On the eve of Attorney General William Barr’s testimony on a redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, only two lawmakers have set eyes on secret information that Barr withheld from public view.
Barr offered access to a less-redacted version of the report to just 12 members of Congress — six Democrats and six Republicans. But as of Tuesday afternoon, only Rep. Doug Collins, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, opted to view it. A third, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he planned to review the report later Tuesday.
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Collins and Graham told POLITICO that what’s underneath the redactions has no bearing on Mueller’s conclusions: that there wasn’t enough evidence to charge any American with conspiring with Russians to influence the 2016 presidential election and that Justice Department guidelines prevented Mueller from reaching a legal conclusion on whether President Donald Trump obstructed Justice.
“It didn’t change anything,” Collins said. “Some of the redactions could actually be implied from other parts of the report that were not redacted.”
Graham, whose committee will hear from Barr on Wednesday, said he wasn’t clear why some of the information was redacted at all. Like Collins, Graham said that after viewing it, “nothing changed for me.”
“I don’t know why they redacted half of what they redacted,” he added.
Collins declined to discuss the specifics of the redacted portions of Mueller’s report or to characterize the nature of the 12 ongoing matters that Mueller referred to other prosecutors. He also swiped at Democrats for refusing to view the less-redacted report.
The six Democrats to whom Barr offered access to the report boycotted en masse, complaining that Barr should have provided a fully unredacted report to a broader set of lawmakers investigating Trump’s conduct. House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler has subpoenaed Barr and the Justice Department for the full report and Mueller’s underlying evidence. The deadline for compliance is May 1.
When Barr released the public version of Mueller’s report earlier this month, he withheld four categories of material: classified information, material related to ongoing investigations, information that could damage the reputation of “peripheral third parties” and evidence collected by Mueller’s grand jury. Barr’s less-redacted report for the 12 lawmakers allowed them access to each category except grand jury material.
Under the terms offered by Barr, each lawmaker granted access would also be allowed to designate one staff member to view the report. The report was made available at Justice Department headquarters last week and is available for lawmakers and aides to review in a secure room on Capitol Hill this week. Information could not be shared with other lawmakers.
“While the Department will permit notetaking, the Department asks that all notes remain at the Department in its secure facility,” Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd wrote to lawmakers earlier this month, outlining the terms of their access. “Department officials will transfer notes to and from Capitol Hill for in camera review sessions that take place there.”
Barr is slated to testify to the Senate on Wednesday and the House on Thursday about Mueller’s report and his handling of its release, which has infuriated Democrats who say Barr misrepresented the damaging evidence Mueller found that Trump attempted to obstruct the investigation.
In addition to Collins, Graham and McConnell, Barr offered access to the report to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer.
Others granted access include the top Democrats on the House and Senate judiciary committees, Nadler and Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, and the leaders of the House and Senate intelligence committees: Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.).
Burr told POLITICO on Tuesday morning he hadn’t seen the less-redacted report. And McCarthy said he had no intention of viewing it.
“I trust what Barr put forward,” he said. “I’m satisfied right now with what I know.”