CNN reported on Monday that Jay Sekulow, a personal attorney for President Trump, does not want his boss’s written answers to special counsel Robert Mueller’s questions released to the public. He referred to the written answers as “confidential” and said that the decision to release them lies with Attorney General William Barr, although he has “some strong opinions about that.”
Mueller submitted written questions to the President last fall after months of requests for a sit-down interview with Trump were deflected by his lawyers. Trump submitted his answers to Mueller’s questions in late November 2018. Trump’s written statements are just a few of the many pieces of evidence now held under wraps by the Department of Justice after Mueller left the bulk of the prosecutorial decision-making to Barr in his report.
On Sunday, Barr released a letter to Congress outlining the major conclusions of Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, saying that no extra charges would be brought at this time regarding obstruction of justice or collusion with the Russians. Barr’s letter is all that is known of the contents of Mueller’s investigation, and legal experts have called into question Barr’s perspective on it given how Trump hand-picked him for the job thinking Barr would defend him from Mueller.
Some have speculated that Barr’s decision not to move forward with an obstruction charge rests in the definition of obstruction of justice that he laid out in a memo he sent to the Department of Justice as a private citizen in 2018. Barr’s memo appears to argue that you cannot charge someone for obstruction of justice without first proving the underlying crime, which in this case means Mueller would have to bring forward formal charges regarding Russian interference before he could indict Trump for obstruction.
Given his perspective on this issue, it is unlikely that Barr would see any purpose in releasing Trump’s answers to Mueller’s questions. That being said, William Barr should not be the person deciding what the public sees of Mueller’s report, Attorney General or not. Congress and the American people have a right to see the full contents of Mueller’s report without the influence of a partisan, ideologically compromised gatekeeper, and that goes for the President’s written statements as well.