Special Counsel Robert Mueller will soon send his report to Attorney General William Barr. Few topics may be more relevant to our democracy than what the report says. There may be appropriate reasons to redact limited portions of it, recognizing that only the congressional intelligence committees ordinarily receive the most sensitive classified information. But the rest should be released to Congress and the American public so that they can debate the consequences, from protection of our national security to legal and political accountability for public officials.
There is no guarantee that the attorney general will release all or much of the report. At his nomination hearing, Barr hewed to a general statement that it was his “goal and intent to get as much information out as I can consistent with the regulations,” referring to regulations adopted on July 1, 1999, by Attorney General Janet Reno to replace the Independent Counsel Act that had just expired.
Twenty years ago, former Senators George Mitchell and Bob Dole, each a former majority leader, called in two of us (Mann and Ornstein) and asked whether the American Enterprise Institute and the Brookings Institution would organize a bipartisan group to consider alternatives to the Independent Counsel Act as its expiration neared. If there was a consensus that the statute should not be renewed, after a number of independent-counsel investigations widely viewed as excessive, there was also a need to replace it with balanced regulations that enabled, in the face of conflicts of interest, independent investigation into wrongdoing by members of an administration.