The Public Must Know

JOHN WOOLLEY: Last Wednesday, CNN reported that the newly confirmed Attorney General William Barr would be preparing to close the Special Counsel’s investigation and begin readying a report as soon as this week. Just a few days later, on Friday, this reporting was corrected by a Justice Department official, who said the report would not be completed for weeks, if not longer. In the brief period between the original reporting and that correction, a number of important questions arose about what it all could mean.

Is the Mueller investigation being cut short by Barr and the Trump administration?

Might Barr’s report to Congress exclude evidence of misconduct by the president, so long as he is not indicted?

Could Barr try to prevent a public release of Mueller’s findings by only producing a short summary for congressional review?

Is it within the right of the Trump Administration to withhold the Mueller report by claiming executive privilege over its contents?

In response, congressional Democrats have moved in the past few day to try and mitigate these concerns in a number of ways. The chairs of six notable House committees wrote a letter to Barr urging him to release as much information to the public as possible, especially as it pertains to both Russia’s interference in the democratic process and any potential wrongdoing committed by President Trump over the course of the investigation. A bill meant to ensure the public release of the Mueller report has received bipartisan sponsorship from Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, though it remains to be seen whether or not Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will actually allow it to come to the floor for a vote. House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) has even gone on record saying that his committee is willing to subpoena Robert Mueller if the report is not made available to them by Barr.

Even with all of these efforts, the ultimate fate of the Mueller report is still up in the air. As of now, there is no way of knowing to what extent the public will be able to access the information that the special counsel’s investigation has uncovered since Mueller’s appointment.

But whatever Mueller has found, to the fullest extent possible, the public must know.

We must know to what extent American democracy has been tampered with. We must know to what extent American nationals were involved in betraying their country to foreign influence. We must know to what extent their elected officials and public servants have tried to obstruct justice and subvert the rule of law.

To not inform the people of what happened is to degrade the public’s trust in the criminal justice system at large. Leaving the public in the dark would permanently damage people’s faith in our democratic institutions and would irrecoverably politicize the Department of Justice. Not releasing the Mueller report would deny the American people their right to know whether or not their national security is compromised, whether or not their sovereignty is being infringed upon, and whether or not their president is a foreign agent. To not release the report publicly would be to deny the American people the closure they deserve. This would be unthinkable, unconscionable and unacceptable.

The public must know.

John Woolley is an aspiring journalist, musician, and a staff writer for On the Record. He studies government in the College and is looking to pursue a career in politics.

Jeff Cirillo