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Barr Faces Pressure Over Mueller Report


We finally have a Mueller report after nearly two years of waiting. And now this weekend, Washington and the country wait some more. On Friday, Attorney General William Barr received the special counsel's findings on Russian interference in the 2016 election. Barr is now reviewing that report. And he has said he'll soon advise Congress on Mueller's principal conclusions. Well, that's not likely to quiet congressional calls on both sides of the aisle for the full report to be made public. Joining me now to talk about all this is NPR's congressional reporter Kelsey Snell. Welcome.

KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: Hi, there. Good morning.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Good morning. It's going to be a long day, I think (laughter).

SNELL: I think so, too (laughter).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. All right, let's be clear. We have no idea what's in this report, right? But Democratic leaders are demanding full transparency. What does that mean?

SNELL: Well, they say they want the full report to be public and all the documents that led to the findings in the report. They're talking about interviews, documentation of written answers to questions and a whole host of other investigative materials. You know, Democrats say there's a precedent here for all of that to be made public in other special counsel investigations.

But Republicans really aren't going quite that far. They're basically saying that they want the information to be released to the greatest extent possible. And they haven't really defined what that means. And as far as we know, Republicans haven't really had any major meetings yet to discuss what that will mean. We're kind of waiting to see what's in the report, and then they're going to address it.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right, in a letter to Democrats yesterday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi stressed the need for the underlying documents related to the investigation. Why are those so important to the Democrats?

SNELL: Right. They are really important because they say that the public really needs to understand how Mueller reached his conclusions and who Mueller talked to and who Mueller didn't talk to. They want to know if anybody turned down a request to comment or, you know, the extent to which there was discussion of particularly wrongdoing within Trump's inner circle. And, you know, this isn't just something that she said in a letter. It's something that came up in an emergency call that Pelosi and one of her top deputies, Hakeem Jeffries, called with the committee chairs.

And on that call, they took letter - they took questions from Democrats who wanted to make sure that as much information as possible was preserved - to the extent that those chairs got off the call and sent joint letters with Democrats in the Senate, demanding that the work product be maintained by the Justice Department. And that's a pretty big step. Though, I have to say, that doesn't mean that the Justice Department will go along with that request. It's just something that Democrats say needs to be done.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. And give me the Republican view on that.

SNELL: Yeah, Republicans are - have been quite mum about this. There are some who say that they really do think that putting the whole report out there is good because it more or less would show that there wasn't any collusion, and there wasn't any nefarious action by the Trump administration. Though, one thing that I think is really interesting here is there was a recent, totally non-binding vote in the House where they voted 420-0, not a single person voting against it - the idea that they needed to demand the Justice Department release the report.

Now, we've also heard some senators, like Chuck Grassley, who is a former Judiciary Committee chairman, saying the report needs to be public to end the speculation and, he says, innuendo that has loomed over the administration.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. And if Attorney General Barr chooses not to make the Mueller report public - and let's remind people, he's not required to do so - what can Congress do then?

SNELL: Well, the first step would be for Congress to issue a subpoena and demand that the Justice Department comply with there requests. From there, they could be headed to court. It would be Congress versus the Justice Department in court over whether or not the Mueller report should be public.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So this doesn't seem like it's over anytime soon.

SNELL: No (laughter).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: No. That is NPR's congressional reporter Kelsey Snell. Thanks so much.

SNELL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corrected: March 23, 2019 at 11:00 PM CDT
In an earlier audio version of this story, our correspondent misspoke and indicated the courts are under the control of the Justice Department. The federal judiciary is a separate branch of government.
Kelsey Snell is a Congressional correspondent for NPR. She has covered Congress since 2010 for outlets including The Washington Post, Politico and National Journal. She has covered elections and Congress with a reporting specialty in budget, tax and economic policy. She has a graduate degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. and an undergraduate degree in political science from DePaul University in Chicago.