Special counsel Robert Mueller delivered his final report to Attorney General William Barr on Friday evening, concluding a nearly two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. But it is still far from clear whether the public will finally get the chance to read Mueller’s findings.
It is up to Barr — a Trump appointee who appeared to criticize the Mueller investigation in a memo he wrote last year, before his appointment — to decide what happens next.
The Attorney General Will Review The Report
Barr’s first job after receiving the report was to notify Congress of its completion, which he did late Friday in a letter to lawmakers. He will now review the report and decide his next course of action. The report is confidential, and it will be up to him whether to release it if he deems it in the public interest.
Another of his initial requirements was to assess whether the investigation was conducted properly and if the special counsel ever proposed action “so inappropriate or unwarranted” that it should not be pursued. He told congressional leaders in his letter that there were no such instances.
Barr Will Decide What To Make Public
In his letter, Barr said he may be able to share Mueller’s “principal conclusions as soon as this weekend.” It’s not clear how detailed those conclusions will be or whether the attorney general plans to disclose more information in the future.
Barr is not required to release Mueller’s report. According to Department of Justice regulations, he is supposed to decide whether releasing the report or parts of it is in the public’s interest. During his confirmation hearing in January, he refused to guarantee to lawmakers that he would share the report with lawmakers.
Congressional Democrats are already publicly demanding that Barr make the full report public and provide lawmakers with underlying documents related to the special counsel’s findings.
Can Congress Force The Report To Become Public?
There is bipartisan support for Mueller’s findings to be made public. The House voted unanimously this month for a nonbinding resolution calling on Barr to release the report in full. Democrats, who control the House, could try to subpoena the report if he keeps the findings confidential.
If the DOJ refuses to comply with congressional subpoenas, lawmakers could hold department officials in contempt and ask the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia to prosecute the case.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) hinted on Friday that he plans to use his perch atop the powerful committee to demand information about Mueller’s findings. “By law, the evidence he has uncovered on all counterintelligence matters must now be shared with the House Intelligence Committee, whether it resulted in indictment or not,” Schiff said in a statement.
Will Mueller publicly explain the report?
At least not in the same way that then-FBI Director James Comey did, with a much-publicized press conference, when he concluded his investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server for official correspondence when she was secretary of state. There is the possibility, however, that Congress will subpoena Mueller to testify if Barr keeps the details of the report completely private. But the general rule is that prosecutors are not intended to publicly discuss alleged misdeeds or unethical actions of the people they investigate if they are not planning to charge those individuals with crimes.