Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy On The Need To Release The Full Mueller Report
It was exceptionally good news on Sunday that Special Counsel Robert Mueller did not implicate our president in a criminal conspiracy with Russia to attack our elections. The alternative would have been nothing short of catastrophic for our republic.
I also want to express my appreciation to Mr. Mueller and his team for their service to our country, determining the facts of what happened during an unprecedented attack on our democracy. This investigation endured relentless attacks during its 22 month existence, more than 1,100 from the President alone according to The New York Times.
These attacks may have tried to politicize and undermine Mr. Mueller’s investigation, but they did not deter his course. Far from it. Mr. Mueller obtained 37 indictments, including against numerous close aides of the President. That marks this special counsel’s investigation as one of the most productive and consequential in our history.
The American people and their representatives in Congress deserve to see the special counsel’s work. The oversight authority of this body is deeply rooted in the Constitution. We would be derelict in our duties if we did not do everything within our power to obtain the full report and its underlying evidence.
We already know from the 37 indictments, and from testimony received by the Judiciary Committee, that this investigation has uncovered serious misconduct.
We know the Trump campaign was informed that Russia had stolen Democratic emails months before anyone else. We know that a senior member of the campaign enthusiastically accepted an offer from the Russian government to provide “incriminating” information on Hillary Clinton, and afterward he and the President blatantly misrepresented that meeting. We know from Roger Stone’s indictment that the President was told about a coming release of stolen emails, and the campaign asked Stone to keep them apprised of developments with future releases. And we know during all of this the President was hiding his pursuit of a lucrative business deal in Moscow.
These activities may not amount to a crime, but they certainly amount to serious misconduct that reached the highest levels of the campaign and this administration. And they certainly raise questions about the President’s baffling relationship with Russia and Vladimir Putin.
And that does not even touch on obstruction of justice. Attorney General Barr’s letter revealed there is still nonpublic evidence of the President’s attempts to interfere with this investigation. The Special Counsel did not conclude whether the President's obsessive interference qualifies as obstruction, yet he stated that his report does not exonerate the President – an extraordinary statement.
Apparently Mr. Barr believes there is insufficient evidence to charge obstruction. But Mr. Barr also believes that it is not obstruction for a president to interfere with an investigation by exercising his Article II powers. And, regardless, he believes that the only mechanism for holding a sitting president accountable is through Congress. So I hope he would agree that it is the judgment of Congress – and of the American people – that is of the utmost importance in this moment.
There is simply no justification for hiding even a portion of the Mueller report. The President has claimed it “totally exonerates” him. With respect to the collusion investigation, grand jury secrecy can be waived by the courts where there is a particularized need that outweighs the interest in secrecy. With respect to the obstruction investigation, executive privilege cannot be used to hide evidence of a potential crime. Any such claims would likely not survive a challenge under U.S. v. Nixon. And it is also hard to imagine that such hypothetical claims were not waived when the White House permitted administration witnesses to talk to the Special Counsel’s Office.
Transparency is the touchstone of our democracy. Any attempt to hide swaths of the Mueller report from public scrutiny will only fuel suspicions that President Trump’s Justice Department, which represents the United States, is playing the role of President Trump’s defense team. If no person, however powerful, is truly above the law, then no person should be permitted to conceal the results of such a critical national security investigation from public view.
And I would hope, in the days and weeks ahead, the Senate has something to say about that.
David Carle: 202-224-3693
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