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Sen. Blumenthal Wants Transparency Following Mueller Report


And I'm David Greene in Culver City, Calif. After 2,800 subpoenas, 500 search warrants and some 500 witness interviews, the special counsel investigation into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia during the 2016 election is over. Special Counsel Robert Mueller's conclusion - President Trump did not conspire or coordinate with Russia to interfere with the election. Now, Mueller left open the question of whether the president may have obstructed justice. But the Department of Justice says they are not going to be prosecuting that. There's just not evidence.

We're going to hear now from Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. He's a Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Good morning, Senator.

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: Good morning to you, David. Thank you.

GREENE: Let - yeah, thanks for coming on. Let me just ask you first, do you accept the special counsel's finding that there was no collusion, no coordination between the Trump campaign and Russians?

BLUMENTHAL: The conclusion of the attorney general, William Barr, is that the evidence did not establish that there was no conspiracy or that there was a conspiracy or effort to collude. But that implies an absence of evidence. What we really need to see is what the findings and facts and evidence was. The American people deserve the Mueller report, not just the Barr report. In fact, this set of summary conclusions from Attorney General Barr is completely inadequate. And if I might say, it is very elegantly but brazenly devious in framing the message without providing the substance.

GREENE: Although, I mean, he - the AG quoted from Mueller's report. I mean, are you suggesting - if you're saying it's brazen, are you suggesting that if the report is made public, you're going to see something totally different? Do you honestly think that the attorney general would do that?

BLUMENTHAL: We have no idea what the report will show. Hopefully it will be made public. But the question is...

GREENE: And the attorney general said he wants to make it public. I mean, is - are you going to take him at his word and work with him to make that happen?

BLUMENTHAL: I will take him at his word - trust, but verify. And if he's really serious about transparency, he should support my legislation that would require full disclosure and transparency of all the findings and evidence. The American people paid for this report. They deserve to know what's in it. And that legislation is bipartisan. The cause of full transparency and disclosure is and should be bipartisan.

But the more important question is what is the evidence on obstruction? Because the absence of evidence on conspiracy might well be the result of destruction of evidence or witness tampering or other kinds of obstruction. So the American people deserve full transparency and complete disclosure on the entire report, particularly because it says - and it's one of the few parts of the Mueller report that is actually quoted - that there is no conclusion on obstruction of justice. It does not - repeat - not exonerate him on that issue.

GREENE: Well, let me just ask you, Senator - I mean, obviously there's going to be debate over when and to what extent the report is made public. I mean, let's say that happens. Let's say there's no new bombshell in there. Can you assure the American people that you're not going to continue investigating to a point that it's like a fishing expedition? That unless there's not some new bombshell that you see in Mueller's findings, I mean, you're getting close to moving on?

BLUMENTHAL: Let's be very clear, David. The United States was attacked by Russia. That is a bipartisan conclusion in the Congress, and it's certainly implicit in the Mueller report. In that attack, which involved social media manipulation, hacking into American files, the DNC and Hillary Clinton, Americans, in fact, participated. They encouraged and condoned that kind of meddling in our election.

That wrongdoing may not rise to the level of criminality. It may not be a crime that can be established beyond a reasonable doubt - that's the bar for the Mueller report. But it certainly deserves investigation because we want to prevent it from happening again. And...

GREENE: But isn't that - if I may, isn't that a separate thing? I mean, are you - if that is what is truly important here, I mean, whether a foreign government is able to interfere in an American election, are you willing - you know, you can't investigate everything. Are you willing at some point to shift the emphasis away from presidential wrongdoing to working with Republicans in the White House to make sure that our country's election system is protected?

BLUMENTHAL: The priority has to be protect the nation. If Americans, including some in the Trump campaign - and a number of them are going to be spending time in prison as a result - participated, then they should be held accountable. But the main point is to protect our nation against this kind of Russian meddling in the future.

GREENE: So is impeachment off the table?

BLUMENTHAL: As a prosecutor - you know, I served as attorney general for the state of Connecticut for 20 years and a federal prosecutor U.S. attorney before that time - I want to know all the evidence. I want to see the facts, and so should the American people. There's no reason that we should have to settle for this Barr letter. We deserve the Mueller report, not the Barr letter.

GREENE: Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut and member of the Judiciary Committee. Senator, thanks as always.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

GREENE: I want to turn to NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis, who's been listening in. Sue, let me just start by asking you what you made of that?

SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: Well, I thought it was interesting at the end when you asked the question of impeachment - right? - this question that has hung over Congress since the beginning, and he didn't take it off the table. I will note that impeachment has to begin in the House. And over there, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, even before the Barr report came out, essentially was trying to take impeachment off the table, has said that it was not something worth pursuing, that in order to go down that path, any evidence would have to be, in her words, overwhelming and bipartisan.

I think what the result that we have today is that that's not amounting much and that impeachment is slowly being taken off the table by the reality. And the reality is that President Trump was delivered a political victory yesterday. And the questions of collusion and corruption - I think his allies on Capitol Hill are even more allied behind the president as they wake up this morning and are - the chances that they would get any kind of Republican support, not only for ongoing investigations, but certainly not impeachment, it seems really off the table.

GREENE: Well, obviously, I mean, as I talked about with the senator, like, they're making demands for this report to be made public, which even many Republicans are saying they would like to see. But let's say that does happen. Let's say that there's no new bombshell. I mean, what position are Democrats in? I mean, a lot of the base, the Democratic base, wants them to continue investigating this president until the next election happens. But how much support for that is there, you know, from American voters in general?

DAVIS: Well, I do think Democrats have to tread carefully here. I will note that a lot of the oversight that Democrats have been pursuing is not related to the president and not related to Russia. I think you're going to see, tonally, a shift from a lot of Democrats who are very eager to talk about things like rising drug prices or any other number of policy issues that they've been looking to investigate.

I don't think these investigations go away. I think that the Intelligence Committee and the Oversight Committee are still very much - they're going to want to hear from the attorney general. They are going to continue to fight over the documents. They're - any other number of lines of inquiry into this administration that don't necessarily involve the Russia hotel, Democrats will - excuse me - the Russia investigation...

GREENE: Right.

DAVIS: ...I do think Democrats will also point to the fact that there are still elements of the president's orbit under investigation coming out of the Southern District of New York and other places. So they're not going to walk away from this. But politically, I do think Democrats have to be sensitive to the fact that people all over the world are waking up this morning to headlines that say "Robert Mueller Says No Collusion." And that is a political reality that, if they don't tread carefully, they will ultimately run the risk of looking like they are on a fishing expedition. And so if that - the oversight of this administration did get a little bit harder for them this morning, politically, but it's certainly not going to stop.

GREENE: Decisions not just for Democrats in Congress, but also on the campaign trail, of course.

DAVIS: Absolutely.

GREENE: NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis joining us this morning. Sue, thank you so much.

DAVIS: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.