White House

The Mueller Report’s Release Was a Model of Transparency

Attorney General William Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein arrives to speak at a news conference to discuss Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, April 18, 2019. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
Barr released the report, made an almost-entirely-unredacted copy available to congressional leaders, and explained his rationale on obstruction. It wasn’t enough to satisfy Democrats.

Under federal law, Attorney General William Barr could have taken Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s long-awaited Russiagate report, shoved it in a drawer, and sent the following letter to Capitol Hill:

“Dear Congress:

“No collusion. No obstruction.

“Love,

“Bill”

Beyond that, Barr was obligated to do none of what he did on Thursday morning. He held a press conference at Justice Department headquarters, answered journalists’ questions, sent Congress redacted copies of Mueller’s 448-page “Report On The Investigation Into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election” (on CD-ROMs), made a nearly unredacted copy (minus only legally verboten grand-jury material) available for top congressional leaders to inspect, posted the document on DOJ’s public website, and freed Mueller to discuss his findings before Congress, as Democrats have demanded. Barr previously agreed to let the Senate and House judiciary committees grill him on, respectively, May 1 and 2.

Democrats have suggested that Barr has something to hide. As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer of New York stated Wednesday, “The American people deserve to hear the truth.” In fact, Barr’s behavior has been clearer than a Brooks Brothers storefront window.

The White House has been equally see-through. While President Donald J. Trump ground his molars through this 22-month-long legal root canal, he let his lawyers hand Mueller some 1.4 million pages of records and allowed administration and campaign personnel to be interrogated. Trump never asserted executive privilege, nor did he request redactions in the report.

“The level of transparency, cooperation, production of documents, and waiver of privileges by the White House is stunning — as is the production of the barely-redacted Mueller report,” former federal prosecutor Sidney Powell told me. Powell, the author of Licensed to Lie: Exposing Corruption in the Department of Justice, added: “Obama invoked executive privilege to shut down any and every inquiry into obvious wrongdoing.”

Rather than an elaborate whitewash, Team Trump’s compliance undergirds this overarching conclusion: “Ultimately,” in Mueller’s words, “the investigation did not establish that the Campaign coordinated or conspired with the Russian government in its election-interference activities.”

Barr concurred. As he told journalists at DOJ: “After nearly two years of investigation, thousands of subpoenas, and hundreds of warrants and witness interviews, the Special Counsel confirmed that the Russian government sponsored efforts to illegally interfere with the 2016 presidential election but did not find that the Trump campaign or other Americans colluded in those schemes.”

Did President Trump commit obstruction of justice? Mueller made no such charge and left that decision to Barr. The AG, Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein, the Office of Legal Counsel, and other federal prosecutors concluded that, in Barr’s words, the evidence is “not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.” Barr also determined that “the President took no act that in fact deprived the Special Counsel of the documents and witnesses to complete his investigation.” Trump may have sat in the Oval Office and sworn like a New Yorker about the Russiagate inquiry, but he never blocked Mueller.

Mueller indicated that Trump’s written replies to some of his questions were “inadequate” because the president “does not ‘recall’ or ‘remember’ or have an ‘incomplete recollection.’” Mueller could have subpoenaed Trump for a face-to-face interview, “but,” he wrote, “at that point, our investigation had made significant progress and had produced substantial evidence for our report. We thus weighed the costs of potentially lengthy constitutional litigation, with resulting delay in finishing our investigation, as against the anticipated benefits of our investigation and report.” So, Mueller issued no such subpoena.

Could Trump potentially have done more including, as attorneys call it, walk into a perjury trap? Perhaps. But, as it happens, Trump did exactly what he and Mueller agreed that Trump would do.

Of course, none of this satisfies the Trump haters. Nothing ever does.

First, they whined that Barr was taking too long to issue his summary of Mueller’s Friday, March 22, report.

When Barr’s brief emerged that Sunday, Democrats complained that his four-page abstract came too soon. “I must say, it is extraordinary to evaluate hundreds of pages of evidence, legal documents, and findings based on a 22-month long inquiry and make definitive legal conclusions in less than 48 hours,” said Representative Nita Lowey (D., N.Y.). “Even for someone who has done this job before, I would argue it is more suspicious than impressive.”

Trump’s foes then moaned that Barr was not redacting Mueller’s full report quickly enough — surely to conceal Trump’s decades of service to the KGB. “They’re just dragging their feet and slow-rolling this thing so that Donald Trump can go around the country saying he was exonerated based on this ridiculous four-page letter that Barr issued,” said former Watergate prosecutor Nick Akerman.

But when Barr announced that he would release Mueller’s report on Thursday, that date needlessly rushed things. CNN’s Chris Cuomo called this “dirty pool” as yesterday was the eve of Good Friday and Passover. Presumably Mueller’s paper would vanish in a tsunami of chocolate bunnies and matzo.

Had Barr waited until Monday, the Left would have slammed him for befouling the weekend of Judeo-Christian worship with unquenched national lust for the Mueller report.

Democrats accused Barr of stealth. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D., N.Y.) described Barr’s handling of this matter as “equivalent to a cover-up.” But when Barr announced plans for a pre-release news conference, five House committee chairmen insisted that Barr cancel the presser. Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer called this an “indefensible plan to spin the report.”

Pelosi further kvetched that “the Trump team received a sneak preview” of Mueller’s study. True!

Barr was totally open about this, too:

In addition, earlier this week, the President’s personal counsel requested and were given the opportunity to read a final version of the redacted report before it was publicly released. That request was consistent with the practice followed under the Ethics in Government Act, which permitted individuals named in a report prepared by an Independent Counsel the opportunity to read the report before publication.

President Trump’s personal attorney, former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, Esq., told Fox News Channel how he, Jay Sekulow, and Jane and Marty Raskin managed their perfectly legal “sneak preview.”

We went to the Justice Department in a secure room. We couldn’t take it out, we couldn’t photograph it,” Giuliani said. “We read it, and we were going to originally divide it up, but decided we had to all read it and share our thoughts about it.” Trump’s lawyers also were allowed to take notes on what they perused.

Wow! How sneaky.

As President Trump’s enemies abandon their thoroughly debunked “Russia! Russia! Russia!” fantasy, they now chant “Obstruction! Obstruction! Obstruction!” Nothing satisfies them, so long as President Trump breathes.

Democrats and their indentured servants in the Leftist media resemble a 787 filled with screaming infants. Alas, this jet won’t land until at least January 2021.

Michael Malarkey contributed research for this opinion piece.

Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a contributing editor of National Review Online.

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