'Republicans are wrong': James Comey refutes the GOP's self-serving arguments to keep the Mueller report under wraps

'Republicans are wrong': James Comey refutes the GOP's self-serving arguments to keep the Mueller report under wraps
Image credit: Federal Bureau of Investigation

It is unclear exactly when special counsel Robert Mueller will release his final report on links between President Donald Trump's presidential campaign and the Russian government. But everyone is preparing for the day that it is kicked to Attorney General William Barr for review, and one of the big questions on everyone's mind is how much of the report will be made available to the public.

Barr has been cagey on the subject, saying that he will release portions of the report "consistent with the regulations and the law," while some Republicans like Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have been adamant the report should be "sanitized" first.

But in an editorial on Monday for the Washington Post, former FBI Director James Comey pushes back on Republicans' noncommittal attitude, reminding everyone that the DOJ can indeed make their investigations transparent — and that in situations like these, it is all but required for the sake of public confidence in law enforcement.

"Providing detailed information about a completed investigation of intense public interest has long been a part of Justice Department practice," writes Comey, whose politically-motivated firing by Trump in early 2017 was partially responsible for triggering the appointment of Mueller to take over the Russia investigation from the FBI. "It doesn't happen often, because ordinarily nothing outweighs the privacy interests of the subject of an investigation that ends without public charges. But department tradition recognizes that transparency is especially important where polarized politics and baseless attacks challenge law enforcement's credibility. In critical matters of national importance, a straightforward report of what facts have been learned and how judgment has been exercised may be the only way to advance the public interest."

Comey offers four examples of recent cases when the DOJ held itself to higher-than-normal transparency standards when concluding investigations, in the interests of public accountability: the civil rights investigation into the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri; the investigation into the now-debunked IRS Tea Party "targeting" scandal; the detention of terrorist recruit José Padilla in a Navy brig as an "enemy combatant"; and the FBI's decision not to file charges in the investigation of Hillary Clinton's email server, for which Comey himself delivered a controversial press conference.

"Republicans are wrong now, when they claim Justice Department rules forbid transparency about the completed work of the special counsel," Comey concludes. "It is hard to imagine a case of greater public interest than one focused on the efforts of a foreign adversary to damage our democracy, and in which the president of the United States is a subject ... Sometimes transparency is not a hard call."


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