Is the Special Counsel report from Robert Mueller going to be released in its entirety to the public when the investigation concludes? Everyone is waiting for the other shoe to drop and generating as much mileage as possible off of it. At least for the time being, it’s the Democrats who are demanding that the report be released promptly, but there are plenty of slips twixt the cup and the lip, as the saying goes. And in the end, it’s very possible it will be those same Democrats dreading the results going public.
One of the major stumbling blocks could well come in the form of the new Attorney General, assuming William Barr is confirmed. He’s spoken quite a bit about accountability and transparency during his hearings, but there are constraints on how much information he can even give out. This is particularly true of any of it compromises sources and methods. He also has wide latitude in making those decisions with virtually nobody to challenge his call. (The Hill)
Barr told lawmakers Tuesday it was his “intent” to release as much about Mueller’s findings as he can consistent with the law, but he was careful not to pledge to release the report outright.
“My goal will be to provide as much transparency as I can consistent with the law,” Barr told lawmakers. “I can assure you that, where judgments are to be made, I will make those judgments based solely on the law and I will not let personal, political or other improper interests influence my decision.”
Justice Department guidelines call for a special counsel to send a confidential report to the attorney general “explaining the prosecution or declination decisions reached” in the course of his or her investigation. Ultimately, it is up to the attorney general to decide whether it is in the public interest to release the report in compliance with the relevant legal restrictions, the guidelines say.
Everyone is talking about the ultimate release of the report as if it’s going to be some sort of blockbuster. Dianne Feinstein has said her vote on Barr’s confirmation as Attorney General hinges on whether or not he will commit to releasing it. But she may feel differently when we first hear what the conclusions are.
Personally, I think the report will leak out one way or the other. It seems as if everything in this investigation has so far, so why stop now? But even if it doesn’t, certain people’s opinions about letting the cat entirely out of the bag may change when the summary comes out. Allow me to offer one possible scenario.
Sure, it’s possible that Mueller has come up with some sort of smoking gun that could take Donald Trump down. But if he had the goods I’m fairly sure it would have been on the front page of the Gray Lady by now. Let’s just say for a moment that he doesn’t, though. And this is still a very real possibility. Let’s just imagine that Mueller finds that the Russian election meddling was largely just a bunch of fake Facebook accounts spreading fake videos. Maybe a few efforts at getting some of their people inside that basically failed.
Let us imagine that pretty much everything Mueller has dug up consists of some Trump campaign personnel who turned out to be tax cheats and money launderers before joining the campaign. Maybe some of them wound up talking to some Russian or another, with nothing coming of it, but then they panicked and lied about it. And at the top of the food chain, suppose there’s absolutely nothing tying the President to any collusion or other illegal activity beyond having no idea how to run a political campaign.
What then? First of all, the Democrats aren’t going to want to see a full release of a report that actually exonerates the President. But beyond that, if Mueller’s net comes up empty of anything but small fish, that means that the rest of the details of the investigation are up for grabs. How did this whole thing start? What involvement may there have been with the, ahem… previous administration? Were there perhaps politics invovled? So many questions and so many possible answers lurking in the details behind that investigation.
Unless Mueller delivers a smoking gun which sets the President on a course for destruction (and it would be shocking beyond belief if such a thing existed and it hadn’t been leaked already), the Democrats really might not want the entire bag emptied. They have no idea what may be at the bottom of it and it could backfire on them seriously.