By law, Special Counsel Robert Mueller will produce a final report including information on charges that did not go forward because of insufficient evidence—or because of foolish rules from the Department of Justice insisting that a sitting executive cannot be indicted. However, the special counsel law states that this report goes to the attorney general. What, if anything, gets past the desk of AG William Barr is entirely up to Barr.
Democratic lawmakers have been insistent that whatever Mueller produces should be released. In February, Democrats in the House introduced legislation that would require any report also be given to relevant congressional committees. Though Republicans have often “we agree” noises around the idea of making any report from Robert Mueller public, they haven’t turned that agreement into introducing a matching bill in the Senate or signing on as co-sponsors of the House bill. And of course, any bill to make the Mueller report public would have to get past the waiting veto scribble of Donald Trump.
But there is another way to make the conclusions of the special counsel public. As The Hill reports, Democratic chair of the House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff has made it clear that, should Republicans attempt to bottle up any report from Mueller, he will call Mueller as a witness before the House. “I think that if the Justice Department either attempts to conceal the Mueller report or the underlying evidence, then requiring Mueller to testify may very well be necessary,” said Schiff.
Witnesses before the House committee have claimed various forms of privilege over the last two years, claims that have gone unchallenged during the time Republicans headed the House. However, in theory Congress recognizes no privilege in testimony. Not executive privilege, not attorney-client privilege, not even privilege in speaking with a religious leader or medical professional. Courts have not always allowed Congress to press that limit, but none of it should matter in the case of Mueller.
If the House wants him to testify, he’ll testify. And the same stick-to-the-rules attitude that could likely leave any report that comes through Barr providing no mention of Trump, would not apply to questioning before the Intelligence Committee. Considering that practically everyone wants to see the report, that’s a good thing.
Mueller’s report to Barr may contain details about his thoughts on Donald Trump and his connections to the Russian conspiracy, but it’s unlikely that any such information would make it into a public statement from Barr or the Justice Department. Barr has made it clear that he regards the statements made by former FBI director James Comey concerning Hillary Clinton’s non-indictment a violation of department rules, and outgoing deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein pointed at this release of information as a primary reason that Comey should be fired. Combine this with the DOJ’s rule against indicting a sitting executive, and there’s very little chance that Trump’s name will appear in a report. That doesn’t mean that details of what happened can’t be learned, but it may actually take sitting Mueller in front of a congressional committee to hear the details—even if a report is made public.