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Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation did not find evidence that President Trump conspired with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign, according to a summary released by the Justice Department on Sunday. Bob Bauer, a professor at NYU's School of Law and former White House counsel to President Obama, joins Hari Sreenivasan to discuss how much of the full report should be made public.
Attorney General William Barr issued his summary within 48 hours of receiving the Mueller report. Earlier today I spoke with Bob Bauer, a professor at New York University School of Law and former White House counsel to President Barack Obama, about what may have motivated Barr to issue his summary in that short amount of time.
He joined us from Washington D.C.
Is there an incentive here for the attorney general to publish something and publish something substantive as fast as possible?
Yes. I think there absolutely is because if he does not plan to make a full disclosure then it's in his interest to be able to say, I think, I put it out immediately, I put the top line, key findings out immediately and then I think is a strong position or a stronger position for him to be in when the inevitable complaints come that he should have, on his own initiative, release even more.
There's not any particular guidelines, there is more of a kind of a floor instead of a ceiling on what he has to publish, right?
The regulations are actually in some respects fairly discouraging to people who want him to make the fullest possible disclosure. It gives him plenty of cover for not doing it. Now he can make a public interest determination to release frankly as much as that report as he would like to hear. But there are reasons why one might suspect that he will not do that and he'll leave it to other institutions like the Congress.
If Congress is an indicator of our public interest there is already a fair amount of public interest from several senators as well as the majority of the House?
Yes, the full House voted, I think unanimously to have the report released in full. But that would be encouraging to Barr in doing only what he thinks he has to do. Because if in fact the House of Representatives is already on record saying that it will push for full disclosure, he can leave it to the House and decide that as attorney general he would make a more selective disclosure and then treat issues of privilege and confidentially relatively conservatively.
What about the idea that the people that are not indicted in there, who are inside this report who were interviewed, who are in different levels of cooperation that they should have their privacy protected?
You know, certainly there are particular rules for example that protect grand jury information, there are questions of executive privilege here that protect the confidentiality of communications with the president but in some cases and no doubt at some cost to some of the individuals involved, there's an overriding public interest in disclosure. Certainly the House has enormous authority to obtain this material to assist it in its oversight and impeachment related responsibilities. But there's a broader public interest in any event in knowing for example, the extent of Russian interference in the election in 2016. In extraordinary circumstances, those individual privacy concerns, privilege concerns give way.
The only question is which processes are used to obtain that information and Barr may conclude he has a limited obligation here and he should leave it to the other institutions and to the Congress, in particular, to pursue the broader disclosure.
How much of this comes down to Robert Mueller, his personality, his sort of long history with the Department of Justice?
For Mueller, I think particularly given how he's conducted the investigation so far, very limited public exposure. I mean, it's almost a standing joke of course that his spokesperson will not speak to any of the issues that are raised publicly and with such intensity in this case. He's gone about his business in a very workmanlike fashion, he's allowed these indictments to speak for themselves. And so, a lot of it has to do with how he sees his role and in a world in which people are so terribly concerned as they should be, about the erosion of norms, he's somewhat of a shining example of somebody in the middle of a public responsibility of this magnitude, who really cares about the norms that govern the work of a prosecutor in his position. So I think he's acquitted himself very honorably and I think it's something that we ought to take into account when we see precisely how he's fashioned his report to the attorney general.
All right Bob Bauer, NYU Law School and former White House counsel to President Obama. Thanks so much.
Pleasure, thank you.
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