Writing at Lawfare, founder and former Justice Department correspondent Benjamin Wittes laid out a roadmap that special counsel Robert Mueller may choose to use if Donald Trump’s attorney general tries to spike his report on the president’s campaign, financial shenanigans and possible Russian collusion.
According to Wittes, who was the recipient of leaks about Trump from former FBI Director James Comey — who was unceremoniously dumped by Trump for reportedly not squashing the Russia investigation — it is likely that Mueller’s report will be made public.
However . . .
“The likely confirmation in the interim of attorney general-designate Bill Barr, and the White House’s apparent plans for a kind of executive privilege Alamo has many commentators worried that the Mueller report, whatever it turns out to be, might never see the light of day,” he writes.
As Wittes writes, Mueller has multiple options that ensure the work of his investigators is made available to the public — including appearing before a Democratic-controlled House committee and relaying what they came up with.
“The idea that a major problem is brewing assumes, of course, that Mueller’s findings are damning and arguably privileged—and that the damning facts might not emerge because of the assertion of privilege. But that may not be the case. If, for example, the facts are not that damning, or not so damning that they threaten Donald Trump’s presidency, they will likely come out because the president’s lawyers will want them to come out,” Wittes writes, before adding, “The facts also might be damning and, in important respects, not privileged. No executive privilege would likely protect the president against evidence that he had, for example, coaxed or encouraged a witness to lie.”
“Mueller still has a lot of tools at his disposal,” he explained. “In the extreme case, for example, he can testify before Congress about his findings if he needs to, or even hold a press conference. “
Wittes notes that Mueller also has a deep bench of highly knowledgeable attorneys working for him, writing, “Mueller knows how to write a document that will be peculiarly resistant to suppression by an administration that wants to suppress it if he has concerns on that score. It actually isn’t hard to do this. I know how to do it, and I don’t have a team of experts on the subject working for me.”
Should that report be shot down — which Wittes thinks is unlikely — Mueller has another alternative: releasing an “executive summary” noting major revelations without getting into the details.
“Nothing prevents Mueller from anticipating these concerns and writing an executive summary that contains no classified information, no grand jury information, no executive confidentialities and no material unduly invasive of the privacy of innocent parties,” he explained. “Such a summary might have to be spare, but it could certainly summarize all of Mueller’s major conclusions as to the president’s conduct. This would produce a document that would be hard to suppress even by an administration keen to do so.”
The journalist reiterated that he doesn’t think Mueller will run into any roadblocks, because he is very good at what he does, adding hopefully: “Mueller, as we have all seen, is a man who knows how to use the tools in his toolbox.”