NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: Public release of Mueller Report necessary

The long-awaited report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller has established that there was, as President Trump has steadfastly held, no collusion with Russia in the 2016 election.

Mueller’s findings, summarized in a 4-page letter by Attorney General William Barr, are a resounding victory for the president, clearing a cloud that has lingered over his administration from the start. He is right to celebrate it.

But to fully move beyond an issue that arguably many Americans have already moved beyond, the Justice Department should, as quickly as possible, make public as much of the full report and supporting evidence as is allowed by law. There is no reason to believe Barr won’t — he has repeatedly pledged transparency when it comes to the Mueller report and reiterated such in his letter to Congress.

“The relevant regulations contemplate that the Special Counsel’s report will be a ‘confidential report’ to the Attorney General,” Barr wrote. “As I have previously stated, however, I am mindful of the public interest in this matter. For that reason, my goal and intent is to release as much of the Special Counsel’s report as I can consistent with applicable law, regulations, and Departmental policies.”

Barr has not created a schedule for the release of the information, though the Justice Department indicated Tuesday that a public version would be released in weeks, not months. Barr wrote that the Justice Department must review the report to ensure information isn’t released that would violate federal law protecting the integrity of grand juries or that would affect proceedings by other jurisdictions. That’s as it should be.

But public skepticism about Mueller’s findings will be in direct proportion to the volume of details withheld and the length of time it takes to release it. And it should be noted that, across the board, Americans want the report released in full.

A CNN poll found that 87 percent of Americans wanted a full public report on Mueller’s findings. The poll showed 95 percent of Democrats, 88 percent of Independents and 80 percent of Republicans want a public report. A Fox News poll released Sunday showed similar numbers — 80 percent of Americans support the public release of the Mueller report.

Indiana Republican Sen. Mike Braun issued a statement backing public release of the report within the guidelines that Barr laid out. “Americans deserve as much openness as possible regarding this important report,” Braun said.

Braun is right. Collusion aside, Russian interference in our elections is an attack on American democracy. Release of the Mueller report is necessary to enhance public awareness and understanding of the methods and lengths the Russians undertook to execute that attack. And the report is key to preventing future attacks.

No doubt, Democrats will try to use the Mueller report to expand and prolong investigations of the administration they have launched since regaining control of the House this year. But as Speaker Nancy Pelosi understands, they do so at great risk. While polling suggests Americans want the full Mueller report released, there is little indication they want it used to deepen the partisan divide.

Rather, there is a sense that Americans are ready to put the exhaustive, two-year investigation in their rearview mirror. The best way to do that is for the Justice Department to release as much of the Mueller Report as possible. The sooner, the better.