AILSA CHANG, HOST:
Attorney General William Barr was on Capitol Hill today for a public hearing. Technically, it was about the Justice Department's 2020 budget. But - no surprise - much of the hearing instead focused on the highly anticipated Mueller report.
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WILLIAM BARR: Within a week, I will be in a position to release the report to the public.
CHANG: That is a redacted version of the special counsel's report on the Russia investigation. NPR justice reporter Ryan Lucas joins me now.
RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: Hi there.
CHANG: OK. So other than the timeline of the release, what else did we learn from Barr today on the Mueller report?
LUCAS: Well, we got more details on how the department is handling the process of redacting the report before it's released to Congress and the public. Barr has said that there are four categories of material that are going to be blacked out before it's made public. He reminded lawmakers today of what those categories are. They are grand jury materials, information that U.S. spy agencies believe could reveal their sources or methods, information that could interfere with ongoing law enforcement investigations and information that touches on privacy or reputational interests of so-called peripheral individuals who weren't charged in the Russia investigation.
LUCAS: Barr said he's not making these decisions alone. He described the review process as a team effort.
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BARR: Right now the special counsel is working with us on identifying information in the reports that fall under those four categories.
LUCAS: Now, Barr also said that all of the redactions will have a note explaining why the information is being kept secret.
CHANG: OK. But is that going to be enough for House Democrats? - because all along, they've been pushing for the Mueller report to be released without any redactions.
LUCAS: Well - and that's not all. They also want all of the underlying documents from the investigation.
CHANG: Right - all the evidence.
LUCAS: Right. So during the hearing today, Democrats - they did raise concerns about how these redactions are being handled and how sweeping these redactions could be. One Democrat today described the category of privacy and reputational interests as an exception big enough to drive a truck through. Democrats also pressed Barr about redactions related to grand jury proceedings.
Now, there are strict federal rules that prohibit the release of those materials. But there are a couple of very narrow exceptions. Barr himself could seek court authorization, provide lawmakers some of the information developed during those grand jury proceedings. But today Barr told lawmakers that he has no plans to do that at all.
CHANG: All right. So this redacted report is heading our way very soon. At the same time, you know, the attorney general has said that he wants to be transparent with this report.
CHANG: How does he square that? - because, especially with the redactions, say, related to the reputational interests, where's the transparency?
LUCAS: Well, remember. Barr said that he wants to be as transparent as possible consistent with the law. That's a very important distinction. What Barr made clear today is that he wants to get a version of this report out so that people can see it. They can draw their own conclusions, make their own judgments.
But he also said that he's willing to talk to lawmakers down the road to see if he can provide them with more information from the investigation. That particularly applies to the Democratic chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler. He has a subpoena in hand for the full report. He said today that he should get all of the materials from this. So there is definitely a potential fight brewing on this.
CHANG: Yeah. OK. So beyond the Mueller report, Barr mentioned another investigation today related to the Russia probe. What can you tell us about that?
LUCAS: Well, the Justice Department's inspector general is looking into alleged surveillance abuses in the Russia investigation. This has been a favorite topic of House Republicans. We've talked about it a lot, about their allegations. They allege that the department and the FBI abused their surveillance powers to target members of the Trump campaign. Barr said today that he expects the inspector general's investigation of these allegations to wrap up by May or June.
CHANG: OK. That's NPR's Ryan Lucas.
LUCAS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.