By Sarah N. Lynch
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Attorney General William Barr told lawmakers on Tuesday that he intends to release within a week a redacted version of the long-awaited report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election from Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Barr, an appointee of President Donald Trump who last month announced what he said were the main findings of the report, told Democrats he would be as open as possible about redactions of sensitive information when he hands over the full document.
“Within a week I will be in position to release that 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 said at his first appearance before Congress since receiving the report on March 22.
“I don’t intend at this stage to send the full unredacted report to the committee,” Barr told a House of Representatives Appropriations subcommittee. “I am relying on my own discretion to make as much public as I can.”
Mueller turned over his confidential report to Barr last month following his 22-month-long probe into whether members of Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 White House race and if Trump then obstructed inquiries into the matter.
After receiving the report, Barr wrote in a letter to Congress that the Mueller investigation did not establish that members of Trump’s election campaign conspired with Russia but Democrats say Americans should see the full Mueller report and related documents.
Barr said on Tuesday: “I don’t intend at this stage to send the full unredacted report to the committee.”
Redacted official documents or reports typically have sections blacked out to protect sensitive information.
Barr gave no indication of how much of the report will be obscured but said he was working with Mueller on restricting details about secret grand jury information, U.S. intelligence gathering and ongoing criminal cases as well as potentially damaging information about peripheral players who were not charged in the Russia probe.
Barr left open the possibility that some members of Congress would be allowed to review secret information from the report in a safe setting.
“I can envision a situation where under appropriate safeguards, that information can be shared,” Barr said. “I also think under appropriate safeguards, there is a way of people verifying these categories (of redactions) were not abused.”
Democrats repeatedly criticized Barr for his handling of the report, including taking it upon himself in the letter to decide that Trump should not be charged with obstruction of justice.
Nita Lowey, chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, said Barr’s letter summarizing the Mueller report appears to “cherry-pick from the report to draw the most favourable conclusion possible for the president.”
“In many ways, your letter raises more questions than it answers,” she added.
The New York Times and the Washington Post reported last week that some investigators on Mueller’s team were unhappy with the way Barr described their findings. The reports said that some of the evidence against Trump was more damning than Barr’s letter indicated.
Barr said he did not have insight into why some on Mueller’s team were upset. “I suspect that they probably wanted more put out,” he said.
Barr said he did not offer to let Mueller help draft his four-page March 24 letter to Congress on the conclusions of the special counsel’s investigation. Asked why, Barr said, “Because it was my letter.”
He said the White House did not review the letter to Congress laying out Mueller’s findings before he sent it.
Last week, Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee prepared subpoenas that they plan to issue to the Justice Department if Barr does not agree to release the Mueller report in full.
(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Alistair Bell)