On the eve of the long-anticipated release of the report by special counsel Robert Mueller on Russian tampering in the 2016 election and alleged Trump campaign involvement, Democrats accused the attorney general, William Barr, of trying to “cherry-pick” and “put his own spin” on the conclusions of the investigation.
Representative Jerry Nadler, the chairman of the House judiciary committee, appeared with colleagues at a press conference in New York City late Wednesday to protest against Barr’s plan for rolling out a redacted version of the Mueller report.
Barr is scheduled to hold a 9.30am press conference on Thursday. Nadler tweeted on Wednesday that the justice department informed him that Congress would receive the report around 11am or noon, after which it would be posted online.
That plan amounted to an effort by Barr to put up a smokescreen to obscure the true findings of the report, Nadler charged.
“Now it appears that the attorney general intends to once again put his own spin on the investigative work completed by the special counsel and his team,” Nadler said.
“The fact that the attorney general is not releasing even the redacted report to Congress until after his press conference will again result in the report being presented in his own words, rather than in the words of special counsel Robert Mueller.
“The central concern here is that Attorney General Barr is not allowing the facts of the Mueller report to speak for themselves, but is instead trying to bake in the narrative about the report to the benefit of the White House.”
Nadler said he would subpoena the full report “in very short order” and said he assumed it would be useful to call Mueller and members of his team to testify before Congress.
The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, argued Americans deserved to see the truth, “not a sanitized version of the Mueller Report approved by the Trump Admin”.
“AG Barr has thrown out his credibility”, she added.
AG Barr has thrown out his credibility & the DOJ’s independence with his single-minded effort to protect @realDonaldTrump above all else. The American people deserve the truth, not a sanitized version of the Mueller Report approved by the Trump Admin. https://t.co/fgXwiLuQfr— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) April 17, 2019
Democratic House committee leaders followed by asking Barr to cancel his scheduled morning address. “This press conference, which apparently will not include Special Counsel Mueller, is unnecessary and inappropriate, and appears designed to shape public perceptions of the report before anyone can read it”, they wrote.
“[Barr] should let the full report speak for itself. The attorney general should cancel the press conference and provide the full report to Congress, as we have requested”, they added.
The justice department also plans to provide a “limited number” of members of Congress and their staff access to a copy of the Mueller report with fewer redactions than the public version, according to a court filing Wednesday.
The nearly 400-page report is expected to reveal what Mueller uncovered about ties between the Trump campaign and Russia that fell short of criminal conduct. It will also lay out the special counsel’s conclusions about formative episodes in Trump’s presidency, including his firing of the FBI director James Comey and his efforts to undermine the Russia investigation publicly and privately.
The report is not expected to place the president in legal jeopardy, as Barr made his own decision that Trump should not be prosecuted for obstruction. But it is likely to contain unflattering details about the president’s efforts to control the Russia investigation that will cloud his ability to credibly claim total exoneration.
And it may paint the Trump campaign as eager to exploit Russian aid and emails stolen from Democrats and Hillary Clinton’s campaign even if no Americans crossed the line into criminal activity.
The report’s release will be a test of Barr’s credibility as the public and Congress judge whether he is using his post to shield the president who appointed him.
Trump announced Barr’s press conference during a radio interview Wednesday before the justice department did. Trump also said he might take questions about the report after its release.
Barr will also face scrutiny over how much of the report he blacks out and whether Mueller’s document lines up with a letter the attorney general released last month. The letter said Mueller did not find a criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russian government but he found evidence on “both sides” of the question of whether the president obstructed justice.
Barr has said he is withholding grand jury and classified information as well as portions relating to continuing investigations and the privacy or reputation of uncharged “peripheral” people. But how liberally he interprets those categories is yet to be seen.