‘The details … will leak out, because 50 people in this town cannot keep a secret…’
Democrats have called for a fully unredacted version of the report Mueller submitted to Attorney General William Barr, and they’re citing as precedent the 1998 release of Kenneth Starr’s report investigating the sexual misconduct of then-President Bill Clinton.
One of the most vocal in demanding transparency has been Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-NY, the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, who has threatened to use subpoena powers in a bid to obtain the full, unredacted Mueller Report.
But as noted by the NTK Network, Nadler inconveniently was on record arguing against the release of the Starr Report for precisely the reasons that a declassification of the entire Mueller Report seems unlikely.
In arguing against letting the public see the 445-page Starr Report—topping off at more roughly 2,200 pages with appendices—which read like a seedy erotica novel at times, Nadler argued:
- “It is grossly unfair because, with respect to the 2,200 pages of evidence and the 17 boxes of other evidence, the entire committee on the Judiciary is going to see it, to decide what must be kept confidential and protecting privacy of third parties. That means 50 people are going to see it. It is going to leak out. Those privacy rights are going to be violated. That is ensured by this resolution.”
As the Starr Report’s findings made the impeachment of Clinton seem imminent, Nadler said its release—only two months before the 1998 midterm elections—was “doing everything it can to make the president’s defense as difficult as possible … because 50 people in this town cannot keep a secret.”
The conclusions of the two reports are, of course, one key difference. The prosecutor investigating Clinton’s case was recommending action be taken against the president for perjury and obstruction of justice—leading to only the first impeachment of a president in roughly 130 years. It was, therefore, in the public interest, to know the reasons behind it.
Ultimately, the bid for transparency harmed Congressional Republicans in the Clinton case. Voters, having the full details available, came to regard the impeachment as a political maneuver and punished the GOP in the November midterms.
In the case of Trump, despite repeated efforts by his opponents to file articles of impeachment and seek other ways to remove him from office, all have failed, with the investigation concluding there was no Russian collusion and an insufficient case for obstruction of justice.
Another reason for providing less transparency in the Mueller report may be the subject matter.
While Clinton’s dalliances and lies to the American public may have been embarrassing, they did not relate to the sensitive issue of national security.
There is a compelling case for redacting information that could help Russia’s ongoing efforts to sow discord and undermine the democratic process.
There is also, simply enough, a different set of laws guiding the two separate circumstances.
Mueller, who was appointed special counsel through the Department of Justice, fell subject to DOJ oversight and regulations—including the release of his report to the attorney general.
Starr’s designation as an independent counsel followed a different set of statutes, the now expired Ethics in Government Act of 1978, which required that his report be submitted directly to Congress.
Notwithstanding, many Republicans in the current Congress—as well as President Trump himself—have publicly expressed support for a broader disclosure of the report.
Barr has previously said he hoped to release as much as possible, and on Tuesday the attorney general said a full version, after redactions, would be presented next week.