At some point in the near future, perhaps as soon as this week, Attorney General Bill Barr will be announcing the completion of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
Under the special counsel regulations, Mueller must submit a “confidential” report to the attorney general at the conclusion of his work, but those rules do not require Mueller’s report to be shared with Congress, or by extension, the public.
That, in our view, should not be the case.
Despite President Donald Trump’s on-going characterization of Mueller’s investigation of Russia’s impact on the 2016 presidential election as a “witch hunt,” the investigation, which has raised countless questions about the activities of the president and members of his administration, has dominated newspaper front pages and television and radio newscasts for nearly two years.
The regulations require Mueller to explain in his report to the attorney general all decisions to prosecute or not prosecute matters under scrutiny. That’s as it should be.
Those same regulations require Barr to inform Congress if the Justice Department prevented the special counsel team from pursuing any investigative steps. Again, that’s as it should be.
The scope of what Barr will send to Congress remains unclear. Equally unclear is how long it will take Justice officials to prepare what will be submitted to lawmakers for their review.
Barr has said that he wants to be as “transparent” as possible with Congress and the public “consistent with the rules and the law.”
At the same time, Barr has made clear that the Justice Department generally guards against publicizing “derogatory” information about individuals who have not been charged.
Again, that is, in our view, as it should be.
If the investigation found that an individual’s activities did not rise to the level of an indictable offense, dragging that individual’s name and character “through the mud” by public disclosure serves no truly useful purpose.
That is not, however, the case for those individuals who have already been indicted as a result of the investigation. Over the past 20-plus months, taxpayers have footed the bill for an investigation that has cost, according to Politifact estimates, $27 million in direct and indirect costs.
With the exception of information on on-going investigations that might be compromised and the names of individuals whose activities did not rise to the level of indictable offenses, the entire report should be made available. Anything less will only further degrade the reputation of our government.
The New York Times reported Trump has publicly attacked the Russia investigation more than 1,100 times. Some would say his blatant criticism suggests “where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”
Anything short of full disclosure, with common sense — and legal — redactions will leave questions about the president, which would be unfair to him and his administration.
While Barr does not have to release the report, for the sake of the nation going forward, the public deserves to know whether or not the president — or his campaign — has participated in illegal campaign activities. Few topics have divided the country to the extent that the Mueller investigation has. Transparency may not heal the divide, but with clarity can come amelioration.
Bottom line: the American public deserves resolution to this matter once and for all and that can only come with full disclosure of Mueller’s findings.