Dispatch March 27, 2019

The Public Deserves a Full Accounting of the Mueller Investigation

The level of secrecy surrounding the Mueller report is unacceptable. Amid bipartisan calls for the release of Mueller’s findings – including a unanimous resolution in the House – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked a Senate resolution to make the report public. At the same time, the FBI will reportedly only provide the Gang of 8 a classified briefing on the counterintelligence findings of Mueller’s investigation, which were not contained in Barr’s summary letter.

Government officials are able to declassify information “in ‘exceptional circumstances’ when the public interest outweighs the potential harm to national security.” An investigation into the President of the United States is certainly an exceptional circumstance. The full accounting of Mueller’s findings – including his report, the underlying documents, and the findings of the counterintelligence investigation – should be released to the public without delay.

Classification shouldn’t be used to hide information that is in the national interest.

  • Many of the reasons to keep something classified are no longer pertinent.
    • Often the reason for keeping information classified is to protect sources and intelligence-gathering methods.
    • However, extensive media attention around the Mueller report, as well as Mueller’s own indictments, have already exposed many of the sources and methods used during the Special Counsel investigation.
    • For example, it’s long been public knowledge that calls between former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and then-Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak were recorded, and Kislyak is already aware that his communications were being monitored. So there is no reason that these transcripts should not be released.
  • Declassifying intelligence that is clearly in the public interest is established practice.
    • The 9/11 Commission report was fully published in 2004.
    • In 2007, the Bush administration released an unclassified version of a classified assessment of Iran’s nuclear program.
    • A declassified Senate Intelligence Committee CIA torture report was made available in 2014.
    • In 2017, the Obama administration publicly released an intelligence assessment detailing Russia’s 2016 interference campaign.
  • Classification procedures have been abused by Trump’s Congressional allies throughout this investigation.
    • Trump and his defenders in Congress – most notably Devin Nunes, the man who was supposed to be leading the investigation into Russian interference – pressured the Department of Justice to declassify large portions of the Carter Page FISA warrant application.
    • In the case of the Nunes Memo, House Republicans claimed that documents Nunes hadn’t even read proved collusion was a hoax, when it actually revealed that the DOJ believed there was a Russian spy on the Trump campaign.
    • Trump’s Congressional cronies endlessly publicized private text messages from FBI agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, portraying them as operatives aiming to destroy Trump and exonerate Hillary Clinton while ignoring the DOJ Inspector General’s conclusion that Strzok’s private opinions didn’t impact the investigations.
    • Doug Collins (R-GA) has also repeatedly declassified selected transcripts, including interviews with Lisa Page and Bruce Ohr, in an attempt to support the narrative claiming that the Russia probe was mishandled by investigators.
    • Finally, the President has the authority to declassify any information – as we learned from his Oval Office meeting with Sergei Lavrov.

So if the report is so exculpatory, as the president claims, what’s the point in hiding it?