On Sunday, legal commentator Jeffrey Toobin released an editorial for The New Yorker, criticizing Attorney General William Barr’s attempt to conceal special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia report from the public.
“Barr established four categories that were off limits for public disclosure,” wrote Toobin. “They are: ‘Material subject to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e) that by law cannot be made public’—that is, matters subject to grand-jury secrecy; classified information; matters relating to other pending investigations; and, finally, ‘information that would unduly infringe on the personal privacy and reputational interests of peripheral third parties.'”
According to Toobin, all four of these categories are either questionable or outright fabrications.
First, noted Toobin, the law is not clear on what grand-jury information is secret — it could either mean grand-jury testimony, or anything at all that was discussed by the grand jury, and Barr isn’t clear on which definition he will use. Second, while classified information should be redacted, intelligence agencies tend to be overzealous in what they decide should be classified. Third, there is no way to verify that something Barr redacts is truly relevant to other pending investigations. And fourth, there is no law prohibiting information that would “unduly infringe on … personal privacy and reputational interests” — this is, Toobin says, an “invention on Barr’s part.”
According to Toobin, these four broad categories would allow Barr to redact huge swathes of the report, including information that might be important for the public to know. And taken together with Barr’s previous memo asserting President Donald Trump could not have obstructed justice, it paints a damning picture of Trump’s actions.”
Toobin concluded by noting what the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY), a champion of government transparency, would have thought of the affair.
“In all, Barr has taken every possible step to lessen the sting of the Mueller report—and, so far, to block it from view altogether,” wrote Toobin. “Senator Moynihan was educated not only in the halls of academe but in the streets of New York, and he might well have reached an earthy conclusion about this Attorney General and his President: the fix is in.”