Days after special counsel Robert Mueller submitted his report on Russia’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, two new listings on Amazon have added fire to the debate over whether or not the full report should be made public — and if so, when it will be released.
Though Mueller himself has not commented on his findings, Attorney General William Barr did present a four-page summary to Congress of the results of Mueller’s investigation, which stated that neither President Donald Trump nor members of his campaign “conspired or coordinated” with the Russian government to run election interference. Barr was careful to note, however, that “while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him” on the obstruction of justice.
Barr and his team have so far been the only people privy to the full report. Former federal and NY state prosecutor Daniel R. Alonso, currently a managing director of Exiger, says “there is no current expectation one way or the other” for the report to be released publicly, and that “the discretion rests with the Attorney General.”
While there hasn’t been any announcement from Barr as to whether the full findings will be released, two listings popped up on Amazon this week that make the report available for pre-order.
One Amazon listing says its report will include an introduction from legal expert and frequent cable news commentator, Alan Dershowitz. The second listing is attributed to the Washington Post, and says readers will get the full report, a timeline of events, and “key documents” in the special counsel’s investigation into Russian meddling, which includes filings pertaining to General Michael T. Flynn, Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen and Roger Stone. The listing says both Mueller’s report and the supporting documents will be accompanied by an introduction and analysis from Washington Post reporters.
While the listings have already shot to the top of Amazon’s Best Sellers list, it’s still unclear as to whether or not the report will see the light of day. Both listings have April 30 as a placeholder release date, though there has been no talk of any timeline regarding the report’s full release, despite calls from both Democrats and Republicans (and even Trump himself) for the findings to come out. The decision, it would seem, rests with Barr.
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According to federal guidelines, “The Attorney General may determine that public release of these reports would be in the public interest, to the extent that release would comply with applicable legal restrictions.”
“The regulations speak of the public interest, and I can’t imagine anything more in the public interest than the release of this report,” Alonso says. “On the other hand, prosecutors generally charge people or don’t. When they don’t, they are discouraged from speaking about the evidence they had, which might have come close to being sufficient for a criminal charge, but was ultimately not.”
Alonso adds that even Barr “can’t authorize the public release of (1) Grand Jury information, or (2) classified information. I expect that, if the AG releases the report, those items would be redacted,” he says. “Additionally, some information may pertain to ongoing investigations, which could be damaged if the information were made public.”
Court TV anchor and former prosecutor and State and Federal Defense Attorney, Seema Iyer agrees. She says Barr “doesn’t have to disclose more than the summary he wrote.” But Barr can release more or all of it, if he chooses, she says, subject to redactions. “Anything redacted would be to protect witnesses, grand jury and other investigations, classified material, as well as ongoing prosecutions,” Iyer explains.
There is another way in which the full report could see the light of day. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said in a tweet late Sunday that he would call on Barr to testify “in the near future,” intimating that the committee will use its subpoena power to obtain the full Mueller report. “Mueller could also be called to testify,” Iyer says. “This fight could go to the Supreme Court, with Congress boasting its investigative powers, and the Justice Department arguing that confidentiality must be maintained.”
The Department of Justice has so far not commented on the Amazon listings for the Mueller report, and it’s unlikely that they’ll address it. There was similarly no comment from the DOJ when former FBI director James Comey released his tell-all book last spring, and when former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe released his book, “The Threat: How The FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump” last month.
Ultimately, experts say the almost two-year wait for Mueller to complete his investigation, and the back and forth over its findings has only fueled demand for the full report to be released.
“We are living through Watergate 2.0,” Iyer says. “If the presidency was hijacked by the Russians, the American people, and the world, has a right to know.”
“I don’t think there has been a matter of greater public interest than this one in a long time,” Alonso adds. “The legitimacy of the presidency, and even the effectiveness of U.S. democracy, are at stake.”
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