I have a bit of a confusion in regards to the Mueller investigation.

While it was undergoing, we were repeatedly told that "proving collusion" is pretty much impossible since there's no such thing as "collusion", legally speaking. The best one could hope for from Mueller's investigation is that he would highlight enough ... wrongdoings by Trump and his team, that Congress would end up impeaching him.

Nobody ever actually expected Mueller to do his investigation and end up concluding it with holy moly, I actually just caught Trump in the act of admitting he is a Russian agent! I even have it on tape! Woho! Collusion proved! ... rather, the expectation was always (at least from a Democratic perspective) that the investigation could bring to light certain facts that would make impeachment a viable topic of discussion.

However, now that the investigation has concluded, why is there then any possible debate on whether the report should be released to all members of Congress, completely unredacted?

Isn't that what the investigation was for? Isn't that why it's called an investigation? If the goal was to simply deliver a yes/no answer to congress with respect to whether Trump can be criminally charged or not, well, we all already knew that was never going to happen. It was the contents of the report, and what consequences those contents may have, that was the primary goal with the investigation, was it not?


2 Answers 2


... why is there then any possible debate on whether the report should be released to all members of Congress, completely unredacted?

The U.S. House voted unanimously to release the Mueller report to the public.

The President has repeatedly concurred, saying publicly that he has no objection to its release.

So there's really no debate on the matter. Everybody agrees that it should be released.

The problem is that the report contains information that cannot be released by law and for national security reasons. The report also contains the personal information of tangential third-parties, and an effort is being made to protect their privacy. There's also an effort to protect the integrity of other investigations that are ongoing. So it will take some time to release the full report, which will undoubtedly be redacted. The Attorney General estimates by mid-April.

"As we have discussed, I share your desire to ensure that Congress and the public had the opportunity to read the Special Counsel’s report. The Special Counsel is assisting us in this process,” [Attorney General William] Barr wrote to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y.

Barr said the Justice Department and the special counsel are “well along in the process of identifying and redacting” sensitive material, including material that “by law cannot be made public,” “material the intelligence community identifies as potentially compromising sensitive sources and methods; material that could affect other ongoing matters, including those that the Special Counsel has referred to other Department offices; and information that would unduly infringe on the personal privacy and reputational interests of peripheral third parties.”

Barr said that he anticipates they “will be in a position to release the report by mid-April, if not sooner.” A Justice Department official this week told Fox News that the Mueller report is more than 300 pages long.

Barr added that: “Although the President would have the right to assert privilege over certain parts of the report, he has stated publicly that he intends to defer to me and, accordingly, there are no plans to submit the report to the White House for privilege review."


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    I thought the President could unilaterally declassify everything in the report and release it if he wanted to. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, Stevenson showed recon photos in the UNSC, after all. Of course it might be unwise to release information if e.g. the US listened to Russian phones, but that must be balanced against the damage by a less-than-100-percent release of the report.
    – o.m.
    Commented Mar 30, 2019 at 16:23
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    Having the authority to declassify, and exercising that authority, are two separate animals. For the reasons listed in my answer, I don't think it would be wise, legal or decent (in the case of innocent people's personal privacy), to exercise that authority. @o.m. Commented Mar 30, 2019 at 17:32
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    @o.m. He may be able to declassify things, but there are other issues of privacy at stake. If I may be a bit tongue in cheek, someone needs to go through the document and make sure that the identity of "Individual #1" is not accidentally released.
    – Cort Ammon
    Commented Mar 30, 2019 at 18:08
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    "information that cannot be released by law", if the information you are referring to is grand jury materials then your statement should read "information that cannot be released without a court order". Grand Jury materials have been released before - but only with the written concurrence of the judge.
    – BobE
    Commented Mar 30, 2019 at 23:12
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    Since there were criminal referrals to other agencies, there is probably also some information that might compromise ongoing investigations by those agencies and perhaps some that might subject cooperating witnesses to risk of harm. Commented Jun 1, 2019 at 23:06

The other issue is that, as a Special Counsel, rather than an Independent Counsel (Ken Starr), Mueller was still reporting to the AG. Ken Starr was independent from the DOJ and therefore could deliver his report directly to Congress.

Explained elsewhere here: https://politics.stackexchange.com/a/40070/25883

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    This might need a citation or clarification because the wiki article on special prosecutors suggests the two are the exact same thing. Commented Mar 30, 2019 at 19:28
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    Correct in the sense that Starr had to submit a report directly to Congress, but probably incorrect as to the reason for that. I've asked separately for the reason (it's pretty obvious) Commented Mar 31, 2019 at 4:36
  • @DenisdeBernardy: it turns out the reporting requirements are different, so Matt is entirely correct. See my question/answer for the details. Commented Mar 31, 2019 at 9:12

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