The Mueller Report: A Battle For Information

Robert Mueller, Former FBI Director and head of the Department of Justice’s Special Counsel, sent his final report to Attorney General William Barr on March 22nd. For almost three years, Mueller and his team have been conducting Criminal Investigations into President Trump’s potential ties with Russia, Obstruction of Justice, and a Counter-Intelligence investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 Presidential Election. Just two days after the conclusion of the Mueller investigation, William Barr released a controversial four-page letter to Congress summarizing its “principal conclusions[1]”. This letter has raised several questions regarding the contents of the Mueller Report, sparking demands for its public release.

Barr’s letter to Congress is considered controversial, and there are two major elements to consider. First, Barr only details information regarding two of the three topics covered by the investigation. The Attorney General omitted all information and details regarding any Counter-Intelligence portions of Mueller’s summary. Second, Barr suggested that to charge someone with obstruction-of-justice, there must first be a conviction for an “underlying crime”.

 

“The evidence does not establish that the President was involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference… [T]he report identifies no actions that, in our judgement… had a nexus to a pending or contemplated proceeding… which, under the Department’s principles of federal prosecution guiding charging decisions, would need to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt to establish an obstruction-of-justice offense. (Barr, 2019)”

 

However, based on historical precedent the noted guiding charging decision for obstruction-of-justice is not always the case. There has been a plethora of obstruction charges that did not involve a prior conviction of any criminal act. The most famous example is Martha Stewart’s case[2]. In addition, according to Robert Weisberg, the director of the Criminal Justice Center at Stanford Law, “Nothing in the obstruction statute requires that another crime has occurred[3]”.

The prominence of the Special Counsel’s investigation combined with William Barr’s conflicting letter has led to myriad demands for the full publication of Mueller’s report. These requests are often based on the example set by Ken Starr’s investigation into Bill Clinton, where Starr’s full, un-redacted report was not only published, but also became a New York Times Best Seller. While publication would provide maximum transparency, the law has simply changed since then. In 1999, new regulations were set by the Department of Justice giving the Attorney General sole control over the release of the Special Counsel’s report. This means that only William Barr will decide what to publish, if anything at all. If Barr does decide to make any portion of the Mueller Report public, it is expected to be heavily redacted in order to protect various individuals who are involved.

The Special Counsel’s investigation on the Trump Administration is unprecedented, both by virtue of the accused crimes, and by the format of the law. While it is an unfortunate thought that the public may never see the full Mueller Report, the fight is not over. Shortly following William Barr’s letter to Congress, a subpoena ordering access to the complete and un-redacted report was approved by the House Judiciary Committee. At this point, no one actually knows what the outcome of Mueller’s findings will be, but it is understood that more patience is required.

 

Sources

Images: 1, 2 

[1] Letter to House and Senate Judiciary Committees, Attorney General William Barr, 24 March 2019

[2] Constance L. Hays, Leslie Eaton “The Martha Stewart Verdict: The Overview; Stewart Found Guilty of Lying in Sale of Stock” 6 March 2004, https://www.nytimes.com/2004/03/06/business/martha-stewart-verdict-overview-stewart-found-guilty-lying-sale-stock.html

[3] Denton, Jack Barry Bonds, Martha Stewart, and Donald Trump: Obstructing What?, Pacific Standard, 29 March 2019, https://psmag.com/social-justice/barry-bonds-martha-stewart-and-donald-trump-obstructing-what

LeagleEagle. (2019, April 2). Mueller Report: 9 Things That Don't Make Sense About the Barr Letter.

Cornell Law School, "18 U.S. Code § 1503.Influencing or injuring officer or juror generally"

Cornell Law School, "28 CFR § 600.9 - Notification and reports by the Attorney General."