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Barr to address controversial memo before Congress

Attorney General nominee William Barr is set to explain to Congress why he sent a 19-page memo about special counsel Robert Mueller's probe to the Justice Department. CNN's Jessica Schneider has more.

Posted: Jan 15, 2019 9:39 PM
Updated: Jan 15, 2019 10:00 PM

In his written testimony, attorney general nominee William Barr refers to special counsel Robert Mueller and states that if he is confirmed, he "will not permit partisan politics, personal interests, or any other improper consideration to interfere with this or any other investigation." He writes: "I will follow the Special Counsel regulations scrupulously and in good faith, and on my watch, Bob will be allowed to complete his work."

Barr acknowledges the importance of the public and Congress being informed of the results of Mueller's investigation. He indicates that his goal "will be to provide as much transparency as I can consistent with the law." And, his legal judgment will be "based solely on the law and will let no personal, political, or other improper interests influence my decision."

Barr's written testimony, released in advance of his confirmation hearing starting Tuesday, provides the long-sought reassurance that Congress and the public have been seeking -- that Mueller will be permitted to complete his investigation. On its face, his words about providing as much transparency as he can to the public and Congress about the results of Mueller's work also appear reassuring.

This may be Barr's honest intention, but because he is basing his transparency decisions and judgments on the special counsel regulations and the law, his statements raise questions about the extent to which he, in fact, will disclose Mueller's results and in what form. (Note that Barr speaks of the "results of Mueller's work," as opposed to the report itself.)

It is important, therefore, to understand the special counsel regulations and Justice Department policy that govern Mueller's investigation and to question Barr about his interpretation of the regulations and those policies.

Reports are referred to in two sections of the regulations: 28 CFR 600.8(c) and 600.9.

Section 600.8 (c) says that, at the conclusion of the special counsel's work, he or she shall provide the attorney general with a confidential report explaining the prosecution or declination decisions reached by the special counsel.

Nowhere in the regulations does it mention releasing or even authorizing the release of the special counsel's closing report to the public or even to Congress.

Simply put, the regulation only authorizes that a confidential report be given to the attorney general. So, when Barr indicates that he will "follow the Special Counsel regulations scrupulously," he could interpret this regulation as denying him the legal authority to release Mueller's report either to Congress or the American public.

Section 600.9 is more complex and provides two bases for disclosure.

Section 600.9 (a) requires that the attorney general notify the chairman and ranking minority member of the Judiciary Committees of each house of Congress in only three circumstances: (1) when a special counsel is appointed; (2) when a special counsel is removed; and (3) when the attorney general decides not to allow the special counsel to proceed as he has requested. Nothing more.

Consequently, while the attorney general is authorized to release these reports if he determines their release would be in the public interest, to the extent that release would comply with applicable legal restrictions, this portion of the regulation does not provide a basis for Barr to release Mueller's final report or the results of his work either to Congress or to the American public.

Section 600.9 (c) governs all other releases of information by the special counsel -- to wit, the final report. This section provides that disclosure shall be governed by the "generally applicable Departmental guidelines concerning public comment with respect to any criminal investigation and relevant law." This is in large measure the heart of the matter.

If we learned anything from the controversy over James Comey's press conferences -- where he sharply criticized Hillary Clinton's handling of her emails, and then announced that no charges were warranted -- it is that departmental guidelines foreclose commenting on criminal investigations, especially if the subjects of the investigation are not publicly charged with a crime.

Thus, because departmental policy prohibits Mueller from indicting a sitting President, release of his report (or at least parts of the report) would appear to contravene departmental policy regarding public comment on investigations not resulting in criminal charges. Again, consistent with law, this could provide Barr with a basis to refuse to release Mueller's final report.

Without a detailed understanding of Barr's interpretation of the special counsel regulations and the operative Justice Department policy concerning public comment with respect to criminal investigations, there is no way to know whether Barr's promise to "follow the Special Counsel regulations scrupulously and in good faith," and his belief that it is "very important that the public and Congress be informed of the results of the Special Counsel's work," have any practical meaning.

It will be up to the Senate Judiciary Committee to flesh this out before a final confirmation vote.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 343505

Reported Deaths: 7543
CountyCasesDeaths
Hinds23932444
DeSoto23229283
Harrison20527329
Rankin15411291
Jackson15232252
Madison10959227
Lee10719179
Jones9047169
Forrest8723159
Lauderdale7884244
Lowndes7054151
Lamar702989
Lafayette6548124
Washington5595139
Pearl River5196152
Bolivar4954134
Oktibbeha494398
Panola4771112
Warren4728128
Marshall4701106
Pontotoc447773
Union433279
Monroe4330137
Neshoba4281181
Hancock428088
Lincoln4176116
Pike3667113
Leflore3627125
Tate353388
Alcorn350974
Sunflower347694
Scott341176
Adams340988
Yazoo339376
Copiah324968
Simpson322891
Itawamba314680
Coahoma314085
Tippah306568
Prentiss298863
Covington293484
Leake285475
Marion284181
Wayne277543
George272251
Grenada269488
Newton262364
Tishomingo239770
Winston236784
Jasper230648
Stone229637
Attala226373
Chickasaw219060
Holmes200174
Clay197654
Clarke186880
Tallahatchie183742
Calhoun181332
Smith179235
Yalobusha171540
Walthall145748
Lawrence142826
Greene140134
Amite137543
Noxubee135235
Perry133538
Montgomery133044
Carroll126431
Webster121232
Jefferson Davis116734
Tunica114227
Benton106725
Claiborne105331
Kemper102429
Humphreys100133
Franklin87923
Quitman84719
Choctaw82619
Wilkinson78032
Jefferson71328
Sharkey51618
Issaquena1736
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 585607

Reported Deaths: 11536
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson851431591
Mobile48584864
Madison37411533
Shelby27192257
Tuscaloosa27145465
Montgomery26119627
Baldwin25207329
Lee17184181
Calhoun15382334
Morgan15147291
Etowah14928370
Marshall13079235
Houston12021293
Elmore10890219
St. Clair10737252
Limestone10699158
Cullman10503205
Lauderdale10240254
DeKalb9498192
Talladega8935188
Walker7775288
Autauga7537114
Jackson7384117
Blount7352139
Colbert6691142
Coffee6342132
Dale5605117
Russell478943
Chilton4763117
Covington4738125
Franklin456681
Tallapoosa4511156
Escambia439283
Chambers3936125
Dallas3742163
Clarke370563
Marion3455107
Pike332079
Lawrence3257100
Winston298373
Bibb289765
Geneva282883
Marengo262267
Barbour250661
Pickens245262
Butler240172
Hale235178
Fayette226765
Henry212845
Monroe201541
Randolph200344
Cherokee198848
Washington184339
Macon169752
Crenshaw167758
Clay165659
Cleburne161145
Lamar150938
Lowndes145355
Wilcox132331
Bullock126542
Conecuh120632
Coosa118129
Perry110328
Sumter110333
Greene99137
Choctaw64425
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