What the blank?

Mueller Report
A screen grab of the Mueller Report (Dylan Moriarty/The Wall Street Journal)

Nothing to see here. Or is there?

The Mueller report went public today, sort of. The “lightly redacted” 448-page report by the special counsel was released to the public, preceded by a press conference by Attorney General William Barr.

Barr continued to spin the report as he did in his March 24 summary as being more favorable toward the President than a less devoted reader might conclude. In the redacted report itself the public finally saw the rest of two statements that Barr had selectively quoted in his summary last month (see “It’s like a mini-election” for more on Barr’s prior statement).

Barr seems to me far more dedicated to clearing the President of any legal entanglements and empowering the executive branch than pursuing foreign election interference or maintaining constitutional checks and balances.

Surprised? You shouldn’t be. Barr had telegraphed his view of presidential powers and his willingness to carry water for Donald Trump before Trump nominated him or the Republican-controlled Senate confirmed him. Everybody knew, or should have known, that Barr was going to act as Trump’s defense lawyer, not the people’s chief law enforcement officer.

What was blanked out of Mueller’s report? Your guess is as good as mine.

I’m not one of those who believes that absolute transparency is a good thing or that any secrecy is inherently bad. Government needs the ability to do some things in secret, or it cannot function. HOWEVER, there needs to be oversight, or government cannot be trusted.

Congress needs the unredacted report.

Whatever conclusions Mr. Barr has reached about whether criminal charges could be brought against a sitting president, or whether such charges could be proven, it is not the Attorney General’s role to decide whether a president has committed an impeachable offense. The constitutional power of impeachment resides in the House of Representatives and the power to remove from office or acquit resides in the Senate. The chief justice of the Supreme Court presides over the impeachment of a president, and the vice president gets no vote.

Without knowing the full contents of the Mueller report, it is impossible for anyone to offer an informed opinion about whether the President’s actions warrant impeachment. Congress needs to be able to make an informed decision and Congress alone has the constitutional authority.

The executive branch cannot shield a president from investigation by Congress. I can live without knowing every word that was blanked out of Mueller’s report, but the House Judiciary Committee cannot.

Barr needs to provide the unredacted Mueller report to Congress, like, yesterday.

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