Bill Barr testimony sheds light on whether Mueller conclusions will be public

/ CBS News

Feinstein grills Barr about Mueller probe

William Barr, the president's nominee for attorney general, has pledged "transparency" if he takes the role of the nation's top law enforcement officer. But Barr's testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday suggests he may not make special counsel Robert Mueller's final conclusions public.

Under the special counsel regulation, Mueller is only required at the end of his investigation to submit a final report to the attorney general, CBS News correspondent Paula Reid reports. The attorney general then decides what, if anything, becomes public. Barr has testified he believes the special counsel's report is confidential, but he has the authority to compile his own version for public consumption.

"As I said in my statement, I am going to make as much information available as I can, consistent with the rules and regulations," Barr responded when Sen. Dianne Feinstein asked if he would make any and all of Mueller's conclusions public.

Barr testified that he expects Mueller's report will summarize "prosecutive or declination decisions," which will be treated like any similar material within the Justice Department. Declination memos, which summarize cases in which no charges are brought, are held within DOJ and not released to the public. In his testimony Tuesday, Barr criticized former FBI Director James Comey's decision to announce in 2016 that former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton would not be prosecuted for her handling of her emails — suggesting that he might disapprove of other similar announcements when no prosecution will occur.

"I thought that to the extent that he actually announced a decision, he was wrong. And the other thing is, if you're not going to indict someone, then you don't stand up there and unload negative information about the person," Barr said of Comey.

It's unclear when Mueller might wrap up his investigation, as the White House and President Trump's lawyers urge for the investigation to be wrapped up soon. Mr. Trump has repeatedly disparaged Mueller's investigation as a "witch hunt." But Barr appeared to disagree with that assessment.

"I don't believe Mr. Mueller would be involved in a witch hunt," Barr testified.

CBS News correspondent Paula Reid and CBS News' Kathryn Watson contributed to this report

First published on January 15, 2019

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