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White House Did Not Assert Privilege, Barr Says Ahead of Mueller Report’s Release

Prefacing his release of the report by special counsel Robert Mueller on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, Attorney General William Barr said Thursday that the White House did not make any claims of executive privilege.

WASHINGTON (CN) - Prefacing his release of the report by special counsel Robert Mueller on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, Attorney General William Barr said Thursday that the White House did not make any claims of executive privilege.

Barr shed light on how the Justice Department finalized Mueller's report for release at a 9:30 a.m. press conference, nearly a month after getting the report from the Special Counsel's Office. The AG said the White House was given a redacted version of the report to review but did not assert any claims of privilege. Trump's personal attorneys also reviewed the report earlier this week, but were not allowed to suggest any redactions, Barr said.

All redactions in the report, Barr said, came from attorneys within the Justice Department. They determined what aspects of the report should be shielded from public view by working with attorneys in Mueller's office, people in intelligence agencies and prosecutors who are still working on Mueller-linked cases, Barr said.  

"The redactions are their work product," Barr said. "There were no redactions done by anybody outside this group."

Barr said redactions were not even suggested by anybody outside the collection of attorneys, and that most of what will remain secret in the report is information related to ongoing investigations and prosecutions, including the criminal case against longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone.

Laying eyes on Mueller's full report has long been a goal of Congressional Democrats, who have threatened to subpoena the Justice Department for the full report and the underlying evidence supporting it. The House Judiciary Committee, chaired by New York Representative Jerrold Nadler, voted last month to authorize a subpoena doing just that.

Nadler revealed after Barr's press conference Thursday that he has invited Mueller to testify before the Judiciary Committee no later than May 23.

“It is clear Congress and the American people must hear from Special Counsel Robert Mueller in person to better understand his findings,” Nadler said in a tweet about the letter.

Barr took office in February, replacing former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whose recusal from the Russia investigation long rankled the president.

Saying that Barr took the job "already biased" in favor of Trump, Representative Eric Swalwell called Thursday for Barr to resign.

"Today, [Barr] made a show of allegiance to the president over the American people by declaring 'no collusion' and excusing the president on the basis of his emotional state," said Swalwell, a California Democrat who is also vying for the 2020 presidential nomination.

"He has proved that he's an embedded Trump ally who puts this president's political future above of the rule of law,” Swalwell added. “That makes him unfit to serve. He must resign."

Roger Stone, an associate of President Donald Trump, leaves the U.S. District Court, after a court status conference on his seven charges: one count of obstruction of an official proceeding, five counts of false statements, and one count of witness tampering, in Washington, Thursday, March 14, 2019. Stone has pleaded not guilty to the charges. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

Barr's press conference followed a revelation late Wednesday in the Stone case that the Justice Department will provide a less redacted version to "a limited number" of lawmakers.

"The Justice Department intends to secure this version of the report in an appropriate setting that will be accessible to a limited number of Members of Congress and their staff," the 3-page filing states.

Information about Stone's case will be included in the fuller version, which will not be accessible to press or members of Congress generally. The Stone filing does not specify which members of Congress would have access to the second version of the report.

Stone's defense attorney Robert Buschel had asked the court for access to the full report in a flurry of filings Friday.

"His lawyers must be allowed to review the report in its entirety because it contains the government's evidence and conclusions on matters essential to Stone's defense," the Friday filing says.

Stone wants the report to support his effort to get his prosecution tossed, a theory that rests on the claim Mueller's investigation lacked constitutional authority.

Following the public release of the Mueller report, however, Stone's attorneys modified their discovery request "based on a preliminary reading of the report."

Specifically, they want to know whether Mueller reviewed anyone's testimony from congressional probes into Russian collusion to determine "the truth or falsity of that person's testimony," who the person is, when they testified, the subject matter and reason for their testimony, and all documents addressing a decision to charge - or not charge - the person.

Stone also seeks documents on communications between congressional committees investigating Russian collusion and Mueller’s office relating to Stone’s testimony, as well as any “documents relating to Michael Cohen’s testimony, interviews or statements relating to an alleged telephone call he overheard between Roger Stone and Donald Trump.”

Stone has pleaded not guilty to making false statements, obstructing justice and witness tampering in relation to conversations he had in 2016 about WikiLeaks, which dumped a trove of stolen Democratic emails that damaged Hillary Clinton's campaign.

In his letter last month Barr said Mueller found no American, including members of Trump's campaign, gave "knowing assistance" to Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. The attorney general repeated this conclusion Thursday.

"After nearly two years of investigation, thousands of subpoenas, and hundreds of warrants and witness interviews, the special counsel confirmed that the Russian government sponsored efforts to illegally interfere with the 2016 presidential election but did not find that the Trump campaign or other Americans colluded in those schemes," Barr said at the press conference.

Barr also repeated that Mueller did not make a determination on whether President Donald Trump obstructed justice. 

In reaching the conclusion himself that Trump did not obstruct justice, Barr said he relied on the evidence Mueller compiled. The attorney general said he worked with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to make the determination, and that the two accepted Mueller's legal theories, even if they did not fully agree with them.

Barr added that Mueller looked into 10 "episodes involving the president” in considering the obstruction question. Though Barr did not give more detail on those incidents, he said in his March 24 letter that most of the conduct Mueller considered was "the subject of public reporting."

Categories:Government, Law, Politics

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