WASHINGTON: US Attorney General Bill Barr said Tuesday his review of the Mueller Russia meddling investigation report is on schedule and he could release a redacted version by next week.
But Barr repeated his refusal to turn over the full unredacted report, including crucial secret testimony, to Congress despite the threat of a subpoena.
In his first public remarks since declaring President Donald Trump cleared of both allegations of conspiracy to collude with Russia and obstruction of justice, Barr said his office was still editing out sensitive materials in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s final report.
Barr said neither Mueller nor his team had reviewed his March 24 summary of the long-awaited report’s conclusions, which allowed Trump to declare “complete and total exoneration” but also led to reports that some of Mueller’s staff took issue with Barr’s conclusions.
Since then Barr has been under heavy pressure to hand over the entire 400-page report to Congress, where Democrats are seeking to find if there was evidence of impeachable wrongdoing by the president.
“Within a week I will be in a position to release the report to the public,” Barr told the House Appropriations Committee.
Barr though made clear that he was not prepared to release the entire report to either the public or Congress.
“I don’t intend at this stage to send the full unredacted report to the committee,” he said, referring to the House Judiciary Committee, which last week threatened the attorney general with a subpoena.
Barr said his staff were in the process of editing out “sensitive” information — grand jury testimony, intelligence information, information involving ongoing investigations and information on “peripheral” subjects of the investigation who have not been charged.
– Potentially damning –
That includes the most crucial and potentially damning information Democrats seek: testimony and documents from Mueller’s grand jury, a panel of citizens convened to develop and hear the evidence and depose key witnesses behind closed doors.
Grand jury evidence is usually kept secret unless a prosecutor ultimately decides to level charges in the case, and Barr has maintained that the law prevents him from releasing it.
Democrats argue that Congress, in its constitutional responsibility to enforce the law against the president, has the right to review any evidence against him of wrongdoing, even that of a grand jury.
Barr’s March 24 four-page summary raised as many questions as it resolved.
He said that Mueller’s 22-month investigation found no evidence of conspiracy by the Trump campaign to collude with Russians during the 2016 presidential election.
He also said that the investigation did not find enough evidence to charge Trump with obstruction.
But one quote from Mueller’s conclusions that Barr revealed suggested a different view on obstruction.
Mueller wrote that “while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
Since then media reports cite unnamed Mueller staff saying that Barr downplayed the obstruction evidence they presented.
Barr’s own stance before he was chosen by Trump to be attorney general — that Mueller had no legal grounds to investigate Trump for obstruction — has also drawn questions about how he reached his conclusion. —AFP