News & Politics

Dems Can Force Barr to Release Unredacted Mueller Report—if They Impeach Trump

Attorney General William Barr speaks at Department of Justice in Washington, Thursday, March 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

On Tuesday, impatient Democrats pushed Attorney General William Barr to release the entire report on alleged Trump-Russia collusion compiled by Special Counsel Robert Mueller — without any redactions. Barr said he would release a redacted report next week, but if Democrats want the entire report they may have to start impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump.

Barr mentioned four reasons he will have to redact portions of Mueller’s report before releasing it to the public. “First is grand jury information…The second is information that the intelligence community believes would reveal intelligence sources and methods,” he said. The third involves information in the report that could interfere with ongoing prosecutions, and fourth, “we intend to redact information that implicated the privacy or reputational interest of peripheral players where there is a decision not to charge them.”

The grand jury information cannot be released due to Rule 6(e) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. Democrats pressed Barr on exceptions to Rule 6(e) that would allow him to release this information.

“Okay, you’re aware that there are exceptions under 6E under which you can, in fact, disclose grand jury material. Some of those are within your discretion but many of those are subject to a ruling of a court. Correct?” Rep. Ed Case (D-Hawaii) asked Barr. He mentioned five exceptions and asked Barr if he would go to a court to ask for “guidance and/or direction and/or order,” and Barr said he would not.

Asked about the House Democrats mulling a subpoena to force Barr to release the unredacted report, the attorney general said, “there’s been a recent case decided in the District of Columbia just, I think within the last week, on this that 6(e) material is not releasable.”

As Law & Crime’s Ronn Blitzer reported, Barr was referring to McKeever v. Barr, decided on April 5. That decision ruled that courts only have the authority to order the release of grand jury information if it falls squarely within the exceptions listed in Rule 6(e). Stuart McKeever, an author researching a decades-old case surrounding the 1956 disappearance of Columbia University professor Jesus Galindez, requested grand jury information from a related case, but the D.C. Circuit Court ruled against the disclosure of information.

According to Rule 6(e), courts can order the release of grand jury information: preliminary to or in connection with a judicial proceeding; if a defendant shows ground may exist to dismiss the indictment due to a matter that occurred before the grand jury; at the request of the government, when sought by a foreign court or prosecutor for use in an official criminal investigation; at the request of the government if the matter may disclose a violation of certain law; and at the request of the government if it shows the matter may disclose a violation of military criminal law.

In the McKeever decision, Senior Circuit Judge Douglas Ginsburg recognized that grand jury information pertaining to the Watergate investigation was ordered to be released to Congress in 1974. Since an impeachment investigation is akin to a judicial proceeding, impeachment counts as a reason to release grand jury information.

According to Blitzer, the House is far more likely to get an unredacted copy of the Mueller report if Democrats file articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump.

Naturally, this would be one of the worst possible reasons to impeach Trump, but Democrats could do it. Most likely, however, the redacted report will answer a lot of questions to satisfaction. Even so, Democrats are likely to continue to push, refusing to give up the Trump-Russia narrative until it sinks their chances in the 2020 election.

Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.