The Justice Department is expected to send the report by special counsel Robert Mueller to Congress by mid-April, Attorney General William Barr wrote in a letter to the chairmen of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees Friday. Barr said that there are no plans for President Trump to review the report, which is nearly 400 pages long, excluding tables and appendices, before it is sent to Congress.
"I share your desire to ensure that Congress and the public have the opportunity to read the Special Counsel's report," Barr wrote in his letter to House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler and Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham. Barr said that the Justice Department was working with Mueller to identify and redact any information pertaining to national security, ongoing litigation and data which would "unduly infringe on the personal privacy and reputational interests of peripheral third parties."
In his letter, Barr also discussed media reports and other public statements "mischaracterizing" his first letter to Congress regarding the special counsel investigation, which he sent on Sunday.
His four-page letter summarized the key points of the Mueller report: that the special counsel had determined that Mr. Trump did not collude with Russia during the 2016 election, and had made no determination on whether the president had obstructed justice. Barr also said in that letter that he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, based on evidence available, determined that Mr. Trump did not obstruct justice.
While Mr. Trump has been quick to tout this letter as a total exoneration, Democrats have decried the letter as being too simple a summary of the investigation, and questioned Barr's decision making process on obstruction.
"My March 24 letter was not, and did not purport to be, an exhaustive recounting of the special counsel's investigation or report," Barr wrote, adding that the Sunday letter only summarized "the bottom line" of Mueller's report.
"I do not believe it would be in the public's interest for me to attempt to summarize the full report or to release it in serial or piecemeal fashion," Barr wrote on Friday.
Barr also said that he was available to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 1 and before House Judiciary Committee on May 2. Nadler called on Barr to testify before the committee after the attorney general sent his summary letter last week.
In a letter released late Monday, the chairs of the House Judiciary, Oversight, Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, Ways and Means and Financial Services committees said they needed access to all of Mueller's findings and investigative materials by April 2 to make an "independent assessment" of the probe. Barr's latest letter indicates that this deadline will not be met.
Responding to Barr's letter Friday, Nadler said that Congress still expects to receive the full report by the April 2 deadline, rather than the mid-April timeline Barr laid out in his letter. He also said he wants Barr "to come before Congress immediately to explain the rationale behind his letter, his rapid decision that the evidence developed was insufficient to establish an obstruction of justice offense, and his continued refusal to provide us with the full report."
Nadler also objected to Barr's move to release a redacted version of the report.
"He should work with us to request a court order to release any and all grand jury information to the House Judiciary Committee—as has occurred in every similar investigation in the past," Nadler said. "There is ample precedent for the Department of Justice sharing all of the information that the Attorney General proposes to redact to the appropriate congressional committees."
House Democratic staff were already anticipating that Barr would try to withhold portions of the report and have begun preparing the legal arguments they will use to argue they should receive not only the full report, but also all the underlying materials Mueller used to prepare it.
In a briefing Thursday, staff pointed to the 1974 Watergate investigation that preceded the resignation of President Nixon, when grand jury material was given to the House Judiciary Committee as it was conducing impeachment proceedings. And in 1998, that committee received 18 boxes of evidence including grand jury information from Independent Counsel Ken Starr when he concluded his investigation into President Clinton.
Nadler said Wednesday evening that Barr would not commit to releasing all of Mueller's underlying materials during a ten-minute phone call earlier that day. Asked if he was prepared to go to court to ask a judge to release grand jury materials to the committee, Nadler declined to answer but told reporters, "you can draw your own conclusions," indicating he is prepared to move forward with a legal challenge.
House Democrats will also argue that Barr cannot shield sensitive information from being turned over to Congress, arguing that less than a year ago, the Justice Department provided 880,000 pages of internal investigative documents from its investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server, and also gave the House Intelligence Committee highly sensitive documents related to the surveillance warrant for a wiretap of former Trump campaign aide Carter Page.