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Tuesday 20th March 2018

Mueller Report: What Will be Removed and Why

Politics

7Dnews London

Wed, 17 Apr 2019 11:58 GMT

The highly-anticipated Mueller report is due to be released to Congress Thursday, April 18th but before being released the contents will be redacted to ensure legal compliance.

A team at the United States Justice Department is currently combing through the report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller. The team is removing certain information from the report so that it will meet key legal requirements. 

Democrats have, however, promised a protracted legal battle to try and get their hands on the full, unredacted version of the report. While only time will tell if they will be successful in convincing a judge to release all the information, everyone will have to accept the copy released on Thursday, April 18th. 

To this end, the chairperson of the House Judiciary Committee, New York Representative Jerrold Nadler, has indicated his willingness to fight for the full report. Should the report on Russia and Donald Trump's presidential campaign be released with blacked-out sections, Nadler said he would issue subpoenas "very quickly" to get access to these sections. This is the move that would set into motion the legal fight to gain access to the redacted sections. 

Prior to the report's release, Attorney General William Barr has said he will have four types of information redacted. In their arguments for a full, unredacted version of the report, Congressional Democrats have cited precedent from previous investigations. But Republicans have also called upon precedent that supports Barr's decision. 

The first type of information that will be cut from the report is grand jury information. In this regard, Barr has made it clear that he will not approach the courts to request the release of this information. He added that Democrats are free to do so, should they wish. 

Grand jury information, which usually includes interviews with witnesses, is usually off-limits to the general public and Congress. But, in some instances, court appeals have resulted in the information being released. Previously, some of the information gathered during the Whitewater investigations into former President Bill Clinton was released. Likewise, some of the information gathered during the investigation into former President Richard Nixon was released before he resigned. 

It is important to remember that in these cases there were some major differences, most notably that the Judicial Committee had begun impeachment proceedings. Federal court rules state that a court may order disclosure "preliminary to or in connection with a judicial proceeding."

So far Democrats have said they are not interested in an impeachment - for now. It is likely they will argue in court that they do not need to be in an official impeachment proceeding to receive the materials. 

The next point regarding the redaction of information concerns classified information. 

It is not unusual for Congress to receive classified documents or information. Democrats have indicated as such, saying there is no reason why the Mueller report should be handled any differently. Many Republicans agree, including the top Republican on the intelligence committee, California Representative Devin Nunes. 

According to AP, Nunes penned a letter together with House intelligence committee Chairman Adam Schiff in March, in which they asked for "all materials, regardless of form or classification." In the letter, Schiff and Nunes also queried the possibility of having a private briefing from Mueller and his team.

Democrat Schiff has argued that some of that information should be released to the public as well. In support of this view, he cited the Mueller indictments that have 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," Schiff said on CNN this month. 

The third point of consideration for Barr with regards to what information should be redacted concerns ongoing investigations. 

Barr has made it clear that any information relating to current investigations that have come about as a result of the Mueller probe will be redacted. This includes cases that have been handed off or which have been referred to federal prosecutors in Washington, New York and Virginia. 

Democrats pointed out that such information has been released before, noting that some of the information related to Mueller's own investigation was released while it was still underway. Republicans, who were in the House majority last year, gained access to information related to the beginnings of the Russia investigation, arguing that officials were biased against then-candidate Trump. 

The counter argument put forward by the Republicans was that it was necessary to view the information to maintain the integrity of the investigation.  

The final point regarding information that will be redacted relates to information about people who were interviewed or placed under scrutiny during the investigation but who were ultimately not charged.  

Barr made it clear that any information "that would unduly infringe on the personal privacy and reputational interests of peripheral third parties" would be removed from the report.

Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, asked Barr if his statement meant that he would remove information to protect the interests of Trump. Barr answered the question, saying, "No, I'm talking about people in private life, not public officeholders." 

What this means is that any family member of Trump who works in the White House could be named in the report, if they somehow formed part of the investigation. But information related to his sons, who currently run Trump's multiple businesses, would most likely be removed from the report. 

The counter argument here is that the Justice Department did release information pertaining to the Hilary Clinton investigation some two years ago, even though no charges were ever brought against Clinton. 

But this was due to former FBI Director James Comey, who made the decision to discuss the investigation publicly. In this regard, Barr stated quite clearly in January that he would be doing things differently.  

"If you are not going to indict someone, then you don't stand up there and unload negative information about the person," Barr said. "That's not the way the Department of Justice does business." 


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