U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) speaks to the media at Burlington International Airport Sunday.
Updated at 11:39 p.m.
Vermont’s congressional delegation isn’t going to settle for a four-page summary.
Responding Sunday to the release of the topline findings of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of President Donald Trump, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) called for the public release of Mueller’s full report.
Two days after Mueller closed his 22-month probe of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, Attorney General William Barr summarized Mueller’s findings in a four-page letter to Congress. According to the AG, Mueller found no evidence that Trump’s campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government to swing the election.
As to whether Trump obstructed justice, Barr wrote that Mueller “did not draw a conclusion — one way or the other." He quoted Mueller as saying that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” Barr added that, after reviewing the report, he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had determined that Trump had not obstructed justice.
In a statement issued later Sunday, Leahy expressed incredulity that “after only 48 hours to review [Mueller’s report] and without the benefit of an interview with the president,” Barr had concluded that Trump had committed no crimes.
“I forcefully urge Attorney General Barr — in the interests of the integrity of the Justice Department, in the interests of the American people, in the interest of the rule of law — to publicly release the full Mueller report,” Leahy wrote. “Any attempt to hide swaths of the Mueller report from public scrutiny will only fuel suspicions that President Trump’s Justice Department, which represents the United States, is playing the role of President Trump’s defense team. We all deserve better.”
Welch was out of state and unavailable for an interview Sunday, according to spokesperson Kate Hamilton. She said in a written statement that he agreed that the full report should be made public “so that Congress and the American people can assess the merits of the conclusions reached by both the Special Counsel and the Attorney General.”
If Barr refuses to do so, Hamilton wrote, Welch “will advocate for Congress to secure it by subpoena.”
Earlier Sunday, Leahy told reporters at Burlington International Airport that he was returning to Washington, D.C., for a meeting with Department of Justice officials. He said he would urge them to make the report public. “The American people paid for it,” he said. “The American people should see it.”
Barr “refused to commit to releasing the report” during his confirmation hearing last month, Leahy wrote in a Washington Postop-ed published Friday. And Barr, in a letter Friday to congressional leaders, would only say he was “committed to as much transparency as possible."
Barr wrote that he would determine what to release to Congress and the public “consistent with the law, including the Special Counsel regulations and the Department’s long-standing practices and policies.”
Those caveats, Leahy said, “give me pause” because they could be used by the department to justify withholding information from the public inappropriately. Doing so would be a “bad, bad mistake,” the Vermont senator added.
The most senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee expected a detailed briefing on Mueller’s findings Sunday evening. He said he planned to press officials for more than just the “principal conclusions” of the report Barr referenced in his letter.
“I expect a lot more than conclusions. The conclusions they could put on a post card. I want to see a lot more than that,” Leahy said.
The Sunday evening briefing could be followed by a classified briefing Monday morning. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has rejected talk of classified briefings as a way to keep information in the Mueller report secret. But if one were held, Leahy said he would attend and make the case that only legitimately classified material — such as investigatory methods or information provided by foreign governments — should be withheld from the public version of the report.
“I have a feeling there is going to be very, very little that is going to be classified,” Leahy said.
The former state’s attorney in Chittenden County said it is common for prosecutors in complex investigations to file certain charges but not others, despite additional evidence of wrongdoing. If Mueller is called before Congress to testify, which Leahy said is possible, he’d likely pursue such a line of inquiry.
“I’d like to ask him. ‘Were there things that you left out of the indictments that you might have put in?'” he said.
Leahy spent his weeklong break from Congress at his home in Middlesex but also attended a number of events around the state, including a visit to the Statehouse. Everyone he met was in agreement on the report, Leahy said.
“I’ve talked with hundreds of Vermonters just this week alone all over the state. They are all saying basically the same thing: ‘Let us know what’s going on,’” Leahy said. “And I agree with them.”