As February draws to an end, rumors abound that we’re about to see Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Or at least that someone—namely, newly confirmed US Attorney General William Barr — is about to see that report. The rest of us, maybe not so much.
“I don’t know at the end of the day what will be releasable,” Barr told the US Senate during his January confirmation hearing. “I am going to make as much information available as I can consistent with the rules and regulations.”
That’s not good enough.
Robert Mueller has spent nearly two years and more than $25 million supposedly getting to the bottom of the “Russian meddling” claims—claims that have, both before and throughout his tenure, roiled the news cycle and called the integrity of American elections into question.
Mueller may answer to Barr, but both he and Barr claim to work for the public. And that money didn’t come out of Mueller’s pockets or Barr’s. It came out of your pocket and was supposedly spent on your behalf.
That report is, by any reasonable standard, your property.
Not Mueller’s. Not Barr’s. Not President Trump’s. Not Congress’s. Yours.
You should be able to read every last word of it. If you want to, anyway.
Congressional Democrats are all over this, and we know why—they expect the report to condemn President Trump to one degree or another. While it may stop short of the most overheated claims (like the idea cultivated by former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe and others that Trump could be an actual Russian agent), they hope it will at least reveal damning evidence of collusion between Trump’s presidential campaign and Vladimir Putin’s regime, finally getting 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton off the hook for her poorly run campaign and embarrassing loss.
US Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, is already threatening to subpoena Mueller and sue for release of the report, with any redactions made by Congress rather than by the Department of Justice. That’s a start, but it’s not good enough, either. No redactions are permissible. We shouldn’t just see the parts of the report that Schiff wants us to see because they support Schiff’s preferred conclusions.
If these two years of “Russiagate” theatrics have really been about getting at the truth and not just about embarrassing Donald Trump or even removing him from office while redeeming Clinton’s reputation, well, let’s have a look at the report sans edits by Barr OR Schiff and see whether or not WE think it does those things.
The era of public permissiveness regarding government secrecy is—or at least should be—over.
Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism. He lives and works in north central Florida.