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Sen. Chris Coons On The Mueller Report


We're going to go now to one of the many lawmakers waiting to see the report - unless he has a copy under his arm right now - Senator Chris Coons, a Democrat from Delaware. Senator, thanks so much for being with us.

CHRIS COONS: Thank you, Scott. Good morning.

SIMON: You sit on the Senate Judiciary Committee. What have you been told about the report? What, when, where can you expect to hear from the attorney general?

COONS: Well, the attorney general conveyed a letter to all of us on the Judiciary Committee - it's a public letter - saying that he expects to be in a position to share with us his principal conclusions from the Mueller report as early as this weekend. As you correctly reported, none of us have seen the report or the work product behind it. And the attorney general now has the obligation to sift through the report and to decide how much of it to share with Congress.

I'll remind you that virtually every Democrat has been calling for a complete release to Congress of the fruits of Bob Mueller's 22-month investigation, and so has President Trump, and so has the Republican chairman of Senate Judiciary, Lindsey Graham. So I see no reason why we shouldn't get as full and complete a report as possible.

There are three exceptions - classified information, which can be given to Congress in a classified setting, work product of the grand juries who were involved - that requires a judicial order to release - and then last, anything that would interfere with ongoing investigations. And as your reporter just correctly noted, there are a wide range of investigations at the state and federal level that continue.

SIMON: But I don't have to tell you, Senator, any time anybody sees a black line through anything that's released from the report, there will be people who say, wait a minute; the American public have the right to know. You're just hiding it from us. What are you hiding?

COONS: That's right. And there is precedent for a broad release in this setting. Leon Jaworski, the special prosecutor during Watergate, in the interest of transparency, directed the full release of the Watergate investigation. Former Senator Danforth of Missouri served as a special counsel during an investigation into the conduct at Waco. And he decided to release a fulsome report at the end of that. So there is some precedent for it.

I do think that Attorney General Barr needs to appropriately weigh possible interference with ongoing investigations. But, you know, I think one of the most concerning, interesting or even tantalizing aspects of this is Congress has a different charge than Robert Mueller did. Robert Mueller was investigating to uncover chargeable offenses. Our job is oversight and is to make sure whether or not the president and the coterie of folks around him engaged in conduct that was inappropriate, arguably illegal or potentially impeachable. Our charge is different than Robert Mueller's charge.

SIMON: It doesn't have to match the definition of indictable offense.

COONS: That's correct, especially in the context where we know the Department of Justice has a policy of saying that a president cannot be indicted while sitting. I do think it's important for us to not overreach, for us to not repeat what I thought was the Republicans' overreach. They did, I think, 13 different investigations of Benghazi, a tragic incident worthy of investigation but that was dragged out over many, many investigations over several years. I think we need to respond to this report in a focused and purposeful way in the interest of transparency.

SIMON: I wonder if I can get a yes or no. Senator Coons, do you want to hear from Robert Mueller himself?

COONS: I would. I think that public testimony by the attorney general and the special counsel would help clear up any lack of clarity in what's released to us and would help, I think, reassure the general public that we'd gotten to the bottom of everything that was worth reviewing.

SIMON: Senator Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware. Thanks so much for being with us, Senator.

COONS: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.