17 Apr 2019

What you won't see in the Mueller report

5:09 pm on 17 April 2019

The special counsel's Trump-Russia report will be out on Thursday for all to see. But not all of it.

Robert Mueller (L) and Donald Trump

Robert Mueller, left, and Donald Trump. Photo: AFP

The Democrats' demands for a full, unredacted version of Robert Mueller's report are likely to prompt a political and legal battle that could last for months, if not much longer.

Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee New York Representative Jerrold Nadler said he was prepared to issue subpoenas "very quickly" for the full report on Russia and Donald Trump's presidential campaign if it was released with blacked-out sections. And that would set the legal fight in motion.

Attorney General William Barr said he was redacting four types of information from the report, which the Justice Department said would be released Thursday.

Congressional Democrats cited precedent from previous investigations in saying they wanted to see it all. But some Republicans defending Mr Barr were also citing precedent, saying it was appropriate to keep at least some of the information from Congress and the public.

A look at what types of material Mr Barr is redacting, and why Democrats say it should be released:

Grand jury information

Attorney General William Barr

Attorney General William Barr says he will redact four types of information from the report. Photo: AP

Mr Barr has staked out his position on releasing secret grand jury information, saying last week that he would not go to court to request its release.

He said Democrats were "free to go to court" themselves, and Mr Nadler said he was ready to do so.

Grand jury information, including witness interviews, is normally off limits but can be obtained in court. Some records were eventually released in the Whitewater investigation into former President Bill Clinton and an investigation into President Richard Nixon before he resigned.

Both of those cases were under somewhat different circumstances, including that the House Judiciary Committee had initiated impeachment proceedings. Federal court rules state that a court may order disclosure "preliminary to or in connection with a judicial proceeding".

But Democrats said they were not interested in impeachment, for now, and were likely to argue in court that they didn't need to be in an official impeachment proceeding to receive the materials.

Classified information

Devin Nunes

California Republican Representative Devin Nunes Photo: AFP

Congress frequently receives classified documents and briefings, and Democrats said there was no reason the Mueller report should be any different.

Many Republicans agree, including the top Republican on the intelligence committee, California Representative Devin Nunes, who wrote a rare joint letter in March with House intelligence committee Chairman Adam Schiff asking for "all materials, regardless of form or classification".

In the letter, which was obtained by The Associated Press, Mr Schiff and Mr Nunes also asked for a private briefing from Mr Mueller and his team.

Democrat Mr Schiff argued that some of that information should be released to the public, as well, citing Mr Mueller indictments that had already revealed granular detail about the Russian effort to influence the 2016 election.

"All of that information at one point was classified, but the decision must have been made the public interest outweighs that. And I think a similar analysis should be undertaken here," Mr Schiff told CNN this month.

Ongoing investigations

Mr Barr said he would redact information related to investigations connected to the Mr Mueller probe that were still underway. Those include cases handed off or referred to federal prosecutors in Washington, New York and Virginia.

Democrats have noted that the Justice Department has released such information before, including some related to Mr Mueller's own investigation while it was in progress.

Republicans who were in the House majority last year, obtained documents related to the beginnings of the Russia investigation, arguing that officials were biased against then-candidate Mr Trump.

Republicans argued at the time that it was necessary to obtain that information to maintain the integrity of the investigation.

Derogatory information

Senator Jeanne Shaheen

Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen Photo: AFP

The Justice Department regularly redacts information about people who were interviewed or scrutinised in investigations but not charged.

Mr Barr said he would black out information from the report "that would unduly infringe on the personal privacy and reputational interests of peripheral third parties".

Asked by Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen, at a hearing last week if that meant he would redact information to protect the interests of Mr Trump, Mr Barr said it did not. "No, I'm talking about people in private life, not public officeholders," Mr Barr said.

That means that in addition to Mr Trump, members of his family who work at the White House, such as his daughter Ivanka, could potentially be named if they were somehow entangled in Mueller's investigation. But any information regarding his sons, Eric and Donald Trump Jr, who run his businesses, could be more likely to be redacted.

The Justice Department did release information about the investigation into Hillary Clinton's email practices more than two years ago, even though Ms Clinton wasn't charged. But that was after then-FBI Director James Comey made the much-questioned decision to publicly discuss that investigation.

Mr Barr signalled in his confirmation hearing in January that he would do things differently.

"If you're not going to indict someone, then you don't stand up there and unload negative information about the person," Mr Barr said.

"That's not the way the Department of Justice does business."

- AP

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