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McConnell, Graham leave room for Barr to withhold parts of Mueller report

Other congressional leaders, Trump call on attorney general to release full report to public

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell left it up to the discretion of Attorney General William P. Barr to keep some parts of the Mueller report out of the public eye. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell left it up to the discretion of Attorney General William P. Barr to keep some parts of the Mueller report out of the public eye. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

While Democratic lawmakers and many of their Republican colleagues called on Attorney General William P. Barr to publicly release the full Mueller report, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham left room for Barr to keep parts of it under wraps at the Justice Department.

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III delivered the final report on his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections and possible collusion between Russia and the Donald Trump campaign to Barr on Friday.

“The Attorney General has said he intends to provide as much information as possible. As I have said previously, I sincerely hope he will do so as soon as he can, and with as much openness and transparency as possible,” McConnell said in a statement.

Graham, who chairs the committee with oversight jurisdiction over the DOJ, also equivocated about the degree of transparency he expects from Barr.

The South Carolina Republican said he will work with Judiciary ranking member Dianne Feinstein, and their colleagues in the House, to “ensure as much transparency as possible, consistent with the law.”

Neither McConnell nor Graham’s statements were as forceful as those from their Democratic counterparts in the Senate — or those from House lawmakers of both parties. 

House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler and ranking member Doug Collins both said Friday they expected the attorney general to publicly release Mueller’s full report.

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“We look forward to getting the full Mueller report and related materials. Transparency and the public interest demand nothing less,” Nadler said in a statement.

Collins expects the special counsel’s report to be delivered to the committee and the public “without delay and to the maximum extent permitted by law,” according to a statement from the Georgia Republican.

Nadler has said he will issue a subpoena for the report and for Mueller to testify before the Judiciary Committee if Barr does not provide Congress the full report.

Such a subpoena could set up a drawn-out legal battle if the DOJ declines to comply with it and asserts executive privilege over some parts of the Mueller report. A federal judge in the D.C. Circuit Court would decide whether or not to compel the DOJ to produce the report.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer released a joint statement Friday, saying it was “imperative for Mr. Barr to make the full report public and provide its underlying documentation and findings to Congress.”

They also warned the attorney general not to give Trump, his lawyers or staff a “sneak preview” of Mueller’s findings or evidence.

The White House has not yet been briefed on the special counsel’s report, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted Friday evening. 

But the White House counsel’s office has indicated it expects to review the report before Barr decides how he wants to convey it to Congress.

“The next steps are up to Attorney General Barr, and we look forward to the process taking its course,” Sanders tweeted.

Trump himself has said he believes the report should be made public, though he called the probe itself “ridiculous” and has continually sought to undermine Mueller’s legitimacy and objectivity.

“Let it come out, let people see it,” the president told reporters on Wednesday. “Let’s see whether or not it’s legit.”

After begrudgingly complying with and remaining mostly low-key about the probe during its first eight months, Trump and his White House press shop went on the attack in the late winter of 2018, dismissing the investigation as a “witch hunt” run by politically biased investigators.

That so-called witch hunt has produced indictments or guilty pleas from three companies and 34 individuals, including six former advisers on Trump’s 2016 campaign.

The president’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, have been sentenced to multiple years in prison.

Niels Lesniewski and Todd Ruger contributed to this report

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