The Capital Is Torn As Anticipation Of The Redacted Full Mueller Report Continues

Apr 4, 2019
Originally published on April 4, 2019 7:06 pm
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Tomorrow marks two weeks since special counsel Robert Mueller turned his report in to Attorney General William Barr, and it still seems to be all anyone in Washington is talking about. Barr says he's still working with special counsel lawyers to figure out how much of their report can be made public.

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But the process has been taking too long for many Democrats in Congress. All the anticipation is giving rise to the worry that the attorney general appointed by President Trump may have casted his conclusions in the president's favor. Here to talk through the controversy is NPR national justice correspondent Carrie Johnson. Welcome to the studio.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Hi, Audie.

CORNISH: There were reports overnight by The New York Times that members of the special counsel team were unhappy with the attorney general, that he may have effectively downplayed their evidence that the president engaged in obstruction of justice. So it's on that part of the investigation. What more can you tell us?

JOHNSON: What I can tell you is the special counsel himself is not engaging with these reports. Robert Mueller is not talking, not commenting. It's not clear if he's one of the people who was worried. Remember; this all started last month when the attorney general told Congress he had determined Donald Trump had not obstructed justice. The attorney general, Bill Barr, also said the special counsel did not establish a criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. But the Mueller report is nearly 400 pages long, and we've only seen a few quotes from the report itself. Understandably, people want to see. They want more information. And it's possible that we're reading and hearing these stories now to try to pressure the attorney general to release more of this report.

CORNISH: Here's another source of pressure - the House Judiciary Committee. This week, they voted to subpoena the Mueller report. That was a big deal (laughter) when they had that vote. What are lawmakers saying today?

JOHNSON: Jerry Nadler, the chairman of the committee, says Congress is entitled to the full report, period. That includes classified information, other sensitive details. Nadler sent a letter to the Justice Department. He wants any summaries the Mueller team wrote. He says, let people judge for themselves. Remember; the attorney general pledged to send this report to Capitol Hill by mid-April. Members of Congress want it now, Audie. Here's House Speaker Nancy Pelosi talking to reporters today.

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NANCY PELOSI: The Mueller report will be released. It's a question of - to us, it is inevitable. To them, it is inconceivable. We have to shorten the distance between the inevitable and the inconceivable.

JOHNSON: My sources are telling me it's not clear how forthcoming the Justice Department is going to be here. The deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, has been dead set against bad-mouthing people who have not been charged with crimes. The bottom line is this fight is moving to Congress and the courts. We already have a couple of court cases filed to get this information out there, get this Mueller report into the public sphere.

CORNISH: Attorney General Bill Barr has been on the job for less than two months. How is the Justice Department responding to this pressure?

JOHNSON: Barr defended himself today. He promised during his confirmation hearings, remember, to be as transparent as possible. He's now written a couple of letters to Congress. This morning, he issued another statement, saying he didn't want to put out this report in piecemeal fashion and that the report has been labeled confidential. It's his obligation to go through that material. Democrats in Congress say, in fact, it's already dripping out in piecemeal fashion, and it appears to have dripped out in ways that minimize the president's conduct.

CORNISH: Unlike the Mueller investigation, now we're in a world of leaks and counter-leaking, right?

JOHNSON: Yeah.

CORNISH: (Laughter) It's political. What do you make of it?

JOHNSON: Well, I've been covering special counsel Mueller and some of his prosecutors for a long time - more than 15 years now. What I know about the way they work is that they're very thorough people. Sources outside that office are telling me all the questions we have right now will be answered in this report. We need to see and read this thing, not to take anyone else's word for it about what it says and why but to read it ourselves.

CORNISH: That's NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson. Carrie, thank you.

JOHNSON: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.