Graham to Press Barr on Releasing Mueller Report
(Bloomberg) -- The Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said he’ll ask attorney general nominee William Barr to clarify whether he would release damaging information that Special Counsel Robert Mueller finds about President Donald Trump.
Chairman Lindsey Graham was pressed on the issue at a committee meeting Tuesday by Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, who questioned whether Barr would feel constrained by a Justice Department policy against releasing derogatory information about people who haven’t been charged with a crime.
Whitehouse of Rhode Island noted that a separate department legal opinion holds that a sitting president can’t be prosecuted. He asked whether Barr would disclose information on Trump if Mueller found evidence that Trump committed crimes but is prevented by department policy from indicting him.
Graham, an ally of the president, said it was a good question and said he’ll call Barr to get an answer.
“We will see what he says,” said Graham of South Carolina. The chairman also said he’ll press Barr on the limits of executive privilege and concerns by some Democrats that it could be abused to protect the president.
In written answers to committee members’ questions released Monday, Barr stood by his position that Justice Department standards may prevent him from releasing Mueller’s final report or allowing the president to be charged with a crime while in office.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday there is a “complication" that the attorney general has to follow Justice Department regulations.
“Obviously I would like for as much as possible of the Mueller report to be open,” he told reporters. “I don’t know enough about Justice Department regulations to know what part of that might make sense not to be disclosed. But let me just say, I think it ought to be as fully open and transparent, whatever the recommendation is, as possible.”
The Judiciary Committee put off a vote on Barr’s nomination until next week, a delay permitted by the panel’s rules. The full Senate could vote soon afterward.
Graham said the Mueller probe isn’t a witch hunt and should be allowed to finish.
Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, urged Graham to consider backing legislation he introduced with Republican Chuck Grassley of Iowa requiring Mueller’s report to be publicly released.
Graham said later in an interview that he hadn’t yet decided whether to hold a hearing on the legislation and wants to preserve some discretion for the attorney general on what to release.
Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the committee, said she wrote Barr a letter seeking clarity whether he will release the Mueller report. Feinstein said no department regulation would bar the transfer of the full, classified Mueller report to the Congress. She said classified information on the investigation into Hillary Clinton and other cases have been delivered to Congress and this shouldn’t be treated differently.
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