Duckworth leads calls for release of 'complete' Mueller report

Reps. Garcia, Foster join attack on Atty. Gen. Barr’s ‘shameless spin’

Sen. Tammy Duckworth leads congressional calls for the release of the “complete” report by Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller into President Trump. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

Sen. Tammy Duckworth leads congressional calls for the release of the “complete” report by Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller into President Trump. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

By Ted Cox

The Illinois congressional delegation generally panned Attorney General William Barr’s release of a “heavily redacted” report on the special investigation into President Trump on Thursday, with one congressman accusing the nation’s top law officer of “shameless spin.”

Sen. Tammy Duckworth immediately labeled Barr’s Thursday news conference ahead of releasing the report as “biased,” calling it “a low point for our nation and the rule of law.”

Duckworth called for a release of the “complete” report and for Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller to appear before Congress, saying in a statement: “The American people deserve the opportunity to read the complete findings of Robert Mueller and to hear from the special counsel, who must testify before Congress in a public hearing as soon as possible so he can fully explain the report and the context behind its findings.”

Duckworth cited how Mueller tried to interview Trump for more than a year only to be rebuffed throughout.

The 448-page report, posted online by the Justice Department, is the culmination of Mueller’s investigation of the president, stemming from Russian attempts to influence the 2016 election in his favor, as well as charges that he obstructed justice in attempting to quash the probe after he was elected. It was redacted by the Justice Department to remove personal information as well as information that’s part of more than a dozen separate investigations — marked in the redacted report as saying they might do “Harm to (an) Ongoing Matter” or “HOM.”

Barr came in for severe criticism from other members of the Illinois delegation.

Rep. Bill Foster of Naperville said Barr “has clearly decided it is more important for him to act as President Trump’s spokesperson than the highest-ranking law-enforcement official of our nation.”

Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia of Chicago added in a statement that “Barr should be reminded that he works for the American people. His shameless spin of the Mueller report, before Congress has had an opportunity to see it, underscores serious doubts about his impartiality.”

Rep. Robin Kelly of Matteson called the “heavily redacted” report and Barr’s attempt to spin its findings “a slap in the face to the intelligence of the American people.”

Rep. Mike Quigley of Chicago took a sarcastic approach from the moment Barr announced he’d be holding a news conference Thursday morning even before releasing the report to Congress. “The attorney general is really doing his job,” Quigley said on social media. “Not the one where he represents the people of the United States as their chief lawyer, but the one where he covers for the president and protects him from accountability and the truth.”

Both Foster and Garcia found “disturbing” elements in their initial look at the redacted report.

“The Mueller report outlines disturbing behavior by President Trump, including attempts to ‘curtail’ the special counsel’s investigation,” Foster said. He added that the report even as it stands makes clear there was no chance of “exonerating the president of obstruction of justice.” He too called for Mueller to testify on the report, saying: “Congress has the constitutional obligation to perform oversight of the administration, and this report makes that responsibility even more imperative. It’s essential that Congress and the American people hear directly from Special Counsel Mueller so we may better understand his findings.”

Garcia found other concerns. “Press reports describing ‘numerous conversations’ between the Department of Justice lawyers from the White House about the report further reinforce the concern that Mr. Barr is representing the interests of the president and not the people of the United States,” he said. “Congress and the American people deserve to see the full report.”

“The American people deserve to know how and why Russians attacked and undermined our elections,” Kelly said. “Likewise, they deserve to know what President Trump has done to protect himself, his family, his allies and his businesses. The release of a heavily redacted Mueller report is not democracy nor is it transparency.

“What we can see from the Mueller report makes it clear that the president is not exonerated,” she added, “because there is evidence against the president, his administration, and his allies.” She likewise called for Mueller to testify before Congress.

Rep. Mike Bost, a Murphysboro Republican, mentioned his support for the release of as full a report as possible. Although he cheered Barr for reaching the conclusion that “there was no collusion with Russia” involving the Trump campaign in the 2016 election, he immediately added: “However, the American people deserve transparency. That is why I voted to pass bipartisan legislation encouraging the Department of Justice to release the report in the most transparent manner allowable by law and that would not jeopardize our national security sources and methods of intelligence gathering.”

Bost saw the controversy dying down with release of the redacted report, saying, “As Congress and the American people review its findings in detail, I am pleased that we can begin closing this divisive chapter of American history.”

Rep. Darin LaHood of Peoria echoed the call of “no collusion.” Calling the report a “vindication” of the president, he likewise welcomed what he considered the end of the probe, saying, “Instead of wasting more taxpayer money on investigations about the 2016 election, it’s time to move on and work together on important legislative issues Americans sent us to Washington to fix, such as infrastructure funding, international trade, bringing down the cost of prescription drugs, and career technical education for our workforce.”

U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis issued a statement using much of the same language.

But others weren’t so eager to declare the investigation closed.

Calling Barr’s pre-release news conference “unprecedented and inappropriate,” Rep. Jan Schakowsky said, “It is clear that we cannot take this attorney general at his word, which is a dangerous situation for our nation. We need to study the full report now.

“We need to hear from Robert Mueller himself,” she added, “and I join with my colleagues who have called for him to come before Congress. And most importantly, my Republican colleagues need to take off their political blinders and serve the public, not the president.”

At the end of the day, Quigley posted an ominous message on Facebook hinting at impeachment. “Given the special counsel left it to Congress to determine if the president obstructed justice, we need the full, unredacted report and all underlying evidence,” he wrote. “Russia successfully attacked our democratic process, and Congress has to take appropriate steps to preserve the integrity of our elections, institutions, and our democracy.

“But we also have a responsibility to the American people beyond matters of criminality,” he added. “An action — or in this case, a series of actions — does not have to be a crime to be unethical, corrupt, or unpatriotic.

“As the American people read the report and as we in Congress investigate this matter further, the full truth will emerge. I believe Americans will recognize the behavior of the president as unbecoming of the office he holds.”

Duckworth, too, appeared to lay the groundwork for impeachment in an additional statement issued Thursday evening. “I’m still reviewing the redacted version of the Mueller report,” she said, “but what I’ve read makes it crystal clear that this is anything but an exoneration of Donald Trump’s actions. If anything, we now know for certain that Trump repeatedly lied to the American people, inappropriately attempted to end the special counsel’s investigation, ordered subordinates to obstruct justice multiple times, and stubbornly refused to participate in an interview with criminal investigators.

“This report also confirms — beyond all doubt and contrary to Donald Trump’s false claims — that Russia attacked our democracy and interfered with our election in ‘sweeping and systematic fashion’ to help his candidacy,” she added. “It confirms that the Russian government had ‘a series of contacts’ with Trump campaign officials. And it confirms that the Trump campaign shared internal polling data with the Russian government with the expectation that Trump would benefit from Russia’s efforts.

“No amount of redactions can change or diminish these facts, which completely undercut the PR spin that Attorney General Barr and Trump inappropriately used to shape public opinion over the past few weeks. The American people deserve to hear the truth — and that is why Robert Mueller must testify before Congress in a public hearing as soon as possible to fully — and accurately — explain the report and the context behind its findings.”