We now know how William Barr, Donald Trump’s handpicked attorney general, decided to summarize Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Russia scandal. Barr received Mueller’s report on Friday, and two days later, released a four-page summary that brought a “feeling of euphoria” to the White House.
But as important as the attorney general’s memo is, a combination of factors – its brevity, Barr’s credibility, questions raised by the attorney general’s specific wording and conclusions – have only intensified the need to see the special counsel’s own document.
Some of the president’s allies may not agree. Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee and one of the White House’s most sycophantic allies, appeared on Fox News yesterday and suggested the document should be set on fire.
“So the Mueller report – a lot of people, ‘Oh what does it say?’ We can just burn it up. I mean, it is a partisan document.”
This, of course, came several hours before the release of Bill Barr’s summary, at which point Trump World abandoned its don’t-trust-Mueller talking points, and instead insisted that Barr’s assessment of Mueller’s findings must be accepted at face value. (It also came three days after Nunes and 419 other members of the U.S. House voted for a resolution calling for the public release of the special counsel’s findings.)
Around the same time, Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), the ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee, sat down with Fox News’ Chris Wallace, who asked a good question: “Isn’t it legitimate to argue that even if there is damaging information to the president that does not rise to the level of an indictment, that it should be turned over to Congress to take a look at?”
Collins replied that it’s “not the Department of Justice’s job” to provide lawmakers with information to lawmakers in pursuit of “a purely partisan investigation.”
Putting aside the fact that House Republicans had a very different opinion on this question as recently as last year, I’ll be curious to see whether, and to what extent, the GOP’s perspective changes on this in the coming days.
Both Nunes and Collins pushed back against the idea of disclosure before they knew what William Barr would say in his memo. In other words, as of yesterday morning, Republicans still had reason to fear Mueller’s findings.
Twenty-four hours later, Republicans have convinced themselves that Mueller found nothing incriminating against the president.
So what’s the new argument against disclosing the special counsel’s findings? Why not lay out all the facts if the facts “exonerate” Trump and his team?