A full, redacted version of Robert Mueller’s collusion report will be released to Congress within a week, Attorney General William Barr said in testimony before a House subcommittee April 9. He also said the Department of Justice’s inspector general would conclude its investigation into Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act abuse in May or June, and that he is conducting a broader investigation of how the Trump-Russia collusion narrative started on the first place.
Barr told Congress that there were “no plans” to assert executive privilege and that the president told the attorney general to make the decisions regarding whether something should be redacted from the released Mueller report. He also said the attorney general will be taking input and suggestions from the special counsel on redactions.
Contrary to circulating rumors, “the thinking of the special counsel was not a mystery to the people at the Department of Justice prior to his submission of the report,” Barr said. He said he provided Mueller the opportunity to review Barr’s controversial March 24, 2019 letter to Congress, in which he outlined the conclusions of Mueller’s report, but that Mueller declined the opportunity review the draft or to provide input.
Barr further revealed he met with the special counsel team on March 5, 2019 and that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein also attended. Barr said his department had an idea of what would be coming from the Mueller team and therefore had a matter of weeks to think through how it would draft the March 24 letter to Congress.
Barr repeatedly limited his responses about the report, indicating that he would make himself available to answer any questions from both the House and Senate judiciary committees after the redacted report is released. Barr told Congress that it could expect a redacted version of the full report “within a week.”
Barr was repeatedly grilled about the coming redaction of the Mueller report. He noted that every page of the Mueller report was marked sensitive and that nothing in the special counsel’s submission was “sanitized” for immediate release.
Barr identified four categories of redaction that the public could anticipate: (1) grand jury information, (2) information revealing sources and methods of the intelligence community, (3) information that might interfere with ongoing prosecutions and/or the presumption of a defendant’s innocence, and (4) information that could affect the privacy or reputational interests of peripheral players mentioned in the report.
In one exchange, Barr was asked whether the White House saw the Mueller report before Barr issued his March 24, 2019 letter or since then. Barr responded, “I’ve said what I’m going to say about the report,” effectively refusing to answer the question until after the full report is released to Congress.
The committee scheduled the hearing to question Barr over the Department of Justice budget for 2020. But, as widely anticipated, the committee members used the opportunity to press the attorney general on the Mueller collusion probe.
Barr was asked how the Department of Justice used the flimsy Christopher Steele dossier as a predicate for an application for a search warrant before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (referring to the Carter Page warrant and the three subsequent renewals). Barr reconfirmed that the Office of the Inspector General has an ongoing investigation of the FISA process in the Russia investigation and that the IG would complete this investigation in “May or June.”
It should be noted that Rosenstein, who oversaw the Mueller probe, also approved the final FISA extension that is the subject of the IG investigation. Barr said he was also personally reviewing the conduct of the Russia investigation in the summer of 2016. Barr anticipated referrals from House intelligence committee ranking member Devin Nunes (R-California), but denied having yet seen the referrals.
Barr was asked about the recent New York Times report that members of the special counsel team were disappointed by his March 24 letter. Barr responded that he didn’t know what their concern was, but that he suspected they wanted more put out.
Barr said he did not attempt to summarize the special counsel’s report because to do so would simply trigger criticism of being under inclusive or over inclusive. He instead intended only to provide the “bottom line” conclusions and will otherwise let the report speak for itself. When asked why he didn’t adopt the summaries provided in the report, he responded that the summaries were all marked as sensitive—potentially containing grand jury material.