U.S. Attorney General William Barr said he expects to hit a mid-April timetable for releasing a redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller III’s report to the public.
Barr’s comments came during a budget hearing before a U.S. House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees spending for the Justice and Commerce departments. But Democrats on the panel, who are demanding the full release of Mueller’s findings, still used the opportunity to badger Barr with questions.
“From my standpoint, within a week, I will be in a position to release the report to the public and then I will engage with the chairmen of both judiciary committees about that report, about any further requests that they have,” Barr told lawmakers.
Tuesday’s hearing came the same day a federal judge in Washington rejected a nonprofit group’s bid to fast-track a Freedom of Information Act that demands Mueller’s report.
The attorney general said the Justice Department will color-code redacted portions of the report and provide explanatory notes that describe the basis for each redaction. He’s identified four types of information that could be redacted, including grand jury information, and material that could interfere with ongoing prosecutions or compromise sources and methods.
Barr reiterated he is working with Mueller to identify areas in the report that could fall under those redaction categories.
Rep. Ed Case, D-Hawaii, questioned Barr on whether he intends to directly ask a federal judge to make sensitive information in Mueller’s report public. Although Barr has said it would be illegal to release grand jury material, he could ask the judge presiding over Mueller’s grand jury—Chief Judge Beryl Howell of Washington’s federal trial court—to permit the release.
“My intention is not to ask for it at this stage,” Barr told Case. He noted Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-New York, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, could make that request himself. Nadler has threatened to subpoena the Justice Department for Mueller’s findings, if he and Barr can’t come to an agreement over redactions.
In an exchange with Rep. Nita Lowey, D-New York, Barr defended how quickly his four-page March 24 letter to lawmakers—summarizing Mueller’s main findings—came together. “The thinking for the special counsel was not a mystery to the people of the Department of Justice prior to the submission of the report,” Barr said.
Barr noted that before Mueller submitted his findings, Mueller interacted with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s office, who initially oversaw the special counsel probe. The attorney general said he met with Rosenstein and Mueller on March 5, too.
Barr said earlier in the hearing that Mueller’s team was not involved in drafting Barr’s March 24 letter. The attorney general said he offered Mueller a chance to review it, but the special counsel declined. Various news reports suggest members of Mueller’s team were dissatisfied with Barr’s initial summary, believing it only provided a limited picture of the special counsel’s findings.
Under questioning from Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Alabama, Barr said he is reviewing the conduct of the Mueller investigation, “and trying to get my arms around all the aspects of the counterintelligence investigation that was conducted during the summer of 2016.”
He noted that DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s pending investigation into possible abuses of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is expected to conclude in May or June.