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Columbus Dispatch: The more of the Mueller report that is released, the better

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Attorney General William Barr
Attorney General William Barr

There is one sure way to end the lingering national debate over the two-year investigation of Russian involvement in 2016 U.S. elections: release the report of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

The more of the document that sees the light of day, the better.

And just for good measure, the House Judiciary Committee should bring Mueller in to testify so he can put to rest any misconceptions and suspicions about what his team did or didn’t find in its examination of Russian interference in our national elections and the campaign of President Donald Trump.

Releasing the vast majority of the Mueller report makes sense on many levels.

For starters, knowing more about the activities undertaken in 2016 by a foreign power to influence our elections is critically important as Americans are starting to form opinions about candidates running for president in 2020.

That the special counsel concluded such interference occurred, as demonstrated by charges he filed against 25 Russians, seems to have been lost in the mostly partisan post mortem since Mueller released his report March 22.

To recap, Mueller did not find the campaign conspired with Russian interference, and Attorney General William Barr ruled in a summary to Congress on March 24 that evidence was insufficient to prove the president committed obstruction of justice.

Trump and his supporters have touted Barr’s summary as clearing the president of any wrongdoing. What Barr actually reported was that Mueller declined to reach a conclusion on whether Trump obstructed justice, writing instead, “while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

That leaves wiggle room for interpretation that will cast a stench on a report that is too heavily redacted when it is finally made public, which Barr has said should be in another week or so.

Barr’s four-page summary to Congress signaled his intent to black out sections of Mueller’s report pertaining to grand jury proceedings, even going so far as to say that disclosing such evidence “is a crime in certain circumstances.”

But Barr didn’t note that in similar circumstances — specifically investigations of former presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton in 1974 and 1998 — federal judges ordered the release of grand jury evidence due to compelling public interest in favor of disclosure.

Before Mueller’s investigation was completed March 22, the House of Representatives voted 420-0 to make the report public. The day after Barr released his summary, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked a request by Democrats to vote on the nonbinding House resolution, which says Congress should see the full report and the public should see all but classified material.

As another election looms, voters need to know about the potential for foreign interference to guard against it hijacking American democracy. The public also should see what evidence Mueller found on both sides of the obstruction issue.

— The Columbus Dispatch

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