’s related to traditional things of the public’s business that shouldn’t be public—like national security, as an example—not being made public. But beyond that, the only way I know for the taxpayers to hold anybody that spends the taxpayers’ money responsibly is through transparency because that brings accountability.”
Kennedy concurred, saying that “The American people deserve to know what the Department of Justice has concluded and they’re smart enough to figure it out.”
“I’ve said this before,” Kennedy said. “The American people don’t read Aristotle every day. They’re too busy earning a living. But if you give them the facts they’ll figure it out and draw their own conclusions. Doesn’t matter who spins it. They’ll figure it out for themselves and I would strongly encourage you to put this all to rest, to make a report, a final report public to let everybody draw their own conclusions so we can move on. If somebody did something wrong, they should be punished, but if they didn’t, let’s stop the innuendo and the rumors and the leaking and let’s move on.”
Exactly what form Mueller’s findings will come in and what will happen to them are murky questions.
Barr suggested as much during the hearing, insisting he wants “transparency” but also implying that lawmakers and the public may be misguided in their expectations.
Barr said that Mueller will submit a classified report to whoever becomes attorney general. That individual will then be tasked with writing up his own version of Mueller’s findings, which he could then turn over to Congress or the public. Some of that information may not be “release-able” in accordance with the law, Barr said.
“As the rules stand now, the rules I think say the special counsel will prepare a summary report on any prosecutive or declination decisions, and that shall be confidential and be treated as any other declination or prosecutive material within the department,” Barr told the committee.
As the Washington Post noted, such Justice Department memos are typically closely held inside the government.