Release Mueller report in entirety

March 23, 2019 GMT

The vote in the U.S. House was unanimous that the special counsel’s report on his investigation of the president and his campaign be made public. And the president has said he backs that intent.

This is what Attorney General William Barr should keep in mind when he decides how much of this report — a confidential version submitted to him Friday by special counsel Robert Mueller — should be disclosed. He has told Congress that he could “be in a position to advise you of the special counsel’s principal conclusions as soon as this weekend.”

That, however, doesn’t mean those conclusions — contained in a summary — will be accompanied by as much of the report’s details as possible. We urge Barr to be as transparent as he can be.

The first thing to keep in mind for why complete transparency won’t happen is that the House resolution — passed bipartisanly 420-0, with a handful of abstentions — isn’t binding. The rules under which the special counsel operates make clear that Barr is in the driver’s seat. Mueller’s report to Barr is confidential. The attorney general will send a report to Congress explaining its conclusions, but it can be as complete or as incomplete as the he decides is warranted.

The House, assuming they will get bare bones (incorrectly, we hope), is already taking steps to force disclosure.

The rationale for secrecy is that the Justice Department should not release any information that compromises national security and should not publicly comment on evidence in cases where charges are not levied, impugning people not indicted. The Justice Department’s stated preference, however, is not to indict a sitting president. So, if Mueller lays out actions that might be deemed sufficient to warrant indictment by reasonable legal minds, that information might not be forthcoming because the president won’t be indicted under any circumstance. But causes of action necessary for impeachment — a political act — are not necessarily about indictable crimes.

In other words, there might not be any criminal charges against the president exacted but that doesn’t mean his actions won’t rise to the level of impeachable offenses. This is why congressional investigations independent of the Mueller probe will still likely be necessary.

What we don’t know: Was the president a party to agreeing to that Trump Tower meeting with folks with Kremlin connections — people who promised to deliver dirt on Hillary Clinton? Is there a paper or some other kind of trail that definitively points to obstruction of justice in the president’s firing of FBI Director James Comey, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, his attempts to fire Mueller and other actions? How much were former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, former campaign manager Paul Manafort, adviser Roger Stone and others lone wolves in their discussions and dealings with foreign powers and/or WikiLeaks?

Even before Mueller submitted his report — signaling the end of the investigation — the list of potential offenses was long just from what we knew from existing indictments and other revelations. Former Trump fixer Michael Cohen, during congressional hearings, pretty much drew a road map on campaign finance violations involving hush money paid to women with whom the president had sex.

Our fervent hope is that the nation awakens Saturday or Sunday morning and finds that Barr has been as forthcoming as the nation needs.

Unfortunately, the GOP-controlled Senate did not offer guidance in this regard as did the House. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham objected that the Senate should also urge Barr to appoint another special counsel to investigate the investigation — a transparent obstruction from a source who has gone from ardent Trump critic during the campaign to abject apologist for the president now that his own re-election campaign looms.

This transparency should occur as a matter of trust and because Americans need this knowledge. With all the revelations about possible presidential wrongdoing and with each Trump attack on the investigation as a “witch hunt,” there is a cloud hanging over the presidency — and the Justice Department. Americans have been left wondering what precisely has happened. So, let the investigation speak for itself — in its entirety as much as is possible. Was it an investigation whose conclusions are worthy of trust, regardless of whether those conclusions damage or clear the president and his campaign? What Barr releases to Congress could go a long way to answer this question.

The nation needs steps toward closure, though we recognize this report now released might be the beginning of the end, not the end itself. Release as much of the Mueller investigative report as possible. Texas’ congressional delegation should lead the way in making this happen even if that means going to court.