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When Given the Chance, Trump Did Not Invoke ‘Executive Privilege’ on Mueller Report

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During his news conference Thursday to roll out the report of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged collusion between Russia and the Trump presidential campaign, Attorney General William Barr told reporters that President Donald Trump could have exercised executive privilege to make sure at least parts of the report didn’t become public.

But, Barr said, Trump declined to do so.

“Consistent with long-standing executive branch practice, the decision whether to assert executive privilege over any portion of the report rested with the president of the United States,” Barr said in his statement.

“Because the White House voluntarily cooperated with the special counsel’s investigation, significant portions of the report contain material over which the president could have asserted privilege. And he would have been well within his rights to do so.”

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Barr said the Office of White House Counsel got a look at the Mueller report after some material had been redacted.

In a March 29 letter to Republican Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Democratic House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler of New York, Barr wrote that the material redacted would protect grand jury secrecy, the personal privacy of “peripheral” parties involved, classified information and information about ongoing criminal matters.

After that letter was sent, Barr said, the Office of the White House Counsel was permitted to see the report to “advise the president on the potential invocation of [executive] privilege.”

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“Following that review,” Barr said, “the president confirmed that, in the interests of transparency and full disclosure to the American people, he would not assert privilege over the special counsel’s report.”

That one statement is likely to complicate Democrats’ complaints that the Mueller report, which they have been clamoring for, will represent some kind of whitewash, where the Trump administration chose to excise information that American voters need to have.

As Barr described the report, it “recounts 10 episodes involving the president and discusses potential legal theories for connecting these actions to elements of an obstruction offense.”

There is no doubt that at least some of those episodes will include information that will not show the president or administration officials in the best light.

But, as Barr described it, there was no attempt by the Trump administration to keep that information from becoming public.

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