WASHINGTON — The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press is seeking an order to release the grand jury material in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, after Attorney General William Barr indicated that information would not be part of the public release of the report.
Barr has said that he is bound by obligations of the Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure to maintain the secrecy of the grand jury materials, but the Reporters Committee is seeking court authorization to allow him to release the information.
“This was no ordinary secret grand jury investigation but rather one that was in many respects public and that has affected the entire country and all branches of government,” the reporters committee said in a legal brief filed on Monday.
Last week, the Reporters Committee submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for access to the Special Counsel’s report in its entirety.
Katie Townsend, the legal director of the Reporters Committee, said that “the calls for transparency are broad and bipartisan. The president himself has said the report should be made public. We agree. The public is entitled to see as much of the Mueller report, unredacted, as possible.”
Barr wrote in a letter to Congress last week that he would be identifying and redacting other material as well, including information on sensitive intelligence matters and ongoing investigations, as well as passages that “would unduly infringe on the personal privacy and reputational interests of peripheral third parties.”
“Courts have recognized that the public’s interest in understanding grand jury investigations assessing criminal conduct directed by at a president may ‘overwhelm’ any need for secrecy,” the Reporters Committee said in their brief. “…The same is certainly true with regard to a grand jury investigation into alleged criminal conduct by a president or a presidential campaign.”
They cited previous court orders to release grand jury material relating to criminal investigations involving other recent presidents, including Richard Nixon (Watergate), Ronald Reagan (Iran Contra) and Bill Clinton (Monica Lewinsky).
Also representing the Reporters Committee in the case is Bruce Brown, its executive director, and a team of outside counsel led by Ted Boutrous of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.