Attorney General William Barr Opening Statement Explaining Release Of Mueller Report


Attorney General William Barr delivers his opening statement before the Senate Judiciary Committee during his testimony regarding the release and redaction of the Mueller Report.

ATTORNEY GENERAL BILL BARR: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Ranking Member Feinstein, members of the committee. During my confirmation process there were two concerns that dominated, as I think you will all agree. The first was whether I would in any way impede or curtail Special Counsel Mueller's investigation, and the second, whether I would make public his final report. As you see, Bob Mueller was allowed to--to complete his work as he saw fit, and as to the report, even though the applicable regulations require that the report is to be made to the AG and is to remain confidential and not be made public, I told this committee that I intended to exercise whatever discretion I had to make as much of the report available to the public and to congressional leaders as I could, consistent with the law. This has been done.

I arrived at the department on February 14, and shortly thereafter I asked it to be communicated to Bob Mueller's team that in preparing the report we requested that they make it so we could readily identify 6(e) material so we could quickly process the report for--

GRAHAM: Could you tell the public what 6(e) is?

BARR: 6(e) is Grand Jury material that cannot be made public. It's prohibited by statute. And I wanted that identified so we could redact that material and prepare the report for public release as quickly as we could. When I arrived at the department I found--and was eventually briefed in on the investigation--I found that the deputy attorney general and his principal associate deputy, Ed O'Callaghan, were in regular discussions with the counsel's office, had been, and they communicated this request and had discussions about both the timing of the report and the nature of the report.

On March 5 I met with Bob at the suggestion of the deputy and the principal associate deputy--Bob Mueller, I met with Bob Mueller--to get a readout on what his conclusions would be. On March 25--and at that meeting I asked--I reiterated to Special Counsel Mueller that in order to have the shortest possible time before I was in a position to release the report, I asked that they identify 6(e) material. When I received the report on March 22--and we were hoping to have that easily identified, the 6(e) material, unfortunately it did not come in that form, and it quickly became apparent that it would take about three or four weeks to identify that material and other material that would have to be redacted. So there was necessarily going to be a gap between the receipt of the report and getting the full report out publicly.

The deputy and I identified four categories of information that we believe required redaction, and I think you all know of them, but they were the Grand Jury material, the 6(e) material, information that the intelligence community advised would reveal sensitive sources and methods, information that if revealed at this stage would impinge on the investigation or prosecution of related cases, and information that would unfairly affect the privacy and reputational interests of peripheral third parties. We went about redacting this material in concert with the special counsel's office. We needed their assistance to identify the 6(e) material, in particular. The redactions were all carried out by DOJ lawyers with special counsel lawyers in consultation with intelligence community.

The report contained a substantial amount of material over which the president could have asserted executive privilege, but the president made the decision not to assert executive privilege and to make public as much of the report as we could subject to the redactions that we thought required. As you see, the report has been lightly redacted. The public version has been estimated to have only 10 percent redactions. Almost--the vast bulk of those reductions relate to--are in Volume 1, which is the volume that deals with collusion and that relates to existing ongoing cases. Volume 2 has only about 2 percent redactions for the public version. So 98 percent of Volume 2 dealing with obstruction is available to the public.

We have made a version of the report available to congressional leaders that only contains redactions of Grand Jury material. For this version, overall redactions are less than 2 percent for the whole report, and for Volume 2 dealing with obstruction, they are less than one tenth of 1 percent. So given the limited nature of redactions, I believe that the public--publicly-released report will allow every American to understand the results of the special counsel's work.

By now everyone is familiar with the special counsel's bottom line conclusions about the Russian attempts to interfere in the election. In Volume 1 the special counsel found that the Russians engaged--engaged in two distinct schemes. First, the Internet Research Agency, a Russian entity with close ties to the Russian government, conducted a disinformation and social media operation to sow discord among Americans. Second, the GRU, Russian military intelligence, hacked into computers and stole emails from individuals affiliated with the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton's campaign. The special counsel investigated whether anyone affiliated with President Trump's campaign conspired or coordinated with these criminal schemes. They concluded that there was not sufficient evidence to establish that there had been any conspiracy or coordination with the Russian government or the IRA.

As you know, Volume 2 of his report dealt with obstruction, and the special counsel considered whether certain actions of the president could amount to obstruction. He decided not to reach a conclusion. Instead, the report recounts 10 episodes and discusses potential legal theories for connecting the president's actions to elements of obstruction offenses. Now we first heard that the special counsel's decision not to decide the obstruction issue at meet--at the March 5 meeting when he came over to the department, and we were, frankly, surprised that--that they were not going to reach a decision on obstruction. And we asked them a lot about the reasoning behind this and the basis for this. Special Counsel Mueller stated three times to us in that meeting, in response to our questioning, that he emphatically was not saying that but for the OLC opinion he would have found obstruction. He said that in the future the facts of the case against the president might be such that a special counsel would recommend abandoning the OLC opinion, but this is not such a case. We did not understand exactly why the special counsel was not reaching a decision. And when we pressed him on it, he said that his team was still formulating the explanation.

Once we heard that the special counsel was not reaching a conclusion on obstruction, the deputy and I discussed and agreed that the department had to reach a decision. We had the responsibility to assess the evidence as set forth in the report and to make the judgment. I say this because special counsel was appointed to carry out the investigative and prosecutorial functions of the department and to do it as part of the Department of Justice. The powers he was using, including the power of using the Grand Jury and using compulsory process, exists for that purpose, the function of the Department of Justice in this arena, which is to determine whether or not there has been criminal conduct. It's a binary decision. Is there enough evidence to show a crime, and do we believe a crime has been committed?

We don't conduct criminal investigations just to collect information and put it out to the public. We do so to make a decision. And here we thought there was an additional reason, which is this was a very public investigation, and we had made clear that the results of the investigation were going to be made public, and the deputy and I felt that the evidence developed by the special counsel was not sufficient to establish that the president committed a crime, and therefore it would be irresponsible and unfair for the department to release a report without stating the department's conclusions and thus leave it hanging as to whether the department considered that there had been criminal conduct.

So the deputy attorney general and I conducted a careful review of the report with our staffs and legal advisors, and while we disagreed with some of the legal theories and felt that many of the episodes discussed in the report would not constitute obstruction as a matter of law, we didn't rest our decision on that. We took each of the 10 episodes, and we assessed them against the analytical framework that had been set forth by the special counsel. And we concluded that the evidence developed during the special counsel's investigation was not sufficient to establish that the president committed an obstruction of justice offense.

BARR: Let me just talk a little bit about this March 24th letter and--and Bob Mueller's letter I think on the 20, which I received on the 28th.

When the report came in on the 22nd and we saw it was going to take a great deal of time to get it out to the public I made the determination that we had to put out some information about the bottom line. The body politic was in a high state of agitation. There was massive interest in learning what the bottom line results of Bob Mueller's investigation was particularly as to collusion. Former government officials were confident--confidently predicting that the president and members of his family were going to be indicted. There were people suggesting that if it took any time to turn around the report and get it out it would mean that the president was in legal jeopardy. So, I didn't feel that it was in the public interest to allow this to go on for several weeks without saying anything. And so I decided to simply state what the bottom line conclusions were, which is what the department normally does--make a bi--binary determination. Is there a crime or isn't there a crime? We--we prepared the letter for

that purpose to state the bottom line conclusions. We use the language from the report to state those bottom line conclusions. I analogize it to announcing after an extended trial what the verdict of the trial is. Pending release of the full transcript. That's what we were trying to do--notify the people as to the bottom line conclusion. We were not trying to summarize the 410 page report.

So, we released that I--I offered Bob Mueller the opportunity to review that letter before it went out and he declined. On Thursday morning I received--I received--it was probably received at the department Wednesday night or evening, but on Thursday morning I received a letter from Bob the letter that's just been put into the record. And I called Bob and said you know, what's the issue here? Are you su--and I asked him if he was suggesting that the March 24th letter was inaccurate and he said no, but that the press reporting had been inaccurate. And that the press was reading too much into it and I asked him you know, specifically what his concern was. And he said, that his concern focused on his explanation of why he did not reach a conclusion on obstruction. And he wanted more put out on that issue. He wanted--he argued for putting out summaries of each volume--the executive summaries that had been written by his office. And, if not that then other material that focused on the issue of why he didn't r

each the obstruction question. But he was very clear with me that he was not suggesting that we had misrepresented his report.

I told Bob that I was not interested in putting out summaries and I wasn't going to put out the report piece meal. I wanted to get the whole report out. And, I thought summaries by very definition regardless of who prepared them would be under inclusive and we'd have sort of a series of different debates and public discord over each tranche of information that went out and I wanted to get everything out at once and we should start working on that. And so the following day I put out a letter explaining the process we were following and stressing that the March 24th letter was not a summary of the report but a statement of the principal conclusions and that people would be able to see Bob Mueller's entire thinking when the report was made public. So, I'll end my statement there, Mr. Chairman and glad to take any questions.

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